The capital of China since the 13th century, Beijing is undergoing a massive transformation, moving from an ancient enclave of imperial palaces and hutungs (maze-like residential passageways) to a 21st-century architectural showcase and fast-paced home to millions of people. At Beijing’s center is the Forbidden City, which housed the Chinese imperial court for over 500 years, with 178 acres (720,000 square meters) of temples, gardens and pavilions. Immediately south is Tiananmen Square -- one of the world’s largest city squares -- flanked by the Great Hall of the People. For a glimpse of Beijing’s recent history, visit the 2008 Olympic sites, where such futuristic structures as the 80,000-seat “bird’s nest” stadium and “Water Cube” aquatics center rise proudly.
Beijing is one of the world's truly imposing cities. Covering 16,808 square kilometers in area, the capital of the People's Republic of China approaches the 21st century with a 3,000 year history and about 11 million people.
Situated in northeast China, Beijing adjoins the Inner Mongolian Highland to the northwest and the Great Northern Plain to the south. Five rivers run through the city, connecting it to the eastern Bohai Sea. Administratively, the Beijing municipality has provincial status, reporting directly to the central Chinese government.
Beijing grew up around its mythic Forbidden City, once home to Chinese Emporers. Also central to the city is Tiananmen Square. Covering 98 acres, Tiananmen is the world's largest, and perhaps most infamous, public square.
Though a month might still not be enough to do them justice, six days are advised for tourists who'd see Beijing's main cultural attractions. These include Mao's Mausoleum, the Summer Palace, Zhoukoudian (modern residence of pre-historic Peking Man), Tian Tan (Temple of Heaven), Di Tan (Temple of Earth), and Beihai Park.