Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ji State and the Beginnings of Beijing

Over the next several days I'm going to write a series of blog posts about one of the great capital cities of our time: Beijing. In these posts we'll explore the history of Beijing and how it went from being a tiny city-state to the massive city it gradually became over the past millinea.

Beijing is a city that is both the capital of China and a major technological and industrial hub. But many people in the West are not aware that many centuries ago on the site of one of modern-day Beijing's residential districts, a whole different city-state once existed! In its time this city-state - and the capital city it remained for many centuries after the fall of the state - was also regarded as a major metropolitan area and a military power to be reckoned with. It was also the city where Beijing itself has its roots.

Along Liulichang Street in what is now the Xicheng district of Beijing once stood the city of Ji. Ji City was the capital of Ji State (11th century-7th century BCE), which was essentially the city itself. Ji was a walled city which was inhabited by people said to be descendants of the Yellow Emperor. It was one of eight states which were the vassal states that founded the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE).

For some three hundred years during the Spring and Autumn period of the Zhou Dynasty (771-476 BCE), Ji remained a powerhouse in the region. It was certainly a tiny city-state compared to the neighboring states, but it had a powerful army. The city-state depended on Lotus Pond, which is now located in Beijing, for its water supply. This gave the city a huge natural advantage that lasted well beyond the demise of Ji.

During the 7th century BCE (approx.), the more powerful neighboring state of Yan (11th century-222 BCE) defeated Ji in a war and absorbed it into Yan. Soon afterwards, it became the capital of Yan State and was known alternately as Yanjing or Ji. 

Ji State might have fallen, but Ji City itself remained as strong as ever.

If you want to read more about the state of Ji and the discovery by Chinese archaeologists of the ancient sites of Ji City and the Yan capital it became, be sure to have a look at the following article:


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