Over the past 3,000 years, the city of Beijing has had numerous other names. The name Beijing, which means "Northern Capital" (from the Chinese characters 北 for north and 京 for capital), was applied to the city in 1403 during the Ming Dynasty to distinguish the city from Nanjing (the "Southern Capital"). The English spelling is based on the pinyin romanization of the two characters as they are pronounced in Standard Mandarin. An older English spelling, Peking, is the postal romanization of the same two characters as they are pronounced in Chinese dialects spoken in the southern port towns first visited by European traders and missionaries. Those dialects preserve the Middle Chinese pronunciation of 京 as kjaeng, prior to a phonetic shift in the northern dialects to the modern pronunciation.
The single Chinese character abbreviation for Beijing is 京, which appears on automobile license plates in the city. The official Latin alphabet abbreviation for Beijing is "BJ".
The earliest traces of human habitation in the Beijing municipality were found in the caves of Dragon Bone Hill near the village of Zhoukoudian in Fangshan District, where Peking Man lived. Homo erectus fossils from the caves date to 230,000 to 250,000 years ago. Paleolithic Homo sapiens also lived there more recently, about 27,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found neolithic settlements throughout the municipality, including in Wangfujing, located in downtown Beijing.
The first walled city in Beijing was Ji, a city-state from the 11th to 7th century BC. Within modern Beijing, Ji was located south of the present Beijing West Railway Station. This settlement was later conquered by the state of Yan and made its capital under the name Yanjing.
Uploaded: Jan 3, 2016