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GuangZhou

Welcome to GuangZhou “Flower City”


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Guangzhou is a famous culture city and a splendid tourism city with a history of more than 2,200 years and a homeland of overseas Chinese as well.

It enjoys the name of “Flower City” as the superb geographic and climatic conditions in the South contributed to the natural beauty here. As a city of heroes, Guangzhou has a reputation of great eminence in the modern history of China. The historical sites of Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Huanghuagang 72 Martyr Cemetery, Guangzhou Luxun Memorial Hall, Peasant Movement Institute, Sanyuanli Anti-British Invasion, and the Former Site of Huangpu Military Academy are the witnesses of the modern history of China, and, together with Baiyun Mountain, Yuexiu Park, Liuhuahu Park, Lu Lake and South-China, constitute colorful landscape groups.

Meanwhile, Guangzhou was the starting point of the “Maritime Silk Road” and is an important port city for the opening and reform of China, making great contribution to the economic and cultural exchange and friendly contacts between China and the rest of the world and demonstrating everlasting prosperity.

Guangzhou’s famous landmarks


Canton Tower

Canton Tower is located at an intersection of Guangzhou New City Central Axes and Pearl River, directly facing Haixinsha Island where the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sixteenth Asian Games were held and the 21st century new city CBD of Guangzhou-Zhujiang New Town.

With its unique shape and design, Canton Tower has become a magnificent landmark on the New City Central Axes, adding beauty and charm to the Pearl River. There is one smaller rotating ellipse at the top twisting up counterclockwise with the other larger rotating ellipse at the bottom, which creates a “slim waist” in the middle and makes it look like a lady looking behind.

Canton Tower is not only a comprehensive sightseeing building with rich cultural connotation but also a world-famous tourist spot integrated with the multi-functions of Sightseeing, F&B, Adventure, 4D Cinema, Wedding, MICE, Science and Technology, Education, and Shopping prosperity.

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Yuexiu Park (Five Rams Sculpture & the Zhenhai Tower)

Guangzhou’s Five Rams Sculpture is located atop Yuexiu Hill. It was built in 1960 from more than 130 pieces of granite and is one of the city’s emblems.

The sculpture represents the five rams who gave Guangzhou its nickname “City of Rams” and were formerly honored at its Temple of the Five Immortals. These immortals were said to have ridden rams into the city soon after its founding, teaching its residents how to grow rice and ending the specter of famine forever. Locals consider the rams symbols of good luck.

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Zhenhai Tower/Chen Hoi Lau

Also atop Yuexiu Hill is the Five-storied Pagoda now known as Chen Hoi Lau. The present structure is 28 meters (92 ft) high and 16 meters (52 ft) wide. It has housed the Guangzhou Museum since it was opened to the public in 1928.

A guard tower was first erected at the site in 1380, one of the first to be constructed in Lingnan. Chinese legend holds that Zhu Liangzu (朱亮祖), Marquis of Yongjia and a member of the Ming dynasty, saw yellow and purple air rising over Yuexiu and was told that it was the sign of a new emperor. He then erected the tower as part of the city walls to alter the mountain’s feng shui and prevent the prophecy from coming to pass. It has been destroyed and rebuilt five times, the various towers appearing in Chinese poetry and art.

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Yuexiu Stadium/Yut Sau Shan Stadium

Yuexiu Stadium was refreshed from the old Yut Sau Shan Park Playground at the foot of the hill in 1950 at the behest of Mayor Ye Jianying. It covers an area of 43,000 square meters (462,848 sq ft). It was one of the Asian Games venues in 2010.

The stadium is not only a sports activity site, but also a large-scale concert hall. Since its opening in October 1950, it has held 200 meetings and more than 280 performances. It can hold 35,000 people.

Pavilion of Regaining

The Pavilion of Regaining is a square pavilion erected in 1948 on the spot of an earlier 1928 memorial to the Xinhai Revolution against the Qing Empire. The first pavilion was destroyed amid fighting with the Japanese during World War II.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall

The Sun Yat-sen or Zhongshan Memorial Hall is an octagon-shaped building in Guangzhou, capital of China’s Guangdong Province. The hall was designed by Lu Yanzhi and was built with funds raised by local and overseas Chinese people in memory of Sun Yat-sen. Construction work commenced in 1929 and completed in 1931. The hall is a large octagonal structure with a span of 71 meters without pillars, housing a large stage and seats 3,240 people.

The memorial hall stands on the site of Guangzhou’s Presidential Palace during the Constitutional Protection Movement, when the Nationalists operated a rival “Chinese” government to the Zhili Clique’s Beijing regime.[citation needed] The palace was damaged during Ye Ju’s 16 June 1922 attack on Sun Yat-sen, during which—though he had already fled—his wife narrowly escaped shelling and rifle fire before meeting him on the gunboat Yongfeng, where they were joined by Chiang Kai-shek. The hall itself has been severely damaged and repaired several times until 1998, when it was comprehensively upgraded to its present-day condition. A statue of Sun Yat-sen was erected in front of the main entrance.

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Guangzhou Museum (also known as the Zhenhai Tower)

Locating at the Yuexiu Park, Guangzhou, Zhenhai Tower is a comprehensive history museum with dense Canton characteristics. The tower is one of historic sites in Guangzhou as it is established in 1929. Now, it is used for collection and exhibition of historical data and cultural relics of the city. The museum consists of two parts: the Zhenhai Tower that houses the historical relics and the Art Gallery that exhibits many exquisite local art works.

The memorial hall stands on the site of Guangzhou’s Presidential Palace during the Constitutional Protection Movement, when the Nationalists operated a rival “Chinese” government to the Zhili Clique’s Beijing regime.[citation needed] The palace was damaged during Ye Ju’s 16 June 1922 attack on Sun Yat-sen, during which—though he had already fled—his wife narrowly escaped shelling and rifle fire before meeting him on the gunboat Yongfeng, where they were joined by Chiang Kai-shek. The hall itself has been severely damaged and repaired several times until 1998, when it was comprehensively upgraded to its present-day condition. A statue of Sun Yat-sen was erected in front of the main entrance.

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Ersha Island

Ersha Island is an island in the middle of the Pearl River. Encircled by the Pearl River, the island enjoys picturesque landscape different from the downtown. After the establishment of China, it has been the training base for provincial athletes and an ideal place for exquisite resident houses 80% of which are said to be owned by foreigners. Covered by modern apartments, and art places like Xinghai Concert Hall and Guangdong Museum of Art, the island is given a sense of art.

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Flower City Square

The square in the new central shaft line of Guangzhou has been officially named as “Huacheng Square”. It is regarded as “Guangzhou’s parlor” and is the largest square for civilian purpose in Guangzhou.

The Square is surrounded by 39 buildings, including the Guangzhou No.2 Children’s Palace, the Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou Library, Guangdong Museum and the West Tower (Guangzhou International Financial Center (GZIFC)), etc.

In the Square, there are a man-made lake & landscape district as well as large-scaled fountains, lamplight piazza, system for formation of cold fog and temperature drop, over 600 trees and 5 flower islands. Underneath Huacheng Square is a 150,000 square-meter high-end underground shopping mall, the “Mall of the World”.

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Shameen Island

Shameen Island is a sandbank island in the Liwan District of Guangzhou city, Guangdong province, China. The island’s name literally means “sandy surface” in Chinese. The territory was divided into two concessions given to France and the United Kingdom by the Qing government in the 19th century. The island is a gazetted historical area that serves as a tranquil reminder of the colonial European period, with quiet pedestrian avenues flanked by trees and lined by historical buildings in various states of upkeep.

The island is the location of several hotels, a youth hostel, restaurants and tourist shops selling curios and souvenirs. Shameen Island was an important port for Guangzhou’s foreign trade from the Song to the Qing Dynasty. From the 18th to the mid 19th century, the foreigners lived and did business in a row of houses known as the Thirteen Factories, on the banks of the Pearl River to the east the present Shameen, which was then an anchorage for thousands of boat people. Shameen became a strategic point for city defense during the period of the First and Second Opium Wars. In 1859,the territory was divided in two concessions given to France and the United Kingdom (of which 3/5 belonged to the British and 2/5 to the French).

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It was connected to the mainland by two bridges, which were closed at 10pm as a security measure. The British arch bridge, also called the “Bridge of England” and built in 1861, to the north was guarded by Sikh police officers, and the French bridge to the east was guarded by Vietnamese (Cochinchina) recruits with the Troupes coloniales.Trading companies from Britain, the United States, France, Holland, Italy,Germany, Portugal, and Japan built stone mansions along the waterfront. The construction on the island was characterized by climate-adapted but Western-plan detached houses with hipped roofs and large verandahs.The island was the scene of fighting during the “June 23 incident” in 1925.After 1949, the mansions of Shameeni became government offices or apartment houses and the churches were turned into factories.

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Litchi Bay

Lychee Bay or Litchi Bay, a set of creeks and lakes that flow southwest to Pearl River, is a tourist attraction in Guangzhou (Canton), Guangdong. Liwan District, where Lychee Bay is located, was named after it. There are many historical relics and historical architectures in Lychee Bay, such as Wenta and Xiguan House. Various cultural activities are held on Lychee Bay, such as the competition of Cantonese opera.

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GuangZhou Maps


GuangZhou Map 1

GuangZhou Map 2

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guangzhou-subway

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Bangkok

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

Bangkok DataBangkok_montage_3

Bangkok (UK: /bæŋˈkɒk/, US: /ˈbæŋkɒk/) is the capital and most populous city of the Kingdom of Thailand. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (กรุงเทพมหานคร, pronounced [krūŋ tʰêːp mahǎː nákʰɔ̄ːn] (About this sound listen)) or simply Krung Thep (About this sound listen (help•info)). The city occupies 1,568.7 square kilometres (605.7 sq mi) in the Chao Phraya River delta in Central Thailand, and has a population of over 8 million, or 12.6 percent of the country’s population. Over 14 million people (22.2 percent) live within the surrounding Bangkok Metropolitan Region, making Bangkok an extreme primate city, significantly dwarfing Thailand’s other urban centres in terms of importance.

Bangkok traces its roots to a small trading post during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century, which eventually grew and became the site of two capital cities: Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. Bangkok was at the heart of the modernization of Siam, later renamed Thailand, during the late 19th century, as the country faced pressures from the West. The city was at the centre of Thailand’s political struggles throughout the 20th century, as the country abolished absolute monarchy, adopted constitutional rule and underwent numerous coups and several uprisings. The city grew rapidly during the 1960s through the 1980s and now exerts a significant impact on Thailand’s politics, economy, education, media and modern society.

The Asian investment boom in the 1980s and 1990s led many multinational corporations to locate their regional headquarters in Bangkok. The city is now a major regional force in finance and business. It is an international hub for transport and health care, and has emerged as a regional centre for the arts, fashion and entertainment. The city is well known for its vibrant street life and cultural landmarks, as well as its notorious red-light districts. The historic Grand Palace and Buddhist temples including Wat Arun and Wat Pho stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the nightlife scenes of Khaosan Road and Patpong. Bangkok is among the world’s top tourist destinations. It is named the most visited city in MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index, and was named “World’s Best City” for four consecutive years by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Bangkok’s rapid growth amidst little urban planning and regulation has resulted in a haphazard cityscape and inadequate infrastructure systems. Limited roads, despite an extensive expressway network, together with substantial private car usage, have led to chronic and crippling traffic congestion, which caused severe air pollution in the 1990s. The city has since turned to public transport in an attempt to solve this major problem. Five rapid transit lines are now in operation, with more systems under construction or planned by the national government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Contents
1 History
2 Name
3 Government
4 Geography
4.1 Topography
4.2 Climate
4.3 Districts
4.4 Cityscape
4.5 Parks and green zones
5 Demography
6 Economy
7 Tourism
8 Culture
8.1 Festivals and events
8.2 Media
8.3 Art
8.4 Sport
9 Transport
9.1 Roads
9.2 Buses and taxis
9.3 Rail systems
9.4 Water transport
9.5 Airports
10 Health and education
10.1 Education
10.2 Healthcare
11 Crime and safety
12 International relations
12.1 International participation
12.2 Sister cities

History


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Map of 17th-century Bangkok, from Simon de la Loubère’s Du Royaume de Siam

The history of Bangkok dates at least back to the early 15th century, when it was a village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, under the rule of Ayutthaya. Because of its strategic location near the mouth of the river, the town gradually increased in importance. Bangkok initially served as a customs outpost with forts on both sides of the river, and became the site of a siege in 1688 in which the French were expelled from Siam. After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese Empire in 1767, the newly declared King Taksin established his capital at the town, which became the base of the Thonburi Kingdom. In 1782, King Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I) succeeded Taksin, moved the capital to the eastern bank’s Rattanakosin Island, thus founding the Rattanakosin Kingdom. The City Pillar was erected on 21 April, which is regarded as the date of foundation of the present city.

