Peking, or Pei-Ching ('Northern Capital'), the capital of the Chinese empire, is in 39° 54' 36" N. lat. and 116° 27' E. long. It is situated in a sandy plain, and is surrounded by walls with sixteen gates, each surmounted by towers 100 feet high; and it consists, in fact, of two cities - the Inner and the Outer - known also as the Manchu or Tartar and the Chinese, the Northern and the Southern. The walls of the Manchu city average 50 feet in height, and are fully 60 feet wide at the bottom; those of the Chinese city (rectangular in plan) are 30 feet high and 25 wide. The circuit of the two cities measures 21 miles, including an area of nearly 26 sq. m. Peking is one of the most ancient cities of the world; in the 13th century a.d. its Tartar conquerors fell before the invading Mongols; Kublai, a grandson of Genghis Khan, made Peking his capital in 1280, and there he was found by Marco Polo, who styles the city Khan-baligh, 'city of the Khan' - hence Cambaluc. Soon the Mongols were driven out by the Chinese Ming dynasty, the founder of which fixed his capital at Nanking (q.v.). The third Ming emperor returned to Peking in 1421. The Manchus, who became masters of the empire in 1643, found this city ready for them. A new era in its history commenced in 1860, when it surrendered to the English and French allies.
The Manchu or Inner City is divided into three portions; and at the heart of it are two enclosures, into the innermost of which entrance is forbidden to all except such as have official connection with the court. It is called the Purple Forbidden City, is very nearly 2 1/4 miles in circuit, and in it are the palaces of the emperor, his empress, and other members of the imperial family. The Tai Ho, or 'Hall of Grand Harmony,' is built of marble on a terrace 20 feet high, and rising itself other 110 feet; its principal apartment is 200 feet long and 90 wide.
Surrounding the Forbidden City is the 'Imperial' or 'August,' about 6 miles in circuit, and encompassed by a wall 20 feet high. In the W. part of the 'August City' is the 'Western Park ' with a large artificial lake, a summer-house, gardens, the copper statue of Buddha (CO feet high), and the temple of 'Great Happiness.' In the General City are the principal offices of the government, the observatory, the Provincial Hall for literary examinations, the Colonial Office, and the ' National Academy.' In the north-eastern corner is the Russian mission, and west from it the 'Palace of Everlasting Harmony,' a grand lamasery for over a thousand Mongol and Tibetan monks. A little farther \V. stands, amidst cypresses, the temple of Confucius. To the 'Temple of Emperors and Kings,' near the south wall, the emperor goes to worship the spirits of nearly two hundred predecessors; the great Tutelary Temple of the capital is grimy, and full of fortune-tellers. All the foreign legations and Christian missions are within the Inner City. The new R. C. cathedral (1888) is conspicuous.
The Chinese or Outer City is very sparsely populated; much of the ground is under cultivation or wooded. The 'Altar to Heaven,' with its adjunct the 'Altar of Prayer for Grain,' and the 'Altar of Agriculture,' are both near the southern wall. The ' Altar to Heaven' stands on a splendid triple circular terrace of white marble, richly carved, in a grove of fine trees. The ' Altar of Prayer for Grain,' a similar but smaller structure, was burned down in 1889. The principal streets of the Chinese City are more than 100 feet wide, but the side streets are mere lanes. The streets are seldom paved, and are deep either in mud or in dust. In the smaller streets the houses are miserable shanties; in the main streets both private houses and shops are one-story brick edifices, the shops gay with paint and gilding. There are three Catholic cemeteries (Portuguese, French, and native) and a Russian one; and there are mission buildings, Russian and other, and hospitals. Free schools and charitable institutions are not infrequent. The climate of Peking is severe, the temperature in winter being from 25° to 10° F., and in summer the heat is great, the thermometer rising to 105°, though the usual summer temperature is 75° to 90°. The population is usually believed to be a million or somewhat less; the Chinese outnumbering both Manchus and Mongols. Peking was connected by railway with Tien-tsin in 1897; the line to Hankow, on the Yang-tsze-kiang, was completed in 1902. There are also lines to Tang-ku (British) and to the hill coal-mines. There is also direct telegraphic communication with Europe. Since 1868 there is an imperial university with American and European professors. Peking was the scene of the troubles connected with the 'Boxer' rising in 1900, the siege of the legations, and their relief by the allied forces, who occupied the ' Forbidden City' after the flight of the Chinese court to Singanfoo. See works cited under China.