Beijing - Etymology

Etymology

See also: Names of Beijing

Over the past 3,000 years, the city has held many names. Beijing – from the Chinese characters 北 for north and 京 for capital – means the "Northern Capital". The name used during the Ming Dynasty, when the Yongle Emperor restored it as a dual capital and distinguished it from Nanjing (the "Southern Capital"). The name was restored again upon the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. 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 Map Romanization of the same characters based upon the Chinese dialects spoken in the southern port towns first visited by European traders and missionaries. These dialects preserve the Middle Chinese form of 京 as kjaeng, prior to a phonetic shift in the northern dialects to the modern pronunciation.

In Chinese, the one-character abbreviation of Beijing is "京", which appears on automobile licence plates in the city. In the Latin alphabet, the official abbreviation consists of the two initials of the region's characters: "BJ".

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