The city has many places of historic interest and scenic beauty, including the Forbidden City - the largest and best-preserved ancient architectural complex in the world; the Temple of Heaven--where Ming and Qing emperors performed solemn rituals for bountiful harvests; the Summer Palace - the emperors' magnificent garden retreat; the Ming tombs--the stately and majestic mausoleums of 13 Ming Dynasty emperors; and the world-renowned and genuinely inspiring Badaling section of the Great Wall. Large-scale construction has brought great changes to Beijing since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 that adds more and more new attractions to the mysterious old city.
Beijing is located on the western coast of China on the Pacific Ocean . Beijing stands at the northern tip of the North China Plain. Tian'anmen Square in the center of Beijing is situated at 39°56" North Latitude and 116°20" East Longitude. Beijing lies at approximately the same latitude as Philadelphia in the U.S. and Madrid in Spain . The city is 39% flat land and the other 61% is quite mountainous area. Beijing is surrounded by the Yanshan Mountains on the west, north and east while the small alluvial plain of the Yongding River lies to its southeast. Beijing faces the Bohai Sea, and the area is also called the Beijing Bay.
Area: Greater Beijing has an area of 16,808 sq km.
Climate: The climate in Beijing is of the continental type, with cold and dry winters, due to the Siberian air masses that move southward across the Mongolian Plateau. The summers are hot owing to warm and humid monsoon winds from the southeast bringing Beijing most of its annual precipitation. January is the coldest month and July is the warmest. Winter usually begins towards the end of October. The summer months, June to August, are wet and hot with about 40% of the annual precipitation.
Time: Time used in Beijing and all over China is called Beijing Standard Time. It is 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT + 8), and 13 hours ahead of New York time.
Population: 13.82 million (March 2001), half of the people live on the outskirt of the city.
Ethnic groups: The permanent residents of Beijing come from all of China's 56 ethnic groups. The Han nationality accounts for 96.5% of the total. The other 55 ethnic minorities claim a population of more than 300,000, most of them are from Hui, Manchu, and Mongolian nationalities.
Agriculture: In 1994, the gross value of agricultural output reached 28.69 billion yuan (non-agricultural output value accounting for 79.5%). The gross value of rural industrial output accounted for 40.2% of the city's gross value of industrial output in 1994. The main cereals are wheat, corn, and rice. The total amount of grain output was 2,761 million tons, and per-hectare yield was 6,420 kilograms. There are 541 farms where each farmer is responsible for more than 6.6 hectares. Mechanization in agriculture has been basically realized in plain areas, and various kinds of bases can provide abundant sideline products.
Industry: Beijing's gross domestic product (GDP) reached 82.9 billion yuan in the first five months of 2000, up 12 percent over the same period of last year, with high-tech enterprises leading development, according to Beijing Youth Daily. From January to May, the added value of Beijing's industrial output was 6.35 billion yuan, up 18.8 percent over the same period of the previous year.
City Flowers: In the spring of 1987, delegates to the Sixth Session of the Eighth Municipal People's Congress, meeting in the Great Hall of the People,
overwhelmingly approved the scholar tree and oriental cypress as the official city trees, the Chinese rose and the chrysanthemum as Beijing's official city flowers.
The rose, a Chinese native, has been cross-bred many times, but it still has half of the original Chinese strain. Known as Perpetual Spring, Monthly Red, Snow Challenger and Victorious, it is fast growing, regenerates easily and is graceful and long blooming (May to October). The chrysanthemum has many names and varieties. In Beijing potted chrysanthemums may be seen year round. They flower in summer and fall naturally but can be forced to bloom any time of year. During the Qing dynasty, there were 400 rare strains of chrysanthemum. Beijing's flora-culturists now boast more than 1000 varieties.
City trees: The stately cypress symbolizes the courage and strength of the Chinese people, their simple, hard working nature and their defiance in the face of aggression. This Plateaus Orientals, or Oriental Arborvitae, can grow as tall as 20 meters. Some of those in Zhongshan Park were planted as long as 1,000 years ago during the Liao Dynasty. The scholar tree is a symbol of good fortune, joy and well-being. Dating back to the Qin and Han dynasties Sophia Japonica were planted extensively at the Tang Dynasty Imperial Palace in Chang'an. At Beihai Park an ancient specimen in the courtyard of the Painters Corridor, is believed to have been planted during the Tang Dynasty, before 907. Another ancient scholar tree near the Broken Bridge in the Forbidden City is said to have been planted before 1125. Both are well adapted to Beijing's cold, dry winter, hot and dry summer, and alkaline soil.
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