The most Googled questions on Beijing – answered

Don't bother Googling, just read this and educate yourself

What does the name Beijing mean?

beijing info
Bei (北) means ‘north’ and jing (京) means ‘capital’. So, Northern Capital. While Beijing has tried and tested a few names over the last 3,000 years – including Dadu (Great Capital) and Beiping (Northern Peace) – it finally settled on Beijing (北京) during the Ming dynasty in 1403 to distinguish it from the then southern capital of Nanjing (nan means ‘south’).

What is Beijing's population?

pop info
The official permanent population of Beijing at the end of 2015, according to the Government’s most recent Five Year Plan (2016- 2020), is 21.7 million. That’s more than the populations of The Netherlands, Kazakhstan and Sweden, to name just a few.

What's the temperature in Beijing?

temp info

How polluted is Beijing?

polluted info
Pretty polluted. According to Greenpeace East Asia’s end of year city rankings report, Beijing was China’s second most polluted region in 2015. Beijing closely followed Henan province with an average PM2.5 (nasty particles of polluted air smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter) concentration of 80.4 micrograms per cubic metre. To put it into context, that’s a yearly average of an ‘Unhealthy’ 164 on the Air Quality Index scale. It’s also eight times the WHO’s yearly average guideline amount. But it’s not all doom and gloom: the report also showed that Beijing’s PM2.5 levels were lower on average in 2015 than previous years.

How is Beijing laid out?

map info
Still centred on a north-south axis, which dates back to imperial China, Beijing is built in a grid-like structure that (in theory) makes it a particularly easy city to navigate in terms of north, east, south and west.

First established around 800 years ago during the Yuan Dynasty, Beijing (then called Dadu) is situated according to principles of feng shui, with plenty of protection from mountains in the north while taking full advantage of the illuminating sun in the south. For an in-depth look at the history (and future) of Beijing’s urban development, check out the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall museum, just off Tiananmen Square.

What are the Chinese zodiac signs?

zodiac info
The Chinese zodiac works in a twelve year cycle on the Chinese lunar calendar. Each year has a different animal sign that is said to influence personality traits of those born in that year – you also get your very own set of lucky (or unlucky) things to look out for.

The animals Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. This lunar year (February 28 2016 to January 27 2017) is the Year of the Monkey – the ninth year in the 12-year cycle. Those born in the Year of the Monkey are, somewhat predictably, called ‘Monkeys’. While traits vary depending on what sort of Monkey you are (obviously), the Monkey is generally considered to be a good animal sign. Monkeys are smart, but you might need to keep an eye on their cheeky habits.

What is Beijing famous for?

famous info
Peking duck. Oh, and a few other things – namely, a load of ancient architecture (the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace); its status as China’s largest imperial ancient city in existence; hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics and 2022 Winter Olympics, making it the only city in the world that will have hosted both games... the list goes on.

Does China own all the pandas?

panda info
Yep, you’d better believe it. China is the proud owner of all the giant pandas in the world, not to mention all future panda pups to come – even those born outside of China. However, never one to miss a trick, China has historically lent pandas to different countries as part of strategic and lucrative rent-a-panda programmes. The loaning of pandas is often either linked with diplomatic efforts (which Mao made commonplace in the ’50s) or results in immediate returns, with zoos paying huge amounts of money for pandas, usually on million-dollar ten-year loans.

Are Beijing's taxis safe?

taxi info
The standard half-yellow taxis are driven by licensed taxi drivers (check for the official ID hanging on the dashboard) and are all equipped with meters – the minimum fare is 13RMB for 3km. Ask for a fa piao (receipt) when you’ve finished your journey as a way to identify the driver if you later realised you’ve left something in the cab.

Unless you have fierce haggling skills and a decent grasp of Mandarin, it’s best to avoid ‘black’ taxis and rickshaws. Unregulated and unlicensed, you may find yourself at the butt of a hefty-priced scam. The favourite trick? The end-of-journey revelation: 'I didn’t say 20RMB, I said 200RMB!' Psych.