What does the name Beijing mean?
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
What is Beijing's population?
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?
How polluted is Beijing?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
Are Beijing's taxis safe?
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