A Short History of Beijing

by Jonathan Clements

‘This book is like having a friendly, knowledgeable companion taking your arm as you wander through the back alleys and boulevards of one of the world’s great cities… the perfect book for the visitor to Beijing.’
Rana Mitter, author of Modern China: A Very Short Introduction

‘Beijingers, both Chinese and foreign, mourn the Chinese capitals rapdily-disappearing traditional alleys but few of us appreciate Beijing as a city that has lasted through 2,500 years of building and destruction. …[Jonathan Clements] comes well-stocked with tales that will be new even to long-time residents.’
Lucy Hornby, China Correspondent, Financial Times

‘…a highly readable and informative book that gives us a wonderful glimpse of the history of a compelling city.’
Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World

‘It’s hard to imagine anyone better equipped than Jonathan Clements to compile a readable account of Beijing …an essential companion for the visitor and a treasure trove of vicarious delights for the chair-bound.’
John Keay, author of China: A History

Before China’s capital became a sprawling megacity and international centre of business and culture, its fortunes fluctuated under a dozen dynasties. It has been a capital for several states, including those headed by Mongolian chiefs and the glorious Ming emperors, whose tombs can still be found on its outskirts. And before all that, it was a campsite for primitive hominids, known as the Peking Man.

A Short History of Beijing tells the story of this remarkable city, from its more famous residents – Khubilai Khan, Mulan, and Marco Polo – right up to the twenty-first century, as modern construction wipes out so much of the old city to make way for its twenty-million-strong population. Through his timely and intimate portrait of the world’s most populous capital city, Jonathan Clements reveals the history of China itself.

This first paperback edition includes a new final chapter, taking the history of Beijing up to the 2022 Winter Olympics and beyond.

JONATHAN CLEMENTS is an author and TV presenter specialising in the history and cultures of the Far East. He speaks both Chinese and Japanese, and has been a consultant and talking head on numerous TV programmes, including New Secrets of the Terracotta Warriors (Channel 4), Koxinga: Sailing into History (National Geographic), China’s Jade Empire (Channel 4), and TheChinese Chariot Revealed (PBS). Since 2016, he has fronted the award-winning series Route Awakening (National Geographic Asia). His most recent documentary as presenter is Shandong: Land of Confucius, also for National Geographic. Visit Jonathan’s blog, here.

Also by this author, A Short History of Tokyo, An Armchair Traveller’s History of BeijingMannerheimAn Armchair Traveller’s History of FinlandA History of the Silk RoadAn Armchair Traveller’s History of the Silk RoadAn Armchair Traveller’s History of TokyoAdmiral Togo, and Mao Zedong.

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