The walls of Peking

March 12 2014

Before the unification of China by the First Emperor in 221 BC, Beijing had been, for centuries, the capital of the ancient states of Ji and Yan.

During the first millennia of imperial rule, it was a provincial city in northern China. Its stature grew in the 10th to 13th centuries when the nomadic Khitan and forest-dwelling Jurchen peoples from beyond the Great Wall expanded southward and made the city a capital of their dynasties, the Liao and Jin.

Beijing as a capital for the whole of China grew out of the Yuan (Mongol) capital Dadu or Khanbaliq. The Ming moved their capital there from Nanjing in 1421.

The walls in the photographs below, built under the Ming, are those of the Inner City. Under the Manchu or Qing Dynasty rulers (1644-1912), it came to be called the Tartar City, in the loose sense of Tartar, because only Manchus were allowed to live there.

The Han Chinese, whose businesses depended on the imperial households, lived in the Outer City, which had its own wall.

The Imperial City was the collection of gardens and shrines in the Inner City which surrounded the Forbidden City, the imperial palace under the Ming and Qing.

Historical names of Beijing (Wikipedia).

Beijing city wall map

The Inner and Outer walls were damaged during the Boxer Rebellion, punctured in various places after 1911 and almost entirely dismantled by the Communists.

Tiananmen Square lies between Tiananmen Gate, the gate into the Imperial City, and Zhengyangmen or Qianmen Gate, the gate into the Outer City.

Walls of the Tartar City via visualisingchina.net:

Peking wall 3

Peking wall 2

Peking wall 1

2 Responses to “The walls of Peking”


  1. […] the history of Peking, its walls, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, see posts here and […]


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