Bangkok’s economy gradually expanded through busy international trade, first with China, then with Western merchants returning in the early-to-mid 19th century. As the capital, Bangkok was the centre of Siam’s modernization as it faced pressure from Western powers in the late 19th century. The reigns of Kings Mongkut (Rama IV, 1851–68) and Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868–1910) saw the introduction of the steam engine, printing press, rail transport and utilities infrastructure in the city, as well as formal education and healthcare. Bangkok became the centre stage for power struggles between the military and political elite as the country abolished absolute monarchy in 1932. It was subject to Japanese occupation and Allied bombing during World War II, but rapidly grew in the post-war period as a result of United States developmental aid and government-sponsored investment. Bangkok’s role as an American military R&R destination boosted its tourism industry as well as firmly establishing it as a sex tourism destination. Disproportionate urban development led to increasing income inequalities and unprecedented migration from rural areas into Bangkok; its population surged from 1.8 million to 3 million in the 1960s. Following the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973, Japanese businesses took over as leaders in investment, and the expansion of export-oriented manufacturing led to growth of the financial market in Bangkok. Rapid growth of the city continued through the 1980s and early 1990s, until it was stalled by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. By then, many public and social issues had emerged, among them the strain on infrastructure reflected in the city’s notorious traffic jams. Bangkok’s role as the nation’s political stage continues to be seen in strings of popular protests, from the student uprisings in 1973 and 1976, anti-military demonstrations in 1992, and successive anti-government demonstrations by opposing groups from 2008 onwards.

Administration of the city was first formalized by King Chulalongkorn in 1906, with the establishment of Monthon Krung Thep Phra Maha Nakhon (มณฑลกรุงเทพพระมหานคร) as a national subdivision. In 1915 the monthon was split into several provinces, the administrative boundaries of which have since further changed. The city in its current form was created in 1972 with the formation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), following the merger of Phra Nakhon Province on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya and Thonburi Province on the west during the previous year.

Name


The etymology of the name Bangkok (บางกอก, pronounced in Thai as [bāːŋ kɔ̀ːk] (About this sound listen)) is not absolutely clear. Bang is a Thai word meaning “a village situated on a stream”, and the name might have been derived from Bang Ko (บางเกาะ), ko meaning “island”, a reference to the area’s landscape which was carved by rivers and canals. Another theory suggests that it is shortened from Bang Makok (บางมะกอก), makok being the name of Elaeocarpus hygrophilus, a plant bearing olive-like fruit. This is supported by the fact that Wat Arun, a historic temple in the area, used to be named Wat Makok. Officially, however, the town was known as Thonburi Si Mahasamut (ธนบุรีศรีมหาสมุทร, from Pali and Sanskrit, literally “city of treasures gracing the ocean”) or Thonburi, according to Ayutthaya chronicles. Bangkok was likely a colloquial name, albeit one widely adopted by foreign visitors, who continued to use it to refer to the city even after the new capital’s establishment.

When King Rama I established his new capital on the river’s eastern bank, the city inherited Ayutthaya’s ceremonial name, of which there were many variants, including Krung Thep Thawarawadi Si Ayutthaya (กรุงเทพทวารวดีศรีอยุธยา) and Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Si Ayutthaya (กรุงเทพมหานครศรีอยุธยา). Edmund Roberts, visiting the city as envoy of the United States in 1833, noted that the city, since becoming capital, was known as Sia-Yut’hia, and this is the name used in international treaties of the period. Today, the city is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (กรุงเทพมหานคร) or simply as Krung Thep (กรุงเทพฯ). Its full ceremonial name, which came into use during the reign of King Mongkut, reads as follows:

Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

The name, composed of Pali and Sanskrit root words, translates as:

City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest.

The name is listed in Guinness World Records as the world’s longest place name, at 168 letters. Thai school children are taught the full name, although few can explain its meaning as many of the words are archaic, and known to few. Most Thais who recall the full name do so because of its use in a popular song, “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon” (1989) by Asanee–Wasan and will often recount it by singing it, much as an English speaker might sing the alphabet song to recite the alphabet. The entirety of the lyrics is just the name of the city repeated over and over.

The city is now officially known in Thai by a shortened form of the full ceremonial name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, which is colloquially further shortened to Krung Thep. Bangkok is the city’s official English name, as reflected in the name of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Government


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The city’s ceremonial name (partially visible) is displayed in front of the Bangkok City Hall. On the building is the BMA seal bearing an image of Indra riding Erawan.

The city of Bangkok is locally governed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). Although its boundaries are at the provincial (changwat) level, unlike the other 76 provinces Bangkok is a special administrative area whose governor is directly elected to serve a four-year term. The governor, together with four appointed deputies, form the executive body, who implement policies through the BMA civil service headed by the Permanent Secretary for the BMA. In separate elections, each district elects one or more city councillors, who form the Bangkok Metropolitan Council. The council is the BMA’s legislative body, and has power over municipal ordinances and the city’s budget. However, after the coup of 2014 all local elections have been cancelled and the council was appointed by the government on 15 September 2014. The current Bangkok Governor is Police General Aswin Kwanmuang, who was appointed by the military government on 26 October 2016 following the suspension of the last elected governor M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra.

Bangkok is subdivided into fifty districts (khet, equivalent to amphoe in the other provinces), which are further subdivided into 180 subdistricts (khwaeng, equivalent to tambon). Each district is managed by a district director appointed by the governor. District councils, elected to four-year terms, serve as advisory bodies to their respective district directors.

The BMA is divided into sixteen departments, each overseeing different aspects of the administration’s responsibilities. Most of these responsibilities concern the city’s infrastructure, and include city planning, building control, transportation, drainage, waste management and city beautification, as well as education, medical and rescue services. Many of these services are provided jointly with other agencies. The BMA has the authority to implement local ordinances, although civil law enforcement falls under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.

The seal of the city shows Hindu god Indra riding in the clouds on Airavata, a divine white elephant known in Thai as Erawan. In his hand Indra holds his weapon, the vajra. The seal is based on a painting done by Prince Naris. The tree symbol of Bangkok is Ficus benjamina. The official city slogan, adopted in 2012, reads:

As built by deities, the administrative center, dazzling palaces and temples, the capital of Thailand
กรุงเทพฯ ดุจเทพสร้าง เมืองศูนย์กลางการปกครอง วัดวังงามเรืองรอง เมืองหลวงของประเทศไทย

As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok is the seat of all branches of the national government. The Government House, Parliament House and Supreme, Administrative and Constitutional Courts are all located within the city. Bangkok is the site of the Grand Palace and Chitralada Villa, respectively the official and de facto residence of the king. Most government ministries also have headquarters and offices in the capital.

Geography


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The Bangkok city proper is highlighted in this satellite image of the lower Chao Phraya delta. Notice the built-up urban area along the Chao Phraya River, which extends northward and southward into Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan Provinces.

The Bangkok city proper covers an area of 1,568.737 square kilometres (605.693 sq mi), ranking 69th among the other 76 provinces of Thailand. Of this, about 700 square kilometres (270 sq mi) form the built-up urban area. It is ranked 73rd in the world in terms of land area by City Mayors. The city’s urban sprawl reaches into parts of the six other provinces it borders, namely, in clockwise order from northwest: Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Chachoengsao, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom. With the exception of Chachoengsao, these provinces, together with Bangkok, form the greater Bangkok Metropolitan Region.

Topography

Bangkok is in the Chao Phraya River delta in Thailand’s central plains. The river meanders through the city in a southward direction, emptying into the Gulf of Thailand approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of the city centre. The area is flat and low-lying, with an average elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level. Most of the area was originally swampland, which was gradually drained and irrigated for agriculture via the construction of canals (khlong) which took place throughout the 16th to 19th centuries. The course of the river as it flows through Bangkok has been modified by the construction of several shortcut canals.

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Bangkok’s major canals are shown in this map detailing the original course of the river and its shortcut canals.

This intricate waterway network served as the primary mode of transport up until the late 19th century, when modern roads began to be built. Up until then, most people lived near or on the water, leading the city to be known during the 19th century as the “Venice of the East”. Many of these canals have since been filled in or paved over, but others still criss-cross the city, serving as major drainage channels and transport routes. Most canals are now badly polluted, although the BMA has committed to the treatment and cleaning up of several canals.

The geology of the Bangkok area is characterized by a top layer of soft marine clay known as Bangkok clay, averaging 15 metres (49 ft) in thickness, which overlies an aquifer system consisting of eight known units. This feature has contributed to the effects of subsidence caused by extensive ground water pumping. First recognized in the 1970s, subsidence soon became a critical issue, reaching a rate of 120 millimetres (4.7 in) per year in 1981. Ground water management and mitigation measures have since lessened the severity of the situation, although subsidence is still occurring at a rate of 10 to 30 millimetres (0.39 to 1.18 in) per year, and parts of the city are now 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) below sea level. There are fears that the city may be submerged by 2030. Subsidence has resulted in increased flood risk, as Bangkok is already prone to flooding due to its low elevation and inadequate drainage infrastructure resulting from rapid urbanization. The city now relies on flood barriers and augmenting drainage from canals by pumping and building drain tunnels, but parts of Bangkok and its suburbs are still regularly affected by flooding. Heavy downpours resulting in urban runoff overwhelming drainage systems, and runoff discharge from upstream areas, are major triggering factors. Severe flooding affecting much of the city occurred recently in 1995 and 2011. In the latter, most of Bangkok’s northern, eastern and western districts became inundated, in some places for over two months. Coastal erosion is also an issue in the gulf coastal area, a small length of which lies within Bangkok’s Bang Khun Thian District. Global warming poses further serious risks, and a study by the OECD has estimated that 5.138 million people in Bangkok may be exposed to coastal flooding by 2070, the seventh highest among the world’s port cities.:8

There are no mountains in Bangkok, the closest mountain range being the Khao Khiao Massif, located about 40 km (25 mi) southeast of the city. Phu Khao Thong, the only hill in the metropolitan area, originated in a very large chedi that King Rama III (1787–1851) decided to build at Wat Saket. The chedi collapsed during construction because the soft soil of Bangkok could not support the weight. Over the next few decades, the abandoned mud-and-brick structure acquired the shape of a natural hill and became overgrown with weeds. The locals called it “phu khao” (ภูเขา), as if it were a natural feature. In the 1940s surrounding concrete walls were added to stop the hill from eroding.

Climate

Like most of Thailand, Bangkok has a tropical savanna climate under the Köppen climate classification and is under the influence of the South Asian monsoon system. It experiences three seasons, hot, rainy and cool, although temperatures are fairly hot year-round, ranging from an average low of 22.0 °C (71.6 °F) in December to an average high of 35.4 °C (95.7 °F) in April. The rainy season begins with the arrival of the southwest monsoon around mid-May. September is the wettest month, with an average rainfall of 334.3 millimetres (13.16 in). The rainy season lasts until October, when the dry and cool northeast monsoon takes over until February. The hot season is generally dry, but also sees occasional summer storms. The surface magnitude of Bangkok’s urban heat island has been measured at 2.5 °C (4.5 °F) during the day and 8.0 °C (14 °F) at night. The highest recorded temperature of Bangkok metropolis was 40.0 °C (104.0 °F) in April 1979, and the lowest recorded temperature was 9.9 °C (49.8 °F) in January 1955.

Climate data for Bangkok Metropolis

Districts

Bangkok’s fifty districts serve as administrative subdivisions under the authority of the BMA. Thirty-five of these districts lie to the east of the Chao Phraya, while fifteen are on the western bank, known as the Thonburi side of the city. The fifty districts, arranged by district code, are:

Districts

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The BMA uses several schemes to organize the districts into groups for administrative and general planning purposes. The scheme adopted in 2004 used twelve characteristic groups.

