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Beijing is China's economic, social, and technological heart. As China's capital city, Beijing provides a vast and remarkable experience for visitors from all over the world. With a population of 21.5 million people, it is the nation's second-largest city after Shanghai. Beijing literally means Northern Capital, a role it has played many times in China's long history which dates back several thousand years. It first became notable after it was made the capital of the State of Yan under the name Yanjing and was one of the major kingdoms of the Warring States Period, some 2,000 years ago.It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the formation of a republic in 1911. Beijing is a wonderful mix of China's numerous cultures and historical periods. Tourists can view China's Imperial past in perfectly preserved buildings, courts, and parks. Beijing is characterised by its vastness and large distances between locations. Until recently, the city was almost entirely made up of hutongs with narrow lanes and single story buildings. Now, many of the hutongs have given way to broad boulevards and modern buildings, contributing to an airy, sprawling feel, in sharp contrast to cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai. Like the configuration of the Forbidden City, Beijing has concentric "ring roads", which are actually rectangular, that go around the metropolis and serve as good reference points as one attempts to move about the city.

Beyond the ring roads are the most-visited portions of the Great Wall of China, which witnesses visitors the world over and Beijing serves as a good headquarters for those who wish to gaze upon one of mankind's more memorable and lasting structures. While Beijing is building skyscrapers at a rapid pace, many relics of its past are still standing and are ready to be explored. This can be done in the daytime for a truly enlightening experience. There are many local shops where one can buy handmade gifts or clothing. Fresh markets are abundant, and local delicacies can be tried at a very good price. At night, Beijing glows in a colorful array of skyscrapers, cars, and neon-lit clubs. The nightlife in Beijing is very eclectic, ranging from English-style pubs to dance clubs and much more. As with all major international cities, Beijing's nightlife continues until sunrise. One of the most enjoyable activities for any visitor is the wide selection of food that fits into any price range. From fast-food carts to luxurious restaurants, there is delectable food available for any occasion. With such historic sites as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall located nearby, Beijing is an essential stop for any worldly traveler.

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