A city plan was first laid out in the Yuan Dynasty. Yet only after extensive reconstruction during the Ming and Qing (1644-1911), did the city emerge as an architectural masterpiece fit to serve as the capital of the Chinese empire. A north-south axis bisects the city with the Imperial Palace was knows as Danei (The Great Within). In the Ming, it was renamed the Forbidden City (Zijincheng), and more recently it has come to be called the Palace Museum (Gugong Bowuyuan). Designed with thousands of halls and gates arranged symmetrically around a north south axis, its dimensions and luxuriance are a fitting symbol of the power and greatness of traditional China.
After the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, China fell prey to the Northern Warlords and Kuomintang, Beijing suffered the same fate as the rest of China, hobbling along like an old camel without a sense of direction. The Chinese People's Liberation Army formally entered Beijing on January 31, 1949, opening a new chapter in the long history of the city. It was in Tian'anmen Square on October 1st, 1949, that Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People's Republic of China, with Beijing as its capital.
The city has changed totally since then. It has expanded from its old confines within the nine gates of the Inner City wall (Zhengyangmen, Chongwenmen, Xuanwumen, Chaoyangmen, Dongzhimen, Fuchengmen, Xizhimen, Andingmen and Deshengmen) to the seven outer gates (Dongbianmen, Guangqumen, Xibianmen, Guang' anmen, Yongdingmen, Zuoanmen and Youanmen) and out into the suburbs, Beijing now covers an area of about 750 square kilometers, which includes a dozen new living districts built on the outskirts of town.
Tian'anmen Square is still the center of Beijing, Chang' an Boulevard now running 38 kilometers from Shijingshan in the west to Tongxian in the east. The palaces and city towers along both sides have been designated cultural relics for national protection. Former imperial residences and gardens have been opened for public viewing.
New buildings like the International Post Office and Bank of China have been built along the Second Ring Road, the former line of the Inner City wall. Old living quarters and blocks of traditional Beijing style buildings, such as Liulichang Culture Street, have been restored. Larger scale construction has been undertaken along the Third Ring Road and the fourth Ring Road.
Future development in Beijing will continue to preserve the symmetry of the old city layout while integrating modern architectural design into the over all plan.