Videos about history, China

Deng XiaoPing – history / documentary

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ShangHai 上海 – an aerial and historical guide

A fascinating look at the extraordinary history and transformation of ShangHai.

With China Central TV (CCTV). Narrated by Owen Grant.

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Bonus film - sailing along the HuangPu River at night, between the Bund in PuXi (west of the river) and PuDong (east of the river).

The most well known area of PuDong is the LuJiaZui finance and trade zone that includes the ShangHai Stock Exchange and many of ShangHai's highest buildings, such as the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao Tower, the ShangHai World Financial Center, and the ShangHai Tower. These modern skyscrapers directly face PuXi's historic Bund (meaning embankment), a remnant of former foreign concessions. PuDong also includes the Port of ShangHai, the ShangHai World Expo site and Century Park, ShangHai PuDong International Airport, the JiuDuanSha Wetland Nature Reserve, and the ShangHai Disney Resort. This 'New Area' has been established from almost nothing in just thirty years.

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Discover BeiJing 北京 – past and present

Learn more about the modern capital with a rich historical past. Welcome to the blue sky city of Beijing.

A great film by ABC7 ...

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Chinese Civilization – documentary

Discover the origins and development of China through 5,000 years of history in this fascinating and informative documentary series from CCTV (in English) ...

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An introduction to 6,000 years of Chinese art

Illustrated by works from China at the Asian Art Museum of San Frascisco, one of the largest collections of Chinese art outside China.

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The great voyages of Zheng He

Zheng He's voyages began in 1405 with enormous and technologically advanced ships, almost 100 years before the European explorers set sail ...

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The Rainbow Bridge

Excellent documentary on the Rainbow Bridge that combines history (Song Dynasty, 12th century), science and culture.

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Philosophical Ideas

There are a number of ancient philosophical ideas that link with each other in various ways and permeate Chinese culture.

Feng Shui

Feng Shui (pronounced 'fung shway') literally 'Wind Water' is the ancient Chinese concern for placement and arrangement of a space to achieve harmony with the environment. For a place to have 'good Feng Shui' is for it to be in harmony with nature, whereas to have 'bad Feng Shui' is to be incongruous with nature.

Feng Shui draws together a wide mix of geographical, religious, philosophical, mathematical, aesthetic and astrological ideas. Sometimes intuitive and derivable from common sense and our feeling of what is natural.

Underlying the practical guidelines of feng shui is the theory of Qi. The 'Book of Changes' ('I Ching') and 'The Five Elements are also sometimes brought into play.


Nature is generally held to be a discrete organism that breathes Qi (a kind of life force or spiritual energy). The details about the metaphysics of what nature is, what Qi is and does, and what breath consists in vary. However, it is not generally understood as physical, but neither is it meant to be metaphorical although it can be thought of that way.

The Five Elements

The Qi energy can be found in various forms identified as Wu Xing (5 Phases) - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. These energy phases are so-named because they tend to behave somewhat like the physical entities.

The notion of the Five Elements is found in Chinese medicine and Feng Shui.

Do not confuse the 5 elements of Chinese Metaphysics with the 5 elements of Greek philosophy (Wind, Water, Earth, Ether and Sky).

Yin Yang

This is the idea that opposites both contain each other and give rise to each other. These ideas are captured beautifully in the symbolisation of ... Further, that we need to take a holistic view and seek balance between opposites. Any two opposites are defined by reference to each other and in a dynamic relationship.

Although the origins probably predate Taoism, the idea is elaborated quite explicitly in the Tao Te Ching, if not by name.

Yin : Moon, water, cold, feminine, dark, passive force, ...

Yang : Sun, fire, hot, masculine, bright, active force, ...

Everything has an opposite, and opposites are relative, not absolute. They are interdependent.

There is always a trace of one in the other, like stars in the night sky. There can not be absolute darkness or absolute brightness, coldness or whatever.