Cityscape

Bangkok’s district areas often do not accurately represent the functional divisions of its neighbourhoods or actual land uses. Although urban planning policies date back to the commission of the “Litchfield plan” in 1960, which set out strategies for land use, transportation and general infrastructure improvements, actual zoning regulations were not fully implemented until 1992. As a result, the city grew organically throughout the period of its rapid expansion, both horizontally as ribbon developments extended along newly built roads, and vertically, with increasing numbers of high rises and skyscrapers being built in several commercial areas. The city has grown from its original centre along the river into a sprawling metropolis surrounded by swaths of suburban residential development extending north and south into neighbouring provinces. The highly populated and growing cities of Nonthaburi, Pak Kret, Rangsit and Samut Prakan are effectively now suburbs of Bangkok. Nevertheless, large agricultural areas remain within the city proper, in its eastern and western fringes. Land use in the city consists of 23 percent residential use, 24 percent agriculture, and 30 percent used for commerce, industry and by the government. The BMA’s City Planning Department is responsible for planning and shaping further development. It has published master plan updates in 1999 and 2006, and a third revision is undergoing public hearings in 2012.

พระบรมราชานุสาวรีย์_พระบรมรูปทรงม้า

The Royal Plaza in Dusit District was inspired by King Chulalongkorn’s visits to Europe.

Bangkok’s historic centre remains the Rattanakosin Island in Phra Nakhon District. It is the site of the Grand Palace and the City Pillar Shrine, primary landmarks of the city’s foundation, as well as many important Buddhist temples. Phra Nakhon, along with the neighbouring Pom Prap Sattru Phai and Samphanthawong Districts, formed what was the city proper in the later 19th century. Many traditional neighbourhoods and markets are located here, including the Chinese settlement of Sampheng. The city was expanded toward Dusit District in the early 19th century, following King Chulalongkorn’s relocation of the royal household to the new Dusit Palace. The buildings of the palace, including the neoclassical Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, as well as the Royal Plaza and Ratchadamnoen Avenue which leads to it from the Grand Palace, reflect the heavy influence of European architecture at the time. Major government offices line the avenue, as does the Democracy Monument. The area is the site of the country’s seats of power as well as the city’s most popular tourist landmarks.

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The Sukhumvit area appears as a sea of high-rise buildings in this photograph taken from Baiyoke Tower II, the second tallest building in Bangkok.

In contrast with the low-rise historic areas, the business district on Si Lom and Sathon Roads in Bang Rak and Sathon Districts teems with skyscrapers. It is the site of many of the country’s major corporate headquarters, but also of some of the city’s infamous red-light districts. The Siam and Ratchaprasong areas in Pathum Wan are home to some of the largest shopping malls in Southeast Asia. Numerous retail outlets and hotels also stretch along Sukhumvit Road leading southeast through Watthana and Khlong Toei Districts. More office towers line the streets branching off Sukhumvit, especially Asok Montri, while upmarket housing span many of its sois.

Bangkok lacks a single distinct central business district. Instead, the areas of Siam and Ratchaprasong serve as a “central shopping district” containing many of the bigger malls and commercial areas in the city, as well as Siam Station, the only transfer point between the city’s two elevated train lines. The Victory Monument in Ratchathewi District is among its most important road junctions, serving over 100 bus lines as well as an elevated train station. From the monument, Phahonyothin and Ratchawithi / Din Daeng Roads respectively run northward and eastward linking to major residential areas. Most high-density development is located within the 113-square-kilometre (44 sq mi) area encircled by the Ratchadaphisek inner ring road. Ratchadaphisek is lined with businesses and retail outlets, and office buildings also concentrate around Ratchayothin Intersection in Chatuchak District to the north. Farther from the city centre, most areas are primarily mid- or low-density residential. The Thonburi side of the city is less developed, with fewer high rises. With the exception of a few secondary urban centres, Thonburi, as well as the outlying eastern districts, consist mostly of residential and rural areas.

While most of Bangkok’s streets are fronted by vernacular shophouses, the largely unrestricted building frenzy of the 1980s has transformed the city into an urban jungle of skyscrapers and high rises exhibiting contrasting and clashing styles. There are 581 skyscrapers over 90 metres (300 feet) tall in the city. Bangkok was ranked as the world’s 8th tallest city in 2016. On the other hand, as a result of economic disparity, many slums have emerged in the city. In 2000 there were over 1 million people living in about 800 slum settlements. A large number of slums are concentrated near the Bangkok Port in Khlong Toei District.

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Skyscrapers of Ratchadamri and Sukhumvit at night, viewed across Lumphini Park from the Si Lom – Sathon business district

Parks and Green Zones

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Lumphini Park appears as an oasis of greenery among the skyscrapers of Ratchadamri and Sukhumvit.

Bangkok has several parks, although these amount to a per-capita total park area of only 1.82 square metres (19.6 sq ft) in the city proper. Total green space for the entire city is moderate, at 11.8 square metres (127 sq ft) per person; however, in the more densely built-up areas of the city these numbers are as low as 1.73 and 0.72 square metres (18.6 and 7.8 sq ft) per person. More recent numbers claim that there is only 3.3 m2 of green space per person, compared to an average of 39 m2 in other cities across Asia. In Europe, London has 33.4 m2 of green space per head. Bangkokians thus have 10 times less green space than is standard in the region’s urban areas. Green belt areas include about 700 square kilometres (270 sq mi) of rice paddies and orchards in the eastern and western edges of the city proper, although their primary purpose is to serve as flood detention basins rather than to limit urban expansion. Bang Kachao, a 20-square-kilometre (7.7 sq mi) conservation area in an oxbow of the Chao Phraya, lies just across the southern riverbank districts, in Samut Prakan Province. A master development plan has been proposed to increase total park area to 4 square metres (43 sq ft) per person.

Bangkok’s largest parks include the centrally located Lumphini Park near the Si Lom – Sathon business district with an area of 57.6 hectares (142 acres), the 80-hectare (200-acre) Suanluang Rama IX in the east of the city, and the Chatuchak–Queen Sirikit–Wachirabenchathat park complex in northern Bangkok, which has a combined area of 92 hectares (230 acres).

Demography


Historical census populations

Historical census populations

The city of Bangkok has a population of 8,280,925 according to the 2010 census, or 12.6 percent of the national population. However, there are only 5,692,284 registered residents, belonging to 2,672,423 households. A large number of Bangkok’s daytime population commutes from surrounding provinces in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region, the total population of which is 14,565,547. Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city; the census showed that it is home to 81,570 Japanese and 55,893 Chinese nationals, as well as 117,071 expatriates from other Asian countries, 48,341 from Europe, 23,418 from the Americas, 5,289 from Australia and 3,022 from Africa. Immigrants from neighbouring countries include 303,595 Burmese, 63,438 Cambodians and 18,126 Lao.

Although it has been Thailand’s largest population centre since its establishment as capital city in 1782, Bangkok grew only slightly throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. British diplomat John Crawfurd, visiting in 1822, estimated its population at no more than 50,000. As a result of Western medicine brought by missionaries as well as increased immigration from both within Siam and overseas, Bangkok’s population gradually increased as the city modernized in the late 19th century. This growth became even more pronounced in the 1930s, following the discovery of antibiotics. Although family planning and birth control was introduced in the 1960s, the lowered birth rate was more than offset by increased migration from the provinces as economic expansion accelerated. Only in the 1990s have Bangkok’s population growth rates decreased, following the national rate. Thailand had long since become highly centralized around the capital. In 1980, Bangkok’s population was fifty-one times that of Hat Yai and Songkhla, the second-largest urban centre, making it the world’s most prominent primate city.

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Yaowarat Road is the centre of Bangkok’s Chinatown. Chinese immigrants and their descendants form the largest minority group in the city.

The majority of Bangkok’s population are of Thai ethnicity, although details on the city’s ethnic make-up are unavailable, as the national census does not document race. Bangkok’s cultural pluralism dates back to the early days of its foundation; several ethnic communities were formed by immigrants and forced settlers including the Khmer, Northern Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, Tavoyan, Mon and Malay. Most prominent were the Chinese, who played major roles in the city’s trade and became the majority of Bangkok’s population—estimates include up to three-fourths in 1828 and almost half in the 1950s. However, Chinese immigration was restricted from the 1930s and effectively ceased after the Chinese Revolution in 1949. Their prominence subsequently declined as most of younger generations of Thai Chinese have integrated and adopted a Thai identity. Bangkok is still nevertheless home to a large Chinese community, with the greatest concentration in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown. The majority (91 percent) of the city’s population is Buddhist. Other religions include Islam (4.7%), Christianity (2.0%), Hinduism (0.5%), Sikhism (0.1%) and Confucianism (0.1%).

Apart from Yaowarat, Bangkok also has several other distinct ethnic neighbourhoods. The Indian community is centred in Phahurat, where the Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, founded in 1933, is located. Ban Khrua on Saen Saep Canal is home to descendants of the Cham who settled in the late 18th century. Although the Portuguese who settled during the Thonburi period have ceased to exist as a distinct community, their past is reflected in Santa Kruz Church, on the west bank of the river. Likewise, the Assumption Cathedral on Charoen Krung Road is among many European-style buildings in the Old Farang Quarter, where European diplomats and merchants lived during the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Nearby, the Haroon Mosque is the centre of a Muslim community. Newer expatriate communities exist along Sukhumvit Road, including the Japanese community near Soi Phrom Phong and Soi Thong Lo, and the Arab and North African neighbourhood along Soi Nana. Sukhumvit Plaza, a mall on Soi Sukhumvit 12, is popularly known as Korea Town.

Economy


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The BTS Skytrain passes through the business district of Sathon. The Robot Building (centre-right) was completed in 1986 and is a symbol of Bangkok’s rapid growth in the mid-1980s.

Bangkok is the economic centre of Thailand, and the heart of the country’s investment and development. In 2010, the city had an economic output of 3.142 trillion baht (98.34 billion US dollars), contributing 29.1 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). This amounted to a per-capita GDP value of ฿456,911 ($14,301), almost three times the national average of ฿160,556 ($5,025). The Bangkok Metropolitan Region had a combined output of ฿4.773tn ($149.39bn), or 44.2 percent of GDP. Bangkok’s economy ranks as the sixth among Asian cities in terms of per-capita GDP, after Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka–Kobe and Seoul.

Wholesale and retail trade is the largest sector in the city’s economy, contributing 24.0 percent of Bangkok’s gross provincial product. It is followed by manufacturing (14.3%); real estate, renting and business activities (12.4%); transport and communications (11.6%); and financial intermediation (11.1%). Bangkok alone accounts for 48.4 percent of Thailand’s service sector, which in turn constitutes 49.0 percent of GDP. When the Bangkok Metropolitan Region is considered, manufacturing is the most significant contributor at 28.2 percent of the gross regional product, reflecting the density of industry in the Bangkok’s neighbouring provinces. The automotive industry based around Greater Bangkok is the largest production hub in Southeast Asia. Tourism is also a significant contributor to Bangkok’s economy, generating ฿427.5bn ($13.38bn) in revenue in 2010.

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Outside view of MBK Center

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) is located on Ratchadaphisek Road in inner Bangkok. The SET, together with the Market for Alternative Investment (MAI) has 648 listed companies as of the end of 2011, with a combined market capitalization of 8.485 trillion baht ($267.64bn). Due to the large amount of foreign representation, Thailand has for several years been a mainstay of the Southeast Asian economy and a centre of Asian business. The Globalization and World Cities Research Network ranks Bangkok as an “Alpha−” world city, and it is ranked 59th in Z/Yen’s Global Financial Centres Index 11.

Bangkok is home to the headquarters of all of Thailand’s major commercial banks and financial institutions, as well as the country’s largest companies. A large number of multinational corporations base their regional headquarters in Bangkok due to the lower cost of the workforce and firm operations relative to other major Asian business centres. Seventeen Thai companies are listed on the Forbes 2000, all of which are based in the capital, including PTT, the only Fortune Global 500 company in Thailand.

Income inequality is a major issue in Bangkok, especially between relatively unskilled lower-income immigrants from rural provinces and neighbouring countries, and middle-class professionals and business elites. Although absolute poverty rates are low—only 0.64 percent of Bangkok’s registered residents were living under the poverty line in 2010, compared to a national average of 7.75—economic disparity is still substantial. The city has a Gini coefficient of 0.48, indicating a high level of inequality.

