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Beijing's Top 10 : Moments in History

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Mongol horsemen

The Science and Technology Museum includes an exhibition of Chinese inventions

  1. 500,000 BC: Peking Man hunts and gathers

    Unearthed in the 1920s from a cave at Zhoukoudian, 30 miles (45 km) SW of Beijing, 40-odd fossilized bones and primitive implements were identified as the prehistoric remains of Peking Man (Homo erectus Pekinensis), who lived in the vicinity over 500,000 years ago.

  2. 1215: Genghis Khan sacks Zhongdu

    The future Beijing was developed as an auxiliary capital under the Liao (907–1125) and Jin dynasties (1115–1234), at which time it was known as Zhongdu. In 1215 it was invaded and razed by a Mongol army led by the fearsome Genghis Khan.

  3. Late 13th century: Marco Polo visits

    Under the first emperor of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, Kublai Khan (r. 1260–1294), the city became known as Khanbalik, and was one of twin capitals – the other was Yuanshangdu, or Xanadu – of the largest empire ever known. The Italian traveler Marco Polo was dazzled by the imperial palace: “The building is altogether so vast and beautiful, that no man on earth could design anything superior to it.”

  4. 1403–25: Construction of the Forbidden City

    The Ming emperor Yongle (r. 1403–24) destroyed the palaces of his Mongol predecessors in order to rebuild the city, which he renamed Beijing (Northern Capital). He is credited with laying the foundations for the city as it is today, and the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven began to take shape during his reign.

  5. 1900: Boxer Rebellion

    Western powers, frustrated by the reluctance of the Chinese to open up to foreign trade, put the imperial court under pressure, eventually going to war to protect their trade in opium. In 1900, championed by the Empress Cixi, a band of rebels from north China known as the Boxers attacked Beijing’s Foreign Legation Quarter. A joint eight-nation army had to be sent to lift the siege.

    Empress Cixi
  6. 1912: The End of Empire

    The last emperor, Pu Yi, ascended the throne at the age of three. Four years later, in February 1912, his brief reign was brought to a premature end when he was forced to abdicate by general Yuan Shikai’s new National Assembly.

  7. 1949: Founding of the People’s Republic of China

    On January 31, 1949, Communist forces led by Mao Zedong seized Beijing. On October 1, Mao proclaimed the foundation of the People’s Republic of China from the gallery of the Tian’an Men.

  8. 1965: Launch of the Cultural Revolution

    Having socialized industry and agriculture, Mao called on the masses to transform society itself. All distinctions between manual and intellectual work were to be abolished and the class system was to be eradicated. The revolution reached its violent peak in 1967, with the Red Guards spreading fear and havoc.

  9. 1976: The death of Mao

    On September 9, 1976 Mao died. The destructive policies of the Cultural Revolution were abandoned. Mao’s long-time opponent Deng Xiaoping emerged as leader, implementing reforms that encouraged greater economic freedom.

  10. 2008: Beijing hosts the Olympics

    In 2008, Beijing hosted the most expensive Olympic Games of all time. The city revamped its infra-structures, and some of the most striking and innovative buildings were created to house the various competitions .

    Opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics

Top 10 Chinese Inventions

  1. Porcelain

    The Chinese invented porcelain a thousand years before Europe caught on – and kept production methods secret to protect their competitive advantage.

  2. Printing

    In the 11th century, the Chinese carved individual characters on pieces of clay, inventing movable block type.

  3. Paper money

    Developed by Chinese merchants as certificates of exchange. Lighter than coins, bills were soon adopted by the government.

  4. Gunpowder

    Stumbled on by Daoist alchemists seeking the elixir of life.

  5. Seismometer

    A ball fell from one of four dragon’s mouths to indicate the direction of the quake.

  6. Abacus

    Invented during the Yuan dynasty and still in use throughout China today.

  7. Magnetic compass

    Developed from an instrument used for feng shui and geomancy, it helped the Chinese explore the world.

  8. Paper

    A prototype paper was made from mulberry bark, although bamboo, hemp, linen, and silk were also used to write on.

  9. Crossbow

    Better range, accuracy, and penetration than the standard bow.

  10. Decimal system

    Developed alongside the writing system and led to mathematical advances.

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