One can transform into the other. For example, night becomes day becomes night. And if we look from space, we see that night and day actually coexist!

There are four possible imbalances: excess Yin, excess Yang, Yin deficiency, and Yang deficiency. They can again be seen as a pair: by excess of Yin there is a Yang deficiency and vice versa. The imbalance is also a relative factor: the excess of Yang 'forces' Yin to be more 'concentrated'. The darker the night, the brighter the stars look.

Yin / Yang is an important concept in Chinese medicine. Symptoms categorised as yin would be treated by foods that are said to yang.

The 'I Ching' ('Book of Changes')

The 'I Ching' attempts to elaborate on the nature of the universe.

Simplicity. The fundamental law underlying everything in the universe is actually utterly plain and simple, no matter how abstruse or complex some things may appear to be.

Variability. Everything in the universe is continually changing. By comprehending this one may realize the importance of flexibility in life and cultivate the proper attitude for dealing with a multiplicity of diverse situations.

Persistency. While everything in the universe seems to be changing, there is a persistent principle, a central rule, which does not vary with space and time.

This book is based on 64 diagrams that represent all the different ways to combine six 0s and 1s (yin or yang). For example, 101101. An unbroken line can be used to represent Yang and a broken line Yin. This gives 64 hexagrams that can be used as an oracle; providing an input for a new way of looking at a problem.

Dragon and Phoenix

The dragon and the phoenix, mythical creatures that date back into antiquity and only gradually took the form we know today, served in classical art and literature as symbolic of people of high virtue and rare talent. Together, the two symbolize happiness and married love.

The dragon symbolizes supreme power and was associated with the emperor. There is no connection with the Western dragon which symbolizes evil power.

The first emperor, Shi HuangDi, is said to have incorporated the emblem or totem of each tribe he conquered into his own. This may be part of the explanation of how the dragon took on its composite form. A dragon has the body of a snake, the scales and tail of a fish, the antlers of a stag, the face of a camel, the talons of an eagle, the ears of a bull, the feet of a tiger and the eyes of a demon.

The dragon is associated with water and the number 9.

Han Chinese often refer to themselves as 'descendants of the dragon'. In the West, it has also become a symbol of China itself although in China the panda is the preferred national symbol today.

The Phoenix (FengHuang) symbolizes virtue, foresight and devotion and was associated with the empress. The phoenix derived from the combination of the first two mythical phoenixes - the Feng which was male and Huang that was female - to symbolize a harmony of Yin and Yang. The phoenix carries with it eternal truths and is immortal - able to rise from the ashes of death. The phoenix will only stay where there is just rule.

The feathers of the phoenix are often depicted containing the five fundamental colors: black/blue, white, red, green and yellow that relate to the 'Five Elements'.

The phoenix or similar mythical 'fire-birds' appear in many ancient cultures, including that of ancient Greece, but there are some differences.

The dragon and phoenix are still embodied in traditional celebrations such as the Chinese New Year.


The number 9, being the highest value digit, is associated with the dragon and the emperor. Nine is often found in architectural and other features associated with the emperor, such as the imperial red doors with their 9 rows of 9 golden bolts.

10,000 was a number used to denote infinity. Hence the Forbidden City was often cited as having 9,999 rooms - just less than the mythical number of rooms in Heaven.

Further, odd numbers are considered to be Yang while even numbers are associated with Yin.

All the other digits have various associations too, with complicated rationales based in various ancient beliefs such as the Five Elements. Even today, 8 is considered to be a lucky number associated with prosperity and happiness, while 4 is an unlucky number. In some multi-storied buildings there is no floor marked as floor 4. A telephone number with lots of 8s and no 4s is the most expensive.


Chinese Architecture

Chinese architecture has had a major influence on the architectural styles of Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

Traditional Chinese architecture stressed the visual impact of buildings, and emphasised width rather than height, and symmetry. Grandeur could be signified by the number of tiers - in terms of floors or roofs. Buildings would normally be based on a substantial platform, side walls and a curved overhanging roof.