Tourism


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A Thai temple complex with several ornate buildings and a stupa, and a lot of visitors
Wat Phra Kaeo in the Grand Palace is among Bangkok’s major tourist attractions.

Bangkok is one of the world’s top tourist destination cities. MasterCard ranked Bangkok as the top destination city by international visitor arrivals in its Global Destination Cities Index 2016, ahead of London with more than 21 million overnight visitors. Euromonitor International ranked Bangkok fourth in its Top City Destinations Ranking for 2016. Bangkok was also named “World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure magazine’s survey of its readers for four consecutive years, from 2010 to 2013. As the main gateway through which visitors arrive in Thailand, Bangkok is visited by the majority of international tourists to the country. Domestic tourism is also prominent. The Department of Tourism recorded 26,861,095 Thai and 11,361,808 foreign visitors to Bangkok in 2010. Lodgings were made by 15,031,244 guests, who occupied 49.9 percent of the city’s 86,687 hotel rooms. Bangkok also topped the list as the world’s most popular tourist destinations in 2017 rankings.

Bangkok’s multi-faceted sights, attractions and city life appeal to diverse groups of tourists. Royal palaces and temples as well as several museums constitute its major historical and cultural tourist attractions. Shopping and dining experiences offer a wide range of choices and prices. The city is also famous for its dynamic nightlife. Although Bangkok’s sex tourism scene is well known to foreigners, it is usually not openly acknowledged by locals or the government.

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Khao San Road is lined by budget accommodation, shops and bars catering to tourists.

Among Bangkok’s well-known sights are the Grand Palace and major Buddhist temples, including Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. The Giant Swing and Erawan Shrine demonstrate Hinduism’s deep-rooted influence in Thai culture. Vimanmek Mansion in Dusit Palace is famous as the world’s largest teak building, while the Jim Thompson House provides an example of traditional Thai architecture. Other major museums include the Bangkok National Museum and the Royal Barge National Museum. Cruises and boat trips on the Chao Phraya and Thonburi’s canals offer views of some of the city’s traditional architecture and ways of life on the waterfront.

Shopping venues, many of which are popular with both tourists and locals, range from the shopping centres and department stores concentrated in Siam and Ratchaprasong to the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market. Taling Chan Floating Market is among the few such markets in Bangkok. Yaowarat is known for its shops as well as street-side food stalls and restaurants, which are also found throughout the city. Khao San Road has long been famous as a backpackers’ destination, with its budget accommodation, shops and bars attracting visitors from all over the world.

Bangkok has a reputation overseas as a major destination in the sex industry. Although prostitution is technically illegal and is rarely openly discussed in Thailand, it commonly takes place among massage parlours, saunas and hourly hotels, serving foreign tourists as well as locals. Bangkok has acquired the nickname “Sin City of Asia” for its level of sex tourism.

Issues often encountered by foreign tourists include scams, overcharging and dual pricing. In a survey of 616 tourists visiting Thailand, 7.79 percent reported encountering a scam, the most common of which was the gem scam, in which tourists are tricked into buying overpriced jewellery.

Culture


The culture of Bangkok reflects its position as Thailand’s centre of wealth and modernisation. The city has long been the portal of entry of Western concepts and material goods, which have been adopted and blended with Thai values to various degrees by its residents. This is most evident in the lifestyles of the expanding middle class. Conspicuous consumption serves as a display of economic and social status, and shopping centres are popular weekend hangouts. Ownership of electronics and consumer products such as mobile phones is ubiquitous. This has been accompanied by a degree of secularism, as religion’s role in everyday life has rather diminished. Although such trends have spread to other urban centres, and, to a degree, the countryside, Bangkok remains at the forefront of social change.

A distinct feature of Bangkok is the ubiquity of street vendors selling goods ranging from food items to clothing and accessories. It has been estimated that the city may have over 100,000 hawkers. While the BMA has authorised the practice in 287 sites, the majority of activity in another 407 sites takes place illegally. Although they take up pavement space and block pedestrian traffic, many of the city’s residents depend on these vendors for their meals, and the BMA’s efforts to curb their numbers have largely been unsuccessful.

In 2015, however, the BMA, with support from the National Council for Peace and Order (Thailand’s ruling military junta), began cracking down on street vendors in a bid to reclaim public space. Many famous market neighbourhoods were affected, including Khlong Thom, Saphan Lek, and the flower market at Pak Khlong Talat. Nearly 15,000 vendors were evicted from 39 public areas in 2016. While some applauded the efforts to focus on pedestrian rights, others have expressed concern that gentrification would lead to the loss of the city’s character and adverse changes to people’s way of life.

Festivals and Events

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Ratchadamnoen Avenue is annually decorated with lights and displays in celebration of the king’s birthday.

The residents of Bangkok celebrate many of Thailand’s annual festivals. During Songkran on 13–15 April, traditional rituals as well as water fights take place throughout the city. Loi Krathong, usually in November, is accompanied by the Golden Mount Fair. New Year celebrations take place at many venues, the most prominent being the plaza in front of CentralWorld. Observances related to the royal family are held primarily in Bangkok. Wreaths are laid at King Chulalongkorn’s equestrian statue in the Royal Plaza on 23 October, which is King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day. The present king’s and queen’s birthdays, respectively on 5 December and 12 August, are marked as Thailand’s national Father’s Day and national Mother’s Day. These national holidays are celebrated by royal audiences on the day’s eve, in which the king or queen gives a speech, and public gatherings on the day of the observance. The king’s birthday is also marked by the Royal Guards’ parade.

Sanam Luang is the site of the Thai Kite, Sport and Music Festival, usually held in March, and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony which takes place in May. The Red Cross Fair at the beginning of April is held at Suan Amporn and the Royal Plaza, and features numerous booths offering goods, games and exhibits. The Chinese New Year (January–February) and Vegetarian Festival (September–October) are celebrated widely by the Chinese community, especially in Yaowarat.

Media

Bangkok is the centre of Thailand’s media industry. All national newspapers, broadcast media and major publishers are based in the capital. Its 21 national newspapers had a combined daily circulation of about two million in 2002. These include the mass-oriented Thai Rath, Khao Sod and Daily News, the first of which currently prints a million copies per day, as well as the less sensational Matichon and Krungthep Thurakij. The Bangkok Post and The Nation are the two national English language dailies. Foreign publications including The Asian Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Straits Times and the Yomiuri Shimbun also have operations in Bangkok. The large majority of Thailand’s more than 200 magazines are published in the capital, and include news magazines as well as lifestyle, entertainment, gossip and fashion-related publications.

Bangkok is also the hub of Thailand’s broadcast television. All six national terrestrial channels, Channels 3, 5 and 7, Modernine, NBT and Thai PBS, have headquarters and main studios in the capital. With the exception of local news segments broadcast by the NBT, all programming is done in Bangkok and repeated throughout the provinces. However, this centralised model is weakening with the rise of cable television, which has many local providers. There are numerous cable and satellite channels based in Bangkok. TrueVisions is the major subscription television provider in Bangkok and Thailand, and it also carries international programming. Bangkok was home to 40 of Thailand’s 311 FM radio stations and 38 of its 212 AM stations in 2002. Broadcast media reform stipulated by the 1997 Constitution has been progressing slowly, although many community radio stations have emerged in the city.

Likewise, Bangkok has dominated the Thai film industry since its inception. Although film settings normally feature locations throughout the country, the city is home to all major film studios. Bangkok has dozens of cinemas and multiplexes, and the city hosts two major film festivals annually, the Bangkok International Film Festival and the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Art

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Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, the city’s major public contemporary art venue, was opened in 2008 after many delays.

Traditional Thai art, long developed within religious and royal contexts, continues to be sponsored by various government agencies in Bangkok, including the Department of Fine Arts’ Office of Traditional Arts. The SUPPORT Foundation in Chitralada Palace sponsors traditional and folk handicrafts. Various communities throughout the city still practice their traditional crafts, including the production of khon masks, alms bowls, and classical musical instruments. The National Gallery hosts permanent collection of traditional and modern art, with temporary contemporary exhibits. Bangkok’s contemporary art scene has slowly grown from relative obscurity into the public sphere over the past two decades. Private galleries gradually emerged to provide exposure for new artists, including the Patravadi Theatre and H Gallery. The centrally located Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, opened in 2008 following a fifteen-year lobbying campaign, is now the largest public exhibition space in the city. There are also many other art galleries and museums, including the privately owned Museum of Contemporary Art.

The city’s performing arts scene features traditional theatre and dance as well as Western-style plays. Khon and other traditional dances are regularly performed at the National Theatre and Salachalermkrung Royal Theatre, while the Thailand Cultural Centre is a newer multi-purpose venue which also hosts musicals, orchestras and other events. Numerous venues regularly feature a variety of performances throughout the city.

Sport

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Games of sepak takraw can be spotted throughout Bangkok’s parks and streets.

Modern Bangkok has developed a strong spectator sport culture. While muay Thai kickboxing matches at Rajadamnern and Lumpini Stadiums are regularly broadcast on television, the sport has mostly been overtaken in popularity by association football. Several foreign leagues and competitions, especially England’s Premier League, have large followings in Bangkok as well as other Thai urban centres. In recent years, the Thai Premier League has been gaining popularity. BEC–Tero Sasana based in Bangkok and Muangthong United based in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region are leading clubs.

While sepak takraw can be seen played in open spaces throughout the city, especially by the working class, football and other modern sports are now more of the norm. Western sports were introduced during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, and were originally only available to the privileged. Such status is still associated with certain sports. Golf is popular among the upwardly mobile, and while Thailand’s more famous clubs are in the countryside, there are several courses in Bangkok itself. Horse riding takes place in a couple of exclusive clubs in the city. Horse racing is very popular in Bangkok and betting on horses is legal. There are two racecourses in Bangkok: “Royal Bangkok Sports Club” and “Royal Turf Club of Thailand”.

There are many public sporting facilities located throughout Bangkok. The two main centres are the National Stadium complex, which dates to 1938, and the newer Hua Mak Sports Complex, which was built for the 1998 Asian Games. Bangkok had also hosted the games in 1966, 1970 and 1978. The city was the host of the inaugural 1959 Southeast Asian Games, the 2007 Summer Universiade and the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup.

Transport


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Streetlamps and headlights illuminate the Makkasan Interchange of the expressway. The system sees a traffic of over 1.5 million vehicles per day.

Although Bangkok’s canals historically served as a major mode of transport, they have long since been surpassed in importance by land traffic. Charoen Krung Road, the first to be built by Western techniques, was completed in 1864. Since then, the road network has vastly expanded to accommodate the sprawling city. A complex elevated expressway network helps bring traffic into and out of the city centre, but Bangkok’s rapid growth has put a large strain on infrastructure, and traffic jams have plagued the city since the 1990s. Although rail transport was introduced in 1893 and electric trams served the city from 1894 to 1968, it was only in 1999 that Bangkok’s first rapid transit system began operation. Older public transport systems include an extensive bus network and boat services which still operate on the Chao Phraya and two canals. Taxis appear in the form of cars, motorcycles, and “tuk-tuk” auto rickshaws.

Bangkok is connected to the rest of the country through the national highway and rail networks, as well as by domestic flights to and from the city’s two international airports. Its centuries-old maritime transport of goods is still conducted through Khlong Toei Port.

The BMA is largely responsible for overseeing the construction and maintenance of the road network and transport systems through its Public Works Department and Traffic and Transportation Department. However, many separate government agencies are also in charge of the individual systems, and much of transport-related policy planning and funding is contributed to by the national government.

Roads

]Road-based transport is the primary mode of travel in Bangkok. Due to the city’s organic development, its streets do not follow an organized grid structure. Forty-eight major roads link the different areas of the city, branching into smaller streets and lanes (soi) which serve local neighbourhoods. Eleven bridges over the Chao Phraya link the two sides of the city, while several expressway and motorway routes bring traffic into and out of the city centre and link with nearby provinces.

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Traffic jams are common in Bangkok.

