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Discover Beijing with Marie-Claude

When I arrived in Beijing * (located north of the Yellow River **), I was impressed by this giant and very modern city. With more than 14 million inhabitants, Beijing is one of the most populated cities in the world.

It was built by the Yuan Moghol Dynasty (1279-1368) and became the Imperial Capital of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing Emperors (1644-1911) who ruled the country from the “Forbidden City” and lived in it, totally isolated in the Palace.
The last Emperor was Pu Yi.

modern BeijingNowadays, Beijing is a modern city with large avenues, skyscrapers and skyways, shopping malls. Chinese people can now buy their own cars, and the bigger they are, the better they are ! The traffic is heavy,  more than in Paris during the peak hours! One enormous avenue – like the Champs-Elysées but  4 times wider – runs through the city for 50 km.

Fortunately, some “old” parts of Beijing remain, called “Hutong”hutong. There, some Chinese live in small and modest houses bordering narrow lanes where cars can hardly enter. Tiny vegetable and fruit markets, and little miscellaneous shops take us back into the past.

The famous Tien An Men Guangchang (which means The Heavenly Peace Gate) is bigger than one imagines. It is an enormous concrete square in the middle of modern Beijing with, in its center,  the Mao Mausoleum. Thousands of people come for a walk, millions of visitors – Chinese and foreign tourists – pass through every day.

The Forbidden City is quite impressive! It is commonly called by the Chinese “Gugong” which means the Old Palace. We entered by the Wumen Gate (South Gate where the Emperor watched his Army and headed official festivities celebrating the New Year) and walked through many other gates and yards with poetic names like the Gate of Supreme Harmony where visitors were welcomed by officials, the Palace of Medium Harmony where the Emperor waited before official ceremonies, etc. Inside the Palace, the Gates are in fact enormous covered halls, beautifully decorated with wall and ceiling paintings mostly in red (the Chinese colour for Happiness and Good Luck), yellow, green and bright blue.

At night, modern Beijing shines with all its illuminated buildings and enormous lighted advertisement screens: it looks like any other big city in the world. It has lost its Chinese identity.

Article by Marie-Claude Louvel © May 2010

find out more about the name Beijing by clicking on this link: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing#names)

vocabulary & explanations
* Beijing is pronounced /beɪˈdʒɪŋ/, Chinese: 北京, [peɪ˨˩ t͡ɕiŋ˥] * Beijing means Northern Capital 北 BEI = North, Northern   京 JING = Capital ** Yellow River: China's second longest river (5,464 km) after the Yangzi River 6,380 km)
to rule a country = rule over a country = regner sur un pays shopping mall = shopping centre hall = large room (e.g. in a palace or other large building)
building = skyscraper or any other construction such as a hourse, a garage, etc. large = big (wide = large) e.g. = exempla gratia = for example
a skyscraper = un building skyway = flyover = aerial highway = auto-pont
(a new word used by Marie-Claude's guide)

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revised : 25-may-2010 / created : May-2010

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