Palaces, temples and even hutongs (alleys of simple commoners dwellings) were usually surrounded by a gated wall.

Imperial Architecture

While the dwellings of ordinary people, such as hutongs, were generally grey in color, both walls and roof, imperial buildings employed color. Imperial buildings had golden yellow roof tiles, red columns and doors, and walls that are shades of red - pink, purple or terracotta.

Religious Architecture

Buddhist architecture in much of China follows the imperial style, but with green roof tiles. A Buddhist temple normally has a front hall that houses a statue of a Bodhisattva, followed by a great hall that houses statues of the Buddhas, with accommodation for the monks and nuns at either side.

Taoist architecture is a little less grand. The main deity is usually represented in the main hall which is at the front, in contrast to Buddhist layout where the main hall will be to the rear. Also, the entrance is usually at or to the side which is believed to confuse entry by demons (a Feng Shui guideline). Taoist roofs are generally blue.

Commoners Architecture

A SiHeYuan, or courtyard, was the traditional unit and could range from small and basic to elaborate. The courtyard itself, even if very small, could contain potted plants and serve as a small garden as well as workspace. A SiHeYuan would face south with the entrance at the front but on the east side. The main building would be at the back facing the courtyard (that is, facing south). Children would live in the side rooms. The room beside the entrance was used for sundry purposes.

The main building faces south to avoid northerly winds and gain the most possible sunshine during winter. Overhanging eaves keep the building cool when the summer sun is high in the sky, and also keep off rain. The main building is divided into three, or sometimes five, rooms, with the main living area in the center.

There is often a screen just inside the entrance so that passers by cannot see directly into the courtyard - and to protect from evil spirits (who are said to travel in straight lines and deterred by curved paths and screens).

Wealthy people would have a larger SiHeYuan, possibly with two or even more courtyards, one behind the other. A pair of stone lions would be placed outside the main gate, which would be painted red with a large copper or brass ring handle.

SiHeYuans were constructed next to each other in rows to form a hutong - an alley less than 9m wide (the narrowest are less than 1m wide). These lively communities are disappearing fast in Beijing, and elsewhere, although some such areas are now protected from redevelopment.


An Introduction to BeiJing

Beijing is the capital of the most populous country in the world - the People's Republic of China.With a population of 15 million, and a high proportion of green space, Beijing is one of the world's most monumental cities - a place of superlatives, with the biggest central square in the world - Tian'AnMen Square - the largest and best preserved imperial palace complex - the Forbidden City - the largest sacrificial complex in the world - the Temple of Heaven - and sections of the world's largest man-made structure - the Great Wall - nearby.

Having already hosted the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing is investing billions into becoming an economic powerhouse. Beijing is a fascinating urban destination for tourists keen to immerse themselves in China's long and colourful history and culture - and its unique, vibrant take on city living, 21st century style.

The frenetic building activity is creating a bold and stylish new Beijing that will surprise even if you have visited just two years ago. However, old Beijing is still to be found and is easily explored in the tea-houses and temples, the hutongs and courtyards - and the many museums.

In no other capital on Earth can you enjoy such a wide variety of gourmet restaurants.Beijing offers excellent value dishes from all of China's eight regional styles of cuisine, not to mention Korean, Thai, Japanese and all manner of western dishes too.

Nightlife in Beijing is kaleidoscopic - from dizzying acrobatics, martial arts displays and street theatre to puppetry, outdoor ballroom dancing, the ubiquitous karaoke and trendy nightclubs. In addition, many shops in Beijing are open until 10pm and there are restaurants on every street, often with the choice of outdoor dining under red lanterns.

Beijing's new-found confidence on the world stage is best experienced during an evening spent strolling through this wonderfully welcoming city that retains an intimacy one would find hard to match.


Human activity in the Beijing area dates back around half a million years, to when 'Peking Man' lived in ZhouKouDian, in what is now the southwestern suburbs of today's Beijing. The climate at that time was warmer and more humid than it is today so forests and lakes in the area supported a wide variety of life.

