The second city that we would like to discuss is Beijing. Beijing is the capital of China, and it has a great political, historical and cultural story. You might have heard about it before. It is a city where you can explore China’s great history; from the Chinese empire, communist China until the modern China we know of nowadays.
The Forbidden City and the The Gate of Heavenly Peace are located in the center of the city. Around these sights, the city is built and divided in different districts. Around the center, there are many cultural and historical sights like hutongs, and various temples, where time seems to have stood stil! Nowadays, many hutongs have been replaced by skyscrapers. The parks are often used for meeting places for the people of Beijing. People come together for their daily exercise and to socialize. In the early morning, many Beijingers practise taichi and in the evening they dance in groups to traditional music. Despite the fact that this is usually done by older people, everyone is welcome to join.
Beijing is located in the north-east of China. The summers can be very hot and humid whereas winters are very dry and cold. To survive the cold, Beijingers wear thick coats filled with down. Also, from November until March the Beijing government will turn on the central heating in buildings.
You might have heard about the smog in Beijing. Unfortunately, you cannot always see the blue sky and sometimes it seems as if thick fog is hanging over the city. Nowadays, you can see the air quality forecast through websites and apps. Luckily, there are beautiful days on which you can see the clear blue sky too.
Language and population
With more than 21 million people, Beijing belongs to the most populous cities of the world. There are many people on the streets and the subways can be overcrowded. On the other side, it makes the city very vibrant and there is always a chance to meet new people. Besides that, Beijing is a popular city for tourists, it is also a meeting place for people from all over China. Sometimes you will hear another Chinese language or dialect, but in Beijing the most spoken language is Mandarin. The Beijingers speak Mandarin with a typical Beijing accent, called the ‘Beijinghua’ in which you can hear a strong ‘R’ sound. Standard Mandarin is based on the ‘Beijinghua.’
Beijing is known for its dishes made of dough. Due to the climate, less rice is produced in North China than in the south. As breakfast, they like to eat ‘youtiao.’ This is deep fried dough dipped in soya milk. Steamed bread and dumplings are also very popular for both breakfast and lunch. A special culinary dish that you absolutely cannot miss in Beijing is of course Peking duck. It is THE speciality of Beijing. The golden brown roasted duck is eaten with small pancakes, scallion and hoisin sauce. There are many restaurants known for this speciality. The diversity of people has also brought a lot of variety in cuisine. For example, you can find many restaurants from western regions such as Xinjiang and Sichuan. There are also many western restaurants and cafes. For example around the modern district of Sanlitun or the university quarter Wudaokou.
For public transportation, except for trains, you can use the ‘yikantong.’ It is a travel card from Beijing. With this, you can easily use the subway or bus, and you can rent a bike. The subway is one of the easiest ways to move around Beijing. Subways can be very crowded; you will be amazed by the amount of people that fit in one subway train. You can also go and explore the city by bike. Just like in the Netherlands, Beijing is very flat and people often ride their bikes. However, there is much more traffic in Beijing. For short trips or trips outside of the city, you can easily use the bus, and it will only cost you a few cents. You can also take the high-speed train and visit Shanghai, Xi’an (terracotta army) or Harbin (ice sculpture festival). There are so many places that you can easily visit and with a high-speed train you can get there in no time!
Are you planning to go on a Chinese adventure? This city is really worth visiting!
Written by Hoda Maksoud, Intern at China Plus