Bangkok’s rapid growth in the 1980s resulted in sharp increases in vehicle ownership and traffic demand, which have since continued—in 2006 there were 3,943,211 in-use vehicles in Bangkok, of which 37.6 percent were private cars and 32.9 percent were motorcycles. These increases, in the face of limited carrying capacity, caused severe traffic congestion evident by the early 1990s. The extent of the problem is such that the Thai Traffic Police has a unit of officers trained in basic midwifery in order to assist deliveries which do not reach hospital in time. While Bangkok’s limited road surface area (8 percent, compared to 20–30 percent in most Western cities) is often cited as a major cause of its traffic jams, other factors, including high vehicle ownership rate relative to income level, inadequate public transport systems, and lack of transportation demand management, also play a role. Efforts to alleviate the problem have included the construction of intersection bypasses and an extensive system of elevated highways, as well as the creation of several new rapid transit systems. The city’s overall traffic conditions, however, remain bad.

Traffic has been the main source of air pollution in Bangkok, which reached serious levels in the 1990s. However, efforts to improve air quality by improving fuel quality and enforcing emission standards, among others, have been largely successful. Atmospheric particulate matter levels dropped from 81 micrograms per cubic metre in 1997 to 43 in 2007.

Although the BMA has created thirty signed bicycle routes along several roads totalling 230 kilometres (140 mi), cycling is still largely impractical, especially in the city centre. Most of these bicycle lanes share the pavement with pedestrians. Poor surface maintenance, encroachment by hawkers and street vendors, and a hostile environment for cyclists and pedestrians, make cycling and walking unpopular methods of getting around in Bangkok.

Buses and Taxis

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A large number of buses, minibuses and taxis share the streets with private vehicles at Victory Monument, a major public transport hub.

Bangkok has an extensive bus network providing local transit services within the Greater Bangkok area. The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) operates a monopoly on bus services, with substantial concessions granted to private operators. Buses, minibus vans, and song thaeo operate on a total of 470 routes throughout the region. A separate bus rapid transit system owned by the BMA has been in operation since 2010. Known simply as the BRT, the system currently consists of a single line running from the business district at Sathon to Ratchaphruek on the western side of the city. The Transport Co., Ltd. is the BMTA’s long-distance counterpart, with services to all provinces operating out of Bangkok.

Taxis are ubiquitous in Bangkok, and are a popular form of transport. As of August 2012, there are 106,050 cars, 58,276 motorcycles and 8,996 tuk-tuk motorized tricycles cumulatively registered for use as taxis. Meters have been required for car taxis since 1992, while tuk-tuk fares are usually negotiated. Motorcycle taxis operate from regulated ranks, with either fixed or negotiable fares, and are usually employed for relatively short journeys.

Despite their popularity, taxis have gained a bad reputation for often refusing passengers when the requested route is not to the driver’s convenience. Motorcycle taxis were previously unregulated, and subject to extortion by organized crime gangs. Since 2003, registration has been required for motorcycle taxi ranks, and drivers now wear distinctive numbered vests designating their district of registration and where they are allowed to accept passengers.

Rail Systems

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A BTS train passes over the busy Sala Daeng Intersection. The MRT also crosses below the street at this location.

Bangkok is the location of Hua Lamphong Railway Station, the main terminus of the national rail network operated by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT). In addition to long-distance services, the SRT also operates a few daily commuter trains running from and to the outskirts of the city during the rush hour.

Bangkok is currently served by three rapid transit systems: the BTS Skytrain, the underground MRT and the elevated Airport Rail Link. Although proposals for the development of rapid transit in Bangkok had been made since 1975, it was only in 1999 that the BTS finally began operation.

The BTS consists of two lines, Sukhumvit and Silom, with thirty stations along 30.95 kilometres (19.23 mi). The MRT opened for use in July 2004, and currently consists of two line, the Blue Line and Purple Line. The Airport Rail Link, opened in August 2010, connects the city centre to Suvarnabhumi Airport to the east. Its eight stations span a distance of 28 kilometres (17 mi).

Although initial passenger numbers were low and their service area remains limited to the inner city, these systems have become indispensable to many commuters. The BTS reported an average of 600,000 daily trips in 2012, while the MRT had 240,000 passenger trips per day.

As of 2016, construction work is ongoing to extend BTS and MRT, as well as several additional transit lines, including the Light Red grade-separated commuter rail line. The entire Mass Rapid Transit Master Plan in Bangkok Metropolitan Region consists of eight main lines and four feeder lines totalling 508 kilometres (316 mi) to be completed by 2029. In addition to rapid transit and heavy rail lines, there have been proposals for several monorail systems.

Water Transport

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The Khlong Saen Saep water bus serves over 50,000 passengers daily.

Although much diminished from its past prominence, water-based transport still plays an important role in Bangkok and the immediate upstream and downstream provinces. Several water buses serve commuters daily. The Chao Phraya Express Boat serves thirty-four stops along the river, carrying an average of 35,586 passengers per day in 2010, while the smaller Khlong Saen Saep boat service serves twenty-seven stops on Saen Saep Canal with 57,557 daily passengers. Long-tail boats operate on fifteen regular routes on the Chao Phraya, and passenger ferries at thirty-two river crossings served an average of 136,927 daily passengers in 2010.

Bangkok Port, popularly known by its location as Khlong Toei Port, was Thailand’s main international port from its opening in 1947 until it was superseded by the deep-sea Laem Chabang Port in 1991. It is primarily a cargo port, though its inland location limits access to ships of 12,000 deadweight tonnes or less. The port handled 11,936,855 tonnes (13,158,130 tons) of cargo in the first eight months of the 2010 fiscal year, about 22 percent the total of the country’s international ports.

Airports

Bangkok is one of Asia’s busiest air transport hubs. Two commercial airports serve the city, the older Don Mueang International Airport and the new Bangkok International Airport, commonly known as Suvarnabhumi. Suvarnabhumi, which replaced Don Mueang as Bangkok’s main airport at its opening in 2006, served 52,808,013 passengers in 2015, making it the world’s 20th busiest airport by passenger volume. This amount of traffic is already over its designed capacity of 45 million passengers. Don Mueang reopened for domestic flights in 2007, and resumed international services focusing on low-cost carriers in October 2012. Suvarnabhumi is undergoing expansion to increase its capacity to 60 million by 2019 and to 90 million by 2021.

Health and Education


Education

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The campus of Chulalongkorn University was surrounded by rural fields when it was established in 1917. Pathum Wan District has since become part of the Bangkok city centre.

Bangkok has long been the centre of modern education in Thailand. The first schools in the country were established here in the later 19th century, and there are now 1,351 schools in the city. The city is home to the country’s five oldest universities, Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Kasetsart, Mahidol and Silpakorn, founded between 1917 and 1943. The city has since continued its dominance, especially in higher education; the majority of the country’s universities, both public and private, are located in Bangkok or the Metropolitan Region. Chulalongkorn and Mahidol are the only Thai universities to appear in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings. King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, also located in Bangkok, is the only Thai university in the top 400 of the 2012–13 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Over the past few decades the general trend of pursuing a university degree has prompted the founding of new universities to meet the needs of Thai students. Bangkok became not only a place where immigrants and provincial Thais go for job opportunities, but also for a chance to receive a university degree. Ramkhamhaeng University emerged in 1971 as Thailand’s first open university; it now has the highest enrolment in the country. The demand for higher education has led to the founding of many other universities and colleges, both public and private. While many universities have been established in major provinces, the Greater Bangkok region remains home to the greater majority of institutions, and the city’s tertiary education scene remains over-populated with non-Bangkokians. The situation is not limited to higher education, either. In the 1960s, 60 to 70 percent of 10- to 19-year-olds who were in school had migrated to Bangkok for secondary education. This was due to both a lack of secondary schools in the provinces and perceived higher standards of education in the capital. Although this discrepancy has since largely abated, tens of thousands of students still compete for places in Bangkok’s leading schools. Education has long been a prime factor in the centralization of Bangkok and will play a vital role in the government’s efforts to decentralize the country.

Healthcare

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Siriraj Hospital, established in 1888, is the oldest hospital in Thailand.

Much of Thailand’s medical resources are disproportionately concentrated in the capital. In 2000, Bangkok had 39.6 percent of the country’s doctors and a physician-to-population ratio of 1:794, compared to a median of 1:5,667 among all provinces. The city is home to 42 public hospitals, five of which are university hospitals, as well as 98 private hospitals and 4,063 registered clinics. The BMA operates nine public hospitals through its Medical Service Department, and its Health Department provides primary care through sixty-eight community health centres. Thailand’s universal healthcare system is implemented through public hospitals and health centres as well as participating private providers.

Research-oriented medical school affiliates such as Siriraj, King Chulalongkorn Memorial and Ramathibodi Hospitals are among the largest in the country, and act as tertiary care centres, receiving referrals from distant parts of the country. Lately, especially in the private sector, there has been much growth in medical tourism, with hospitals such as Bumrungrad and Bangkok Hospital, among others, providing services specifically catering to foreigners. An estimated 200,000 medical tourists visited Thailand in 2011, making Bangkok the most popular global destination for medical tourism.

Crime and Safety


Bangkok has a relatively moderate crime rate when compared to urban counterparts around the world. Traffic accidents are a major hazard, while natural disasters are rare. Intermittent episodes of political unrest and occasional terrorist attacks have resulted in losses of life.

Although the crime threat in Bangkok is relatively low, non-confrontational crimes of opportunity such as pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and credit card fraud occur with frequency. Bangkok’s growth since the 1960s has been followed by increasing crime rates partly driven by urbanisation, migration, unemployment and poverty. By the late 1980s, Bangkok’s crime rates were about four times that of the rest of the country. The police have long been preoccupied with street crimes ranging from housebreaking to assault and murder. The 1990s saw the emergence of vehicle theft and organized crime, particularly by foreign gangs. Drug trafficking, especially that of ya ba methamphetamine pills, is also chronic.

According to police statistics, the most common complaint received by the Metropolitan Police Bureau in 2010 was housebreaking, with 12,347 cases. This was followed by 5,504 cases of motorcycle thefts, 3,694 cases of assault and 2,836 cases of embezzlement. Serious offences included 183 murders, 81 gang robberies, 265 robberies, 1 kidnapping and 9 arson cases. Offences against the state were by far more common, and included 54,068 drug-related cases, 17,239 cases involving prostitution and 8,634 related to gambling. The Thailand Crime Victim Survey conducted by the Office of Justice Affairs of the Ministry of Justice found that 2.7 percent of surveyed households reported a member being victim of a crime in 2007. Of these, 96.1 percent were crimes against property, 2.6 percent were crimes against life and body, and 1.4 percent were information-related crimes.

Political demonstrations and protests are common in Bangkok. While most events since 1992 had been peaceful, the series of protests since 2006 have often turned violent. Demonstrations during March–May 2010 ended in a crackdown in which 92 were killed, including armed and unarmed protesters, security forces, civilians and journalists. Terrorist incidents have also occurred in Bangkok, most notably the 2015 Bangkok bombing at the Erawan shrine, and also a series of bombings on the 2006–07 New Year’s Eve.

Traffic accidents are a major hazard in Bangkok. There were 37,985 accidents in the city in 2010, resulting in 16,602 injuries and 456 deaths as well as 426.42 million baht in damages. However, the rate of fatal accidents is much lower than in the rest of Thailand. While accidents in Bangkok amounted to 50.9 percent of the entire country, only 6.2 percent of fatalities occurred in the city. Another serious public health hazard comes from Bangkok’s stray dogs. Up to 300,000 strays are estimated to roam the city’s streets, and dog bites are among the most common injuries treated in the emergency departments of the city’s hospitals. Rabies is prevalent among the dog population, and treatment for bites pose a heavy public burden. Natural disasters, on the other hand, are rare. While the severe floods of 2011 adversely affected Bangkok, no deaths were reported in city itself. Such extreme flooding is uncommon, although limited flooding does occur regularly in some neighbourhoods.

International Relations


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Protesters in front of the United Nations Building during the 2009 Bangkok Climate Change Conference—Bangkok is home to several UN offices.

The city’s formal international relations are managed by the International Affairs Division of the BMA. Its missions include facilitating cooperation with other major cities through sister city agreements, participation and membership in international organizations, and pursuing cooperative activities with the many foreign diplomatic missions based in the city.