The fossil remains of Peking Man, his stone tools and evidence of the use of fire, as well as later tools of around 18,000 years ago, such as bone needles and articles of adornment from the age known as 'Upper Cave Man' are the earliest cultural relics on record in China today. Indeed, they are among the earliest in the world.

Emperor Wu was the first to declare the site of Beijing as the capital in 1057 BC. Since then, the city has been known by the names Ji, ZhongDu, Dadu, then finally Beijing, when the name was chosen by the Ming Dynasty Emperor ChengZu in 1421.

Before 1949, Beijing was known as Peking in the western world.Beijing was once again the capital only when Mao ZeDong declared the People's Republic of China on October 1st 1949.

'BeiJing' literally means 'north capital', following the common east asian tradition whereby capital cities are explicitly named as such. Another Chinese city similarly named is NanJing, meaning 'south capital'. At various times in history, the capital was declared to be NanJing rather than BeiJing, according to whether the then current power-base lay to the north or south of China.

'YanJing' is another popular informal name for Beijing, a reference to the ancient State of Yan that existed here during the Zhou Dynasty. For example, there is the locally brewed 'YanJing Beer'.


China is bordered by the countries of Indochina to the south, has Russia and Mongolia to the north, rising-star India to the south west, and Korea and Japan to the east.

Beijing's Latitude:

39 55


Beijing's Longitude:

116 23


Today, Beijing City covers an area of about 7,000 square kilometers spanning 38 kilometers from ShiJingShan in the west to TongXian in the east.

Beijing is China's second largest city in terms of population, after Shanghai.

Beijing is widely recognized as the political, educational and cultural center of China, whereas Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in the economic field.

Beijing Municipality is centered on Beijing City and is equivalent to a province in China's administrative structure. The population is about 15 million of which about 10 million have permanent resident status.

Beijing is an independently administered municipal district, situated in the northeastern part of China at an average elevation of 43m above sea level. Beijing municipality is centered around the capital city and has a total area of 17,000 sq km (about 6,500 square miles), stretching 160 kilometres from east to west and over 180 kilometres from north to south.

Beijing Municipality borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south and, for a small section, in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast.

The 38 kilometer long Chang'An ('Eternal Peace') Boulevard that runs from east to west through central Beijing concentrates on state, political and economic affairs. The central areas around the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) and city gates, as well as the lakes - ZhongNanHai, BeiHai and HouHai - have been designated as protected landmark districts that retain the features of Old Beijing.


Following economic reforms, Beijing has evolved to be an important transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and expressways entering and leaving in all directions.It is also the focal point of many international flights to China.

Sadly, although it was probably necessary, most of Beijing's city wall was removed between 1965 and 1969 to make way for the construction of the 2nd Ring Road.

The traffic network now consists of six concentric ringroads (the outer four are expressways), 28 radial roads (9 express ways), and both underground and suburban railways that are being further developed to improve links from the center with outlying areas and surrounding towns, plus several long distance railway routes and an international airport.

Following the economic reforms of Deng XiaoPing, the urban area of Beijing expanded greatly. Formerly within the confines of the 3rd Ring Road, the urban area of Beijing is now pushing at the boundary of the recently-constructed 5th Ring Road and even the 6th Ring Road that is currently under construction. Many areas of Beijing that were formerly farmland have now been developed into residential or commercial neighborhoods, although a mandatory level of green space is actively preserved.

Tourism in Beijing

China is one of the world's most visited countries. Tourism is now increasing rapidly and is forming an ever more important part of the economy. It has been projected that China may become the world's number one tourist destination by 2020.

Historical Beijing is a key attraction. The Forbidden City receives over 10 million visitors each year (foreign and domestic). In 2005, over 3.6 million foreign tourists visited Beijing, constituting an increase of 15% from 2004.

