The Imperial City and adjoining Tiananmen (“Gate of Heavenly Peace”) Square are the heart not just of Beijing, but of China itself. It was the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) that proclaimed this city, conquered by Kublai Khan in 1279, the capital of China. Known in the Mongol language as “Ta-Tu”, it was called Khanbaliq (City of the Khan) by Marco Polo, who declared his admiration for the place. The Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) initially chose Nanjing (“Southern Capital”) as their principal city. The same dynasty’s third emperor, Zhu Di (known as Yongle, “He of Perpetual Happiness”), was renowned for his ambitious projects. Among these were the despatch of an enormous fleet under the command of Admiral Zheng He to the east coast of Africa, the prolongation of the Great Wall and the extension of the Grand Canal. Another of Yongle’s momentous decisions was his choice of the “City of the Khan”, renamed Beijing (“Northern Capital”), as his capital, building the Forbidden City and setting up his court there in 1421. The last imperial dynasty, the Tartar Qing Dynasty, kept Beijing as its capital. In modern times, in the years following the end of the empire, Sun Yatsen and Chiang Kaishek alternated between several different main cities. Finally, with the proclamation of the People’s Republic in 1949, Beijing once again became the country’s capital. Therefore, since 1279 and practically without interruption, Beijing has been the capital of China.
KeywordsEconomic Reform Cultural Revolution Central Committee European Economic Community Political Reform
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