International Participation

Bangkok is a member of several international organizations and regional city government networks, including the Asian Network of Major Cities 21, the Japan-led Asian-Pacific City Summit, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the ESCAP-sponsored Regional Network of Local Authorities for Management of Human Settlements in Asia and Pacific (CITYNET), Japan’s Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, the World Association of the Major Metropolises and Local Governments for Sustainability, among others.

With its location at the heart of mainland Southeast Asia and as one of Asia’s hubs of transportation, Bangkok is home to many international and regional organizations. Among others, Bangkok is the seat of the Secretariat of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), as well as the Asia-Pacific regional offices of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Sister Cities

Bangkok has made sister city and/or friendship agreements with twenty-seven other cities in sixteen countries, as of 2016. They are:

Sister cities

Singapore

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

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Singapore

Singapore (/ˈsɪŋəpɔːr/ (About this sound listen), /ˈsɪŋɡə-/), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia. It is sometimes referred to as the “Lion City”, “Garden City” or the “Little Red Dot”. It lies one degree (137 km) north of the equator, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, with Indonesia’s Riau Islands to the south. Singapore’s territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. It shares maritime borders with Indonesia at the south while at the north Malaysia. Since independence, extensive land reclamation has increased its total size by 23% (130 km2) and its greening policy has covered the densely populated island with tropical flora, parks and gardens.

Singapore Data

Stamford Raffles founded colonial Singapore in 1819 as a trading post of the East India Company, but after its collapse and the eventual establishment of the British Raj, the islands were ceded to Britain and became part of its Straits Settlements in 1826. During the Second World War, Singapore was occupied by Japan. It gained independence from the UK in 1963 by federating with other former British territories to form Malaysia, but separated two years later over ideological differences, becoming a sovereign nation in 1965. After early years of turbulence and despite lacking natural resources and a hinterland, the nation developed rapidly as an Asian Tiger economy, based on external trade and its workforce.

Singapore is a global commerce, finance and transport hub. Its standings include: the most “technology-ready” nation (WEF), top International-meetings city (UIA), city with “best investment potential” (BERI), second-most competitive country, third-largest foreign exchange market, third-largest financial centre, third-largest oil refining and trading centre and the second-busiest container port. The country has also been identified as a tax haven.

Singapore ranks 5th on the UN Human Development Index and the 3rd highest GDP per capita. It is ranked highly in education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety and housing. Although income inequality is high, 90% of homes are owner-occupied. 38% of Singapore’s 5.6 million residents are permanent residents and other foreign nationals. There are four official languages: English (common and first language), Malay, Mandarin and Tamil, though almost all Singaporeans are bilingual.

Singapore is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic, with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government. The People’s Action Party has won every election since self-government in 1959. The dominance of the PAP, coupled with a low level of press freedom and restrictions on civil liberties and political rights, has led to Singapore being classified by some as a semi-authoritarian regime. One of the five founding members of ASEAN, Singapore is also the host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat and a member of the East Asia Summit, Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth of Nations.

Contents
1 Etymology
2 History
2.1 Ancient Singapore
2.2 British colonisation
2.3 World War II
2.4 Post-war period
2.5 Campaign for merger
2.6 Singapore with Malaysia
2.7 Republic of Singapore
3 Government and politics
3.1 Foreign relations
3.2 Military
4 Geography
4.1 Climate
5 Economy
5.1 Employment
5.2 Industry sectors
6 Infrastructure
6.1 Information and communications
6.2 Transport
6.3 Water supply and sanitation
7 Demographics
7.1 Religion
7.2 Languages
8 Education
9 Health
10 Culture
10.1 Cuisine
10.2 Arts
10.3 Sport and recreation
10.4 Media

Etymology


The English name of Singapore is an anglicisation of the native Malay name for the country, Singapura, which was in turn derived from Sanskrit (सिंहपुर, IAST: Siṃhapura; siṃha is “lion”, pura is “town” or “city”), hence the customary reference to the nation as the Lion City, and its inclusion in many of the nation’s symbols (e.g., its coat of arms, Merlion emblem). However, it is unlikely that lions ever lived on the island; Sang Nila Utama, the Srivijayan prince said to have founded and named the island Singapura, perhaps saw a Malayan tiger. There are however other suggestions for the origin of the name and scholars do not believe that the origin of the name to be firmly established. The central island has also been called Pulau Ujong as far back as the third century CE, literally “island at the end” (of the Malay Peninsula) in Malay.

Besides the Lion City – a translation of its ancient Sanskrit name, Singapore is also referred to as Garden City for its tree-lined streets and greening efforts since independence, and the Little Red Dot for how the island-nation is depicted on many maps of the world and Asia, as a red dot.

History


Ancient Singapore

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A fragment of the Singapore Stone monolith with the earliest writing found on the island, at “Rocky Point” at the mouth of Singapore River, inscribed with an Indic script, c. 10th to 13th century

The Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy (90–168) identified a place called Sabana in the general area in the second century, and the earliest written record of Singapore occurs in a Chinese account from the third century, describing the island of Pu Luo Chung (蒲 罗 中). This was itself a transliteration from the Malay name “Pulau Ujong”, or “island at the end” (of the Malay Peninsula). The Nagarakretagama, a Javanese epic poem written in 1365, referred to a settlement on the island called Tumasik (possibly meaning “Sea Town”). In 1299, according to the Malay Annals, the Kingdom of Singapura was founded on the island by Sang Nila Utama.] Although the historicity of the accounts as given in the Malay Annals is the subject of academic debates, it is nevertheless known from various documents that Singapore in the 14th century, then known as Temasek, was a trading port under the influence of both the Majapahit Empire and the Siamese kingdoms inside Indosphere of Greater India. These Indianized Kingdoms, a term coined by George Cœdès were characterized by surprising resilience, political integrity and administrative stability. Historical sources also indicate that around the end of the 14th century, its ruler Parameswara was attacked by either the Majapahit or the Siamese, forcing him to move on to Melaka where he founded the Sultanate of Malacca. Archaeological evidence suggests that the main settlement on Fort Canning was abandoned around this time, although a small trading settlement continued in Singapore for some time afterwards. In 1613, Portuguese raiders burned down the settlement, and the island faded into obscurity for the next two centuries. By then Singapore was nominally part of the Johor Sultanate. The wider maritime region and much trade was under Dutch control for the following period.

British Colonisation

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1825 survey map. Singapore’s free port trade was at Singapore River for 150 years. Fort Canning hill (centre) was home to its ancient and early colonial rulers.

Raffles arrived in Singapore on 28 January 1819 and soon recognised the island as a natural choice for the new port. The island was then nominally ruled by the Sultan of Johor, who was controlled by the Dutch and the Bugis. However, the Sultanate was weakened by factional division and Tengku Abdu’r Rahman and his officials were loyal to Tengku Rahman’s elder brother Tengku Long who was living in exile in Riau. With the Temenggong’s help, Raffles managed to smuggle Tengku Long back into Singapore. He offered to recognize Tengku Long as the rightful Sultan of Johor, given the title of Sultan Hussein and provide him with a yearly payment of $5000 and $3000 to the Temenggong; in return, Sultan Hussein would grant the British the right to establish a trading post on Singapore. A formal treaty was signed on 6 February 1819 and modern Singapore was born.

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Sir Stamford Raffles’s statue at the Singapore River spot where he first landed

In 1824, the entire island as well as the Temenggong became a British possession after a further treaty with the Sultan. In 1826, Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements, under the jurisdiction of British India, becoming the regional capital in 1836. Prior to Raffles’ arrival, there were only about a thousand people living on the island, mostly indigenous Malays along with a handful of Chinese. By 1860 the population had swelled to over 80,000, more than half being Chinese. Many of these early immigrants came to work on the pepper and gambier plantations. Later, in the 1890s, when the rubber industry also became established in Malaya and Singapore, the island became a global centre for rubber sorting and export.

Singapore was not much affected by First World War (1914–18), as the conflict did not spread to Southeast Asia. The only significant event during the war was a mutiny by the Muslim sepoys from British India who were garrisoned in Singapore, which occurred in 1915. After hearing rumours that they were to be sent off to fight the Ottoman Empire, which was a Muslim state, the soldiers rebelled. They killed their officers and several British civilians before the mutiny was suppressed by non-Muslim troops arriving from Johore and Burma.

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Raffles Hotel was established in 1887.

After the First World War, the British built the large Singapore Naval Base as part of the defensive Singapore strategy. Originally announced in 1923, the construction of the base proceeded slowly until the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. When completed in 1939, at the very large cost of $500 million, it boasted what was then the largest dry dock in the world, the third-largest floating dock, and having enough fuel tanks to support the entire British navy for six months. It was defended by heavy 15-inch naval guns stationed at Fort Siloso, Fort Canning and Labrador, as well as a Royal Air Force airfield at Tengah Air Base. Winston Churchill touted it as the “Gibraltar of the East” and military discussions often referred to the base as simply “East of Suez”. Unfortunately, it was a base without a fleet. The British Home Fleet was stationed in Europe, and the British could not afford to build a second fleet to protect its interests in Asia. The plan was for the Home Fleet to sail quickly to Singapore in the event of an emergency. However, after World War II broke out in 1939, the fleet was fully occupied with defending Britain.

World War II

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Singapore Naval Base, built in 1953

During the Second World War, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded British Malaya, culminating in the Battle of Singapore. When the British force of 60,000 troops surrendered on 15 February 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called the defeat “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history. British losses during the fighting for Singapore were heavy, with a total of nearly 85,000 personnel captured, in addition to losses during the earlier fighting in Malaya. About 5,000 were killed or wounded, of which Australians made up the majority. Japanese casualties during the fighting in Singapore amounted to 1,714 killed and 3,378 wounded. [Note 1]. The occupation was to become a major turning point in the histories of several nations, including those of Japan, Britain, and the then-colonial state of Singapore. Japanese newspapers triumphantly declared the victory as deciding the general situation of the war. Singapore was renamed Syonan-to (昭南島 Shōnan-tō), meaning “Light of the South”. Between 5,000 and 25,000 ethnic Chinese people were killed in the subsequent Sook Ching massacre.

British forces had planned to liberate Singapore in 1945; however, the war ended before these operations could be carried out. It was subsequently re-occupied by British, Indian and Australian forces following the Japanese surrender in September. Meanwhile, Tomoyuki Yamashita was tried by a US military commission for war crimes, but not for crimes committed by his troops in Malaya or Singapore. He was convicted and hanged in the Philippines on 23 February 1946.

Post-war Period

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British evacuation in 1945 after the Japanese surrender. Kallang Airport’s control tower near the city has been conserved.

After the Japanese surrender to the Allies on 15 August 1945, Singapore fell into a brief state of violence and disorder; looting and revenge-killing were widespread. British troops led by Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia Command, returned to Singapore to receive formal surrender of the Japanese forces in the region from General Itagaki Seishiro on behalf of General Hisaichi Terauchi on 12 September 1945, and a British Military Administration was formed to govern the island until March 1946. Much of the infrastructure had been destroyed during the war, including harbor facilities at the Port of Singapore. There was also a shortage of food leading to malnutrition, disease, and rampant crime and violence. High food prices, unemployment, and workers’ discontent culminated into a series of strikes in 1947 causing massive stoppages in public transport and other services. By late 1947, the economy began to recover, facilitated by a growing demand for tin and rubber around the world, but it would take several more years before the economy returned to pre-war levels.

The failure of Britain to successfully defend Singapore had destroyed its credibility as infallible ruler in the eyes of Singaporeans. The decades after the war saw a political awakening amongst the local populace and the rise of anti-colonial and nationalist sentiments, epitomized by the slogan Merdeka, or “independence” in the Malay language. The British, on their part, were prepared to gradually increase self-governance for Singapore and Malaya. On 1 April 1946, the Straits Settlements was dissolved and Singapore became a separate Crown Colony with a civil administration headed by a Governor. In July 1947, separate Executive and Legislative Councils were established and the election of six members of the Legislative Council was scheduled in the following year.

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David Marshall was Singapore’s 1st Chief Minister, but resigned a year later.

During the 1950s, Chinese communists with strong ties to the trade unions and Chinese schools waged a guerrilla war against the government, leading to the Malayan Emergency. The 1954 National Service Riots, Chinese middle schools riots, and Hock Lee bus riots in Singapore were all linked to these events. David Marshall, pro-independence leader of the Labour Front, won Singapore’s first general election in 1955. He led a delegation to London, but Britain rejected his demand for complete self-rule. He resigned and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock in 1956, whose policies convinced Britain to grant Singapore full internal self-government for all matters except defence and foreign affairs.

During the May 1959 elections, the People’s Action Party won a landslide victory. Singapore became an internally self-governing state within the Commonwealth, with Lee Kuan Yew as its first Prime Minister. As a result, the 1959 general elections were the first after full internal self-government was granted by the British authorities. Singapore was not yet fully independent, as the British still controlled external affairs such as the military and foreign relations. However, Singapore was now a recognised state. Governor Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode served as the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State), and was succeeded by Yusof bin Ishak.

Campaign for Merger

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The founding father of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew declaring the formation of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963 in Singapore, with Sabah and Sarawak also celebrating along.

Despite their successes in governing Singapore, the PAP leaders believed that Singapore’s future lay with Malaya due to strong ties between the two nations. It was thought that the merger would benefit the economy by creating a common market which will support new industries, thus solving the ongoing unemployment woes in Singapore. However, a sizable pro-communist wing of the PAP were strongly opposed to the merger, fearing a loss of influence. This is because the ruling party of Malaya, United Malays National Organisation, was staunchly anti-communist and would support the non-communist faction of PAP against them. UMNO, who were initially skeptical of the idea of a merger as they distrust the PAP government and were concerned that the large Chinese population in Singapore would alter the racial balance on which their political power base depended, changed their minds about the merger after being afraid of being taken over by pro-communists. On 27 May, Malaya’s Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, mooted the idea of a Federation of Malaysia, comprising existing Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Brunei and the British Borneo territories of North Borneo and Sarawak. The UMNO leaders believed that the additional Malay population in the Borneo territories would offset Singapore’s Chinese population. The British government, for its part, believed that the merger would prevent Singapore from becoming a haven for communism.

Singapore with Malaysia

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Lee Kuan Yew

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Tunku Abdul Rahman

Right: Lee Kuan Yew, the then Prime Minister of Singapore. Left: Tunku Adul Rahman, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia.

As a result of the 1962 Merger Referendum, on 16 September 1963 Singapore joined with the Federation of Malaya, the Crown Colony of Sarawak and the Crown Colony of North Borneo to form the new federation of Malaysia under the terms of the Malaysia Agreement. Given Singapore’s limited size and lack of natural resources, it was felt integrating with Malaya would provide a route to stronger economic development. The merger would also give the PAP legitimacy, and remove the threat of communist government over Singapore. However, shortly after the merger, the Singapore state government and the Malaysian central government disagreed on many political and economic issues, and communal strife culminated in the 1964 race riots in Singapore.

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A symbol of Singapore, the Merlion was created in 1964

On 10 March 1965, a bomb planted by Indonesian saboteurs on a mezzanine floor of the building exploded, killing three people and injuring 33 others. It was the deadliest of at least 42 bomb incidents which occurred during the Konfrontasi. Two members of the Indonesian Marine Corps, Osman bin Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun bin Said, were eventually convicted and executed for the crime. The MacDonald House suffered $250,000 bomb damage.

There were many heated ideological conflicts between the two governments, even on the economic front. Despite an earlier agreement to establish a common market, Singapore continued to face restrictions when trading with the rest of Malaysia. In retaliation, Singapore did not extend to Sabah and Sarawak the full extent of the loans agreed to for economic development of the two eastern states. The situation escalated to such an intensity that talks soon broke down and abusive speeches and writing became rife on both sides. Because of this, on 7 August 1965,the then Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, seeing no alternative to avoid further bloodshed, advised the Parliament of Malaysia that it should vote to expel Singapore from Malaysia. On 9 August 1965, the Malaysian Parliament voted 126 to 0 (with Singaporean delegates not present) to move a bill to amend the constitution providing for Singapore to separate from the Federation of Malaysia.

Republic of Singapore

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Financial district (background) 2010

Singapore gained independence as the Republic of Singapore (remaining within the Commonwealth of Nations) on 9 August 1965 with Lee Kuan Yew as the prime minister and Yusof bin Ishak as the president. Race riots broke out once more in 1969. In 1967, the country co-founded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister, and the country moved from Third World economy to First World affluence in a single generation. Lee Kuan Yew’s emphasis on rapid economic growth, support for business entrepreneurship, and limitations on internal democracy shaped Singapore’s policies for the next half-century. Further economic success continued through the 1980s, with the unemployment rate falling to 3% and real GDP growth averaging at about 8% up until 1999. During the 1980s, Singapore began to upgrade to higher-technological industries, such as the wafer fabrication sector, in order to compete with its neighbours which now had cheaper labour. Singapore Changi Airport was opened in 1981 and Singapore Airlines was developed to become a major airline. The Port of Singapore became one of the world’s busiest ports and the service and tourism industries also grew immensely during this period. Singapore emerged as an important transportation hub and a major tourist destination.

The PAP rule is termed authoritarian by some activists and opposition politicians who see the strict regulation of political and media activities by the government as an infringement on political rights. In response, the government of Singapore underwent several significant changes. Non-Constituency Members of Parliament were introduced in 1984 to allow up to three losing candidates from opposition parties to be appointed as MPs. Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) was introduced in 1988 to create multi-seat electoral divisions, intended to ensure minority representation in parliament. Nominated Members of Parliament were introduced in 1990 to allow non-elected non-partisan MPs. The Constitution was amended in 1991 to provide for an Elected President who has veto power in the use of national reserves and appointments to public office. The opposition parties have complained that the GRC system has made it difficult for them to gain a foothold in parliamentary elections in Singapore, and the plurality voting system tends to exclude minority parties.

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Lee Hsien Loong – Current and 3rd Prime Minister of Singapore (2004 – )
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Goh Chok Tong – 2nd Prime Minister (1990 – 2004)

In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee and became Singapore’s second Prime Minister. During Goh’s tenure, the country went through some post-independence crises, such as the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2003 SARS outbreak.

In 2004, Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the country’s third Prime Minister. Lee Hsien Loong’s tenure included the 2008 global financial crisis, the resolution of a dispute over Malayan railways land, and the introduction of integrated resorts. Despite the economy’s exceptional growth, the People’s Action Party (PAP) suffered its worst election results in 2011, winning 60% of votes, amidst hot-button issues of high influx of foreign workers and cost of living. On 23 March 2015 Lee Kuan Yew passed away, during the 50th year of independence, declaring a one-week period of public mourning. Subsequently, the PAP maintained its dominance in Parliament at the September general elections, receiving 69.9% of the popular vote, its second-highest polling result behind the 2001 tally of 75.3%.

Government and Politics


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Singapore’s Parliament House, beside the Singapore River.

Singapore is a parliamentary republic with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government representing constituencies. The country’s constitution establishes a representative democracy as the political system. Executive power rests with the Cabinet of Singapore, led by the Prime Minister and, to a much lesser extent, the President. The President is elected through a popular vote, and has veto powers over a specific set of executive decisions, such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of judges, but otherwise occupies a largely ceremonial post.

The Parliament serves as the legislative branch of the government. Members of Parliament (MPs) consist of elected, non-constituency and nominated members. Elected MPs are voted into the Parliament on a “first-past-the-post” (plurality) basis and represent either single-member or group representation constituencies. The People’s Action Party has won control of Parliament with large majorities in every election since self-governance was secured in 1959.

Although the elections are clean, there is no independent electoral authority and the government has strong influence on the media. Freedom House ranks Singapore as “partly free” in its Freedom in the World report, and The Economist ranks Singapore as a “flawed democracy”, the second best rank of four, in its “Democracy Index”. The latest elections were in September 2015, with the PAP winning 83 of 89 seats contested with 70% of the popular vote.

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New and old Supreme Court buildings. The Court of Appeal occupies the ‘disc’ atop, representing the highest level of justice, and a modern interpretation of the dome.

The legal system of Singapore is based on English common law, but with substantial local differences. Trial by jury was abolished in 1970 so that judicial decisions would rest entirely in the hands of appointed judges. Singapore has penalties that include judicial corporal punishment in the form of caning, which may be imposed for such offences as rape, rioting, vandalism, and certain immigration offences. There is Capital punishment in Singapore for murder, as well as for certain aggravated drug-trafficking and firearms offences.

Amnesty International has said that some legal provisions of the Singapore system conflict with the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that Singapore has “… possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population”. The government has disputed Amnesty’s claims. Singapore’s judicial system is considered one of the most reliable in Asia.

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Speakers’ Corner in Chinatown provides a public demonstration and “free speech” area usually restricted in other parts of the island.

Singapore has been consistently rated among the least corrupt countries in the world by Transparency International. Singapore’s unique combination of a strong almost authoritarian government with an emphasis on meritocracy and good governance is known as the “Singapore model”, and is regarded as a key factor behind Singapore’s political stability, economic growth, and harmonious social order. In 2011, the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index ranked Singapore among the top countries surveyed with regard to “order and security”, “absence of corruption”, and “effective criminal justice”. However, the country received a much lower ranking for “freedom of speech” and “freedom of assembly”. All public gatherings of five or more people require police permits, and protests may legally be held only at the Speakers’ Corner.

Foreign Relations

Singapore’s foreign policy is aimed at maintaining security in Southeast Asia and surrounding territories. An underlying principle is political and economic stability in the region. It has diplomatic relations with more than 180 sovereign states.

Barack Obama attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting at ASEAN Summit 2012

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and US President Barack Obama attended the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting at ASEAN Summit 2012.

As one of the five founding members of ASEAN, it is a strong supporter of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the ASEAN Investment Area, because Singapore’s economy is closely linked to that of the region as a whole. Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong proposed the formation of an ASEAN Economic Community, a step beyond the current AFTA, bringing it closer to a common market. This was agreed to in 2007 for implementation by 2015. Other regional organisations are important to Singapore, and it is the host of the APEC Secretariat. Singapore maintains membership in other regional organisations, such as Asia–Europe Meeting, the Forum for East Asia-Latin American Cooperation, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and the East Asia Summit. It is also a member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth. While Singapore is not a formal member of the G20, it has been invited to participate in G20 processes in most years since 2010.

In general, bilateral relations with other ASEAN members are strong; however, disagreements have arisen, and relations with neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia have sometimes been strained. Malaysia and Singapore have clashed over the delivery of fresh water to Singapore, and access by the Singapore Armed Forces to Malaysian airspace. Border issues exist with Malaysia and Indonesia, and both have banned the sale of marine sand to Singapore over disputes about Singapore’s land reclamation. Some previous disputes, such as the Pedra Branca dispute, have been resolved by the International Court of Justice. Piracy in the Strait of Malacca has been a cause of concern for all three countries. Close economic ties exist with Brunei, and the two share a pegged currency value, through a Currency Interchangeability Agreement between the two countries which makes both Brunei dollar and Singapore dollar banknotes and coins legal tender in either country.

Ambassador to the USA Chan Heng Chee, Lee Kuan Yew, and US Secretary of Defense William Cohen in a room

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Then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Ambassador to the US Chan Heng Chee, met with US Secretary of Defense William Cohen during a visit in 2000.

The first diplomatic contact with China was made in the 1970s, with full diplomatic relations established in the 1990s. Since then the two countries have been major players in strengthening the ASEAN–China relationship. Singapore and the United States share a long-standing close relationship, in particular in defence, the economy, health, and education. The United States was Singapore’s third largest trading partner in 2010, behind China (2nd) and Malaysia (1st). The two countries have a free-trade agreement, and Singapore views its relationship with the United States as an important counterbalance to China’s influence. A Strategic Framework Agreement between the two, signed in 2005, formalises security and defence co-operation. Singapore has pushed regional counter-terrorism initiatives, with a strong resolve to deal with terrorists inside its borders. To this end it has given support to the US-led coalition to fight terrorism, with bilateral co-operation in counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation initiatives, and joint military exercises.

Military

The Singaporean military is arguably the most technologically advanced in Southeast Asia. It comprises the Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy, and Republic of Singapore Air Force. It is seen as the guarantor of the country’s independence. This principle translates into the culture, involving all citizens in the country’s defence. The government spends 4.9% of the country’s GDP on the military—high by regional standards—and one out of every four dollars of government spending is spent on defence.

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Singapore Air Force’s F-15SG are Strike Eagle variants (24 units). Pilots also train in Australia, France and the United States due to severe airspace constraints.

After its independence, Singapore had two infantry regiments commanded by British officers. This force was considered too small to provide effective security for the new country, so development of its military forces became a priority. Britain pulled its military out of Singapore in October 1971, leaving behind only a small British, Australian and New Zealand force as a token military presence. The last British soldier left Singapore in March 1976. New Zealand troops were the last to leave, in 1989.

A great deal of initial support came from Israel, a country that is not recognised by the neighbouring Muslim-majority nations of Malaysia, Indonesia, or Brunei. The main fear after independence was an invasion by Malaysia. Israeli Defense Force (IDF) commanders were tasked with creating the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) from scratch, and Israeli instructors were brought in to train Singaporean soldiers. Military courses were conducted according to the IDF’s format, and Singapore adopted a system of conscription and reserve service based on the Israeli model. Singapore still maintains strong security ties with Israel and is one of the biggest buyers of Israeli arms and weapons systems. The MATADOR is one example of recent Singaporean–Israeli collaboration.

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Republic of Singapore Navy’s RSS Steadfast and RSS Vigilance sailing line-abreast during CARAT Singapore 2010.

The SAF is being developed to respond to a wide range of issues, in both conventional and unconventional warfare. The Defence Science and Technology Agency is responsible for procuring resources for the military. The geographic restrictions of Singapore mean that the SAF must plan to fully repulse an attack, as they can not fall back and re-group. The small size of the population has also affected the way the SAF has been designed, with a small active force but a large number of reserves.

Singapore has conscription for all able-bodied males at age 18, except those with a criminal record or who can prove that their loss would bring hardship to their families. Males who have yet to complete pre-university education or are awarded the Public Service Commission scholarship can opt to defer their draft. Though not required to perform military service, the number of women in the SAF has been increasing: since 1989 they have been allowed to fill military vocations formerly reserved for men. Before induction into a specific branch of the armed forces, recruits undergo at least 9 weeks of basic military training.

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Flag lowering by Singapore troops in Afghanistan.

Because of the scarcity of open land on the main island, training involving activities such as live firing and amphibious warfare is often carried out on smaller islands, typically barred to civilian access. This also avoids risk to the main island and the city. However, large-scale drills are considered too dangerous to be performed in the area, and since 1975 have been performed in Taiwan. Training is also held in about a dozen other countries. In general, military exercises are held with foreign forces once or twice per week.

Due to airspace and land constraints, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) maintains a number of overseas bases in Australia, the United States, and France. The RSAF’s 130 Squadron is based in RAAF Base Pearce, Western Australia, and its 126 Squadron is based in the Oakey Army Aviation Centre, Queensland. The RSAF has one squadron—the 150 Squadron—based in Cazaux Air Base in southern France. The RSAF also has a few overseas detachments in the United States, in San Diego, California, Marana, Arizona, Grand Prairie, Texas and Luke Air Force Base, among others.

The SAF has sent forces to assist in operations outside the country, in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan, in both military and civilian roles. In the region, it has helped stabilise East Timor and has provided aid to Aceh in Indonesia following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. In 2014, the RSN deployed two ships, the RSS Resolute and the Tenacious to the Gulf of Aden to aid in counter piracy efforts as part of Task Force 151. The SAF also helped in relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina and Typhoon Haiyan. Singapore is part of the Five Power Defence Arrangements, a military alliance with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

Geography


Map showing Singapore island and the territories belonging to Singapore and its neighbours

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An outline of Singapore and the surrounding islands and waterways.

Singapore consists of 63 islands, including the main island, Pulau Ujong. There are two man-made connections to Johor, Malaysia: the Johor–Singapore Causeway in the north and the Tuas Second Link in the west. Jurong Island, Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin and Sentosa are the largest of Singapore’s smaller islands. The highest natural point is Bukit Timah Hill at 163.63 m (537 ft).

Ongoing land reclamation projects have increased Singapore’s land area from 581.5 km2 (224.5 sq mi) in the 1960s to 719.1 km2 (277.6 sq mi) in 2015, an increase of some 23% (130 km2). The country is projected to grow by another 100 km2 (40 sq mi) by 2030. Some projects involve merging smaller islands through land reclamation to form larger, more functional islands, as has been done with Jurong Island.

Singapore’s urbanisation means that it has lost 95% of its historical forests, and now over half of the naturally occurring fauna and flora in Singapore is present in nature reserves, such as the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which comprise only 0.25% of Singapore’s land area. To combat this decline, in 1967 the government introduced the vision of making Singapore a “garden city” aiming to soften the harshness of urbanisation and improve the quality of life. Since then, nearly 10% of Singapore’s land has been set aside for parks and nature reserves. The government also has plans to preserve the remaining wildlife. Singapore was ranked fourth in the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, which measures the effectiveness of state policies for environmental sustainability.

Climate

Climate data for Singapore

Singapore has a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen: Af) with no distinctive seasons, uniform temperature and pressure, high humidity, and abundant rainfall. Temperatures usually range from 22 to 35 °C (72 to 95 °F). While temperature does not vary greatly throughout the year, there is a wetter monsoon season from November to January.

From July to October, there is often haze caused by bush fires in neighbouring Indonesia, usually from the island of Sumatra. Although Singapore does not observe daylight saving time (DST), it follows the GMT+8 time zone, one hour ahead of the typical zone for its geographical location.

Economy


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Britain’s visiting Red Arrows fly over the Gardens by the bay

Singapore has a highly developed market economy, based historically on extended entrepôt trade. Along with Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan, Singapore is one of the original Four Asian Tigers, but has surpassed its peers in terms of GDP per capita. Between 1965 and 1995, growth rates averaged around 6 per cent per annum, transforming the living standards of the population. The Singaporean economy is known as one of the freest, most innovative, most competitive, most dynamic and most business-friendly. The 2015 Index of Economic Freedom ranks Singapore as the second freest economy in the world and the Ease of Doing Business Index has also ranked Singapore as the easiest place to do business for the past decade. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Singapore is consistently perceived as one of the least corrupt countries in the world, along with New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries. In 2016, Singapore is rated the world’s most expensive city for the third consecutive year by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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The integrated resort of Marina Bay Sands that opened in 2010 is one of the world’s most photographed buildings.

For several years, Singapore has been one of the few countries with an AAA credit rating from the “big three”, and the only Asian country to achieve this rating. Singapore attracts a large amount of foreign investment as a result of its location, skilled workforce, low tax rates, advanced infrastructure and zero-tolerance against corruption. Singapore has the world’s eleventh largest foreign reserves, and one of the highest net international investment position per capita. There are more than 7,000 multinational corporations from the United States, Japan, and Europe in Singapore. There are also approximately 1,500 companies from China and a similar number from India. Foreign firms are found in almost all sectors of the country’s economy. Roughly 44 percent of the Singaporean workforce is made up of non-Singaporeans. Over ten free-trade agreements have been signed with other countries and regions. Despite market freedom, Singapore’s government operations have a significant stake in the economy, contributing 22% of the GDP.

Singapore is the second-largest foreign investor in India. It is the 14th largest exporter and the 15th largest importer in the world.

Economy Statistics (Recent Years) : Year 2011 To Year 2014

Economy Statistics

The currency of Singapore is the Singapore dollar (SGD or S$), issued by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). It is interchangeable with the Brunei dollar at par value since 1967, owing to their historically close relations. MAS manages its monetary policy by allowing the Singapore dollar exchange rate to rise or fall within an undisclosed trading band. This is different from most central banks, which use interest rates to manage policy.

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Singapore Airlines celebrated Golden Jubilee with its Airbus A380 in ‘SG50’ livery.

In recent years, the country has been identified as an increasingly popular tax haven for the wealthy due to the low tax rate on personal income and tax exemptions on foreign-based income and capital gains. Australian millionaire retailer Brett Blundy and multi-billionaire Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin are two examples of wealthy individuals who have settled in Singapore (Blundy in 2013 and Saverin in 2012). In 2009, Singapore was removed from the OCDE “liste grise” of tax havens, but ranked fourth on the Tax Justice Network’s 2015 Financial Secrecy Index of the world’s off-shore financial service providers, banking one-eighth of the world’s off-shore capital, while “providing numerous tax avoidance and evasion opportunities”. In August 2016, The Straits Times reported that Indonesia had decided to create tax havens on two islands near Singapore to bring Indonesian capital back into the tax base. In October 2016, the Monetary Authority of Singapore admonished and fined UBS and DBS and withdrew Falcon Private Bank’s banking license for their alleged role in the Malaysian Sovereign Fund scandal.

Singapore has the world’s highest percentage of millionaires, with one out of every six households having at least one million US dollars in disposable wealth. This excludes property, businesses, and luxury goods, which if included would increase the number of millionaires, especially as property in Singapore is among the world’s most expensive.

Singapore does not have a minimum wage, believing that it would lower its competitiveness. It also has one of the highest income inequalities among developed countries.

Employment

Singapore traditionally has one of the lowest unemployment rates among developed countries. The unemployment rate did not exceed 4% from 2005 to 2014, hitting highs of 3.1% in 2005 and 3% during the 2009 global financial crisis; it fell to 1.8% in the first quarter of 2015.

The government provides numerous assistance programmes to the homeless and needy through the Ministry of Social and Family Development, so acute poverty is rare. Some of the programmes include providing between SGD400 and SGD1000 per month to needy households, providing free medical care at government hospitals, and paying for children’s school fees. The Singapore government also provides numerous benefits to its citizenry, including: free money to encourage residents to exercise in public gyms, up to $166,000 worth of baby bonus benefits for each baby born to a citizen, heavily subsidised healthcare, money to help the disabled, cheap laptops for poor students, rebates for numerous areas such as public transport, utility bills and more.

Although it has been recognised that foreign workers are crucial to the country’s economy, the government is considering capping these workers, as foreign workers make up 80% of the construction industry and up to 50% of the service industry. To keep an effective tap on the issue of immigration and to also attract foreign talents at the same time, the Ministry of Manpower (MoM) issues employment pass under three categories viz: P1 Employment Pass for those individuals with monthly earning of $8,000 and up, P2 Employment Pass for individuals with monthly earning of $4,500–7,999 and Q1 Employment Pass individuals with at least a monthly earning of $3,000.

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A view of the cityscape and anchored ships from Singapore’s Eastern Anchorage off the East Coast Park

Industry Sectors

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Singapore Exports by Product (2014)

Globally, Singapore is a leader in several economic sectors, including being 3rd-largest foreign exchange centre, 3rd-leading financial centre, 2nd-largest casino gambling market, 3rd-largest oil-refining and trading centre, world’s largest oil-rig producer and major hub for ship repair services, world’s top logistics hub.

The economy is diversified, with its top contributors – financial services, manufacturing, oil-refining. Its main exports are refined petroleum, integrated circuits and computers ] which constituted 27% of the country’s GDP in 2010, and includes significant electronics, petroleum refining, chemicals, mechanical engineering and biomedical sciences sectors. In 2006, Singapore produced about 10% of the world’s foundry wafer output.

Singapore’s largest companies are in the telecoms, banking, transportation and manufacturing sectors, many of which started as state-run enterprises, and has since been listed on the Singapore Exchange, including Singapore Telecommunications (Singtel), Singapore Technologies Engineering, Keppel Corporation, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), Development Bank of Singapore (DBS), United Overseas Bank (UOB). In 2011, amidst the global financial crisis, OCBC, DBS and UOB were ranked as the world’s 1st, 5th, 6th “strongest banks in the world” respectively by Bloomberg surveys.

The nation’s best known global brands include Singapore Airlines, Changi Airport and Port of Singapore, all three are amongst the most-awarded in their respective industry sectors. Singapore Airlines is ranked as Asia’s most-admired company, and world’s 19th most-admired in 2015, by Fortune’s annual “50 most admired companies in the world” industry surveys. It is also the world’s most-awarded airline, including “Best international airline”, by US-based Travel + Leisure reader surveys, for 20 consecutive years. Changi Airport connects over 100 airlines to more than 300 cities. The strategic international air hub has more than 480 “World’s Best Airport” awards as of 2015, and is known as the most-awarded airport in the world.

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Universal Studios’ Hollywood Boulevard, on Sentosa island.

Tourism forms a large part of the economy, with over 15 million tourists visiting the city-state