With an eye to the future, an increasing number of historical and cultural sites in Beijing are being renovated and opened to the public, a process that started long before Beijing won hosting of the 2008 Olympics.

Time Zone

Beijing's time zone is UTC/GMT +8 hours. Beijing's time zone is UTC / GMT +8 hours.

The whole of China shares the same time zone. There is no daylight saving time (or 'summer time') at the moment.

Distances from Beijing

The following table shows the distance to various cities in and just outside China.


111 km


913 km

Seoul, Korea

960 km


1,068 km


1,725 km

Hong Kong

2,024 km

Tokyo, Japan

2,098 km


2,556 km

Green City

Beijing is liberally forested and contains many parks, big and small, and its green commitment has put in place many measures to limit pollution and further improve the environment.

For example, in 2005, 8,000 outdated taxi cars and 2,000 buses were phased out and replaced with vehicles meeting newly promulgated, more rigid state standards for pollution control.

New subway lines could make Beijing's subway the world's largest by 2020.

Already with many large parks, Beijing's green space has been increased further in recent years making it a beautiful city to live or visit.

The Economy of Beijing

In 2005, Beijing's nominal GDP was 681.45 billion RMB (about 84 billion USD), a year-on-year growth of 11.1%. Beijing's per capita GDP was 44,969 RMB, an increase of 8.1% from the previous year - nearly twice as much as in the year 2000.

Beijing's industries were worth :

Primary : 9.77 billion RMB

Secondary : 210.05 billion RMB

Tertiary : 461.63 billion RMB

Urban disposable income per capita in Beijing was 17,653 RMB - a real terms increase of 12.9%. If this figure seems low compared to the West, remember that the cost of living in Beijing is also much lower.

Beijing's real estate and automobile sectors have continued to grow very well in recent years. A total of 28.032 million square metres of housing real estate was sold in 2005, for a total of 175.88 billion RMB. In 2004, the total number of automobiles registered in Beijing was 2,146,000 - a year on year increase of 18.7%, Of those, 1,540,000 were privately owned.

The Central Business District (CBD) is centered on the GuoMao area and is home to a variety of regional corporate headquarters, shopping malls and high-end housing. The 'Financial Street', in the FuXingMen and FuChengMen areas, is a traditional financial center. WangFuJing and XiDan are major shopping districts. ZhongGuanCun, often dubbed 'China's Silicon Valley', continues to be a center for electronics and computer-related industries.


Beijing is home to a great number of colleges and universities (about 160), including a number of highly-regarded universities of international stature, including China's two most prestigious institutions: Peking University and TsingHua University. Other well known institutions, domestically and internationally, include Beijing Normal University, Peking University, RenMin (People's) University of China and Beijing Foreign Studies University.

Owing to Beijing's status as the political and cultural capital of China, a larger proportion of tertiary-level institutions are concentrated here than any other place in China, reaching at least 59 in number. Many international students from Japan, Korea, North America, Europe, Southeast Asia and elsewhere come to Beijing to study every year - a growing trend, especially among Western students. At the same time, there has been a big increase in the number of Chinese studying abroad.


People native to urban Beijing speak the Beijing dialect, which belongs to the Mandarin subdivision of spoken Chinese. Beijing dialect provides the basis for Standard Mandarin, the standard Chinese language used in the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Singapore.

A romanised script of chinese called Pinyin is widely used next to the traditional chinese script on signs of all types, including place names.

There is a major drive for people to learn english and younger, educated people often speak it well. You will always find staff in hotels who can speak english. In other places, such as restaurants, this may not be the case, but there is usually someone nearby who will be happy to help.

The Beijing 2008 Olympics & Paralympics

The Summer Olympics began in Beijing on August 8th 2008 (08,08,08) - at 8pm (8 being a 'lucky' number to chinese people). This helped speed up the rate of change in Beijing so that there is now a fascinating mix of old and new, and cultural traditions rub shoulders with a new dynamism.


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