Beijing is the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is not only the nation's political center, but also its cultural, scientific and educational heart as well as a key transportation hub. Beijing has served as a capital of the country for more than 800 years. 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 39O56' North Latitude and 116O20' 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.

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 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.

17.4 million (including just over 12 million official residents in the household register and 5.4 million in the floating population)

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.

From 2001 to 2006, Beijing's economy grew at an annual rate of 12.2%, which was 1.4 percentage points higher than the economic growth rate between 1997 and 2001. From January to September in 2007, economic growth rate in Beijing reached 12.6%. The per capita GDP in Beijing (based on the city's permanent resident population) has climbed from 3,000 US dollars to 6,331 US dollars. Based on the criteria issued by the World Bank, Beijing's socio-economic development is graded as at the upper-middle level in the world. In 2006, the average annual wage for Beijing city workers was 40,117 yuan, which was 20,962 yuan more than in 2001, increasing by 109.4%. If inflation factor is allowed for, annual wage increase was 15.7% in real terms.

Statistics show that in 2006, Beijing residents' annual disposable income per capita reached 19,978 yuan, increasing by 72.6% from 2001. Allowing for inflation factor, the actual growth of people's annual disposable income reached 11.1%. According to the standards released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, this shows that Beijing residents' living standards have passed the "well-off" standard to reach the "relatively prosperous" stage. Beijing residents' consumption structure has improved greatly. Nowadays, people in the capital spend more on buying luxury items, such as cars, houses, or things related with leisure and entertainment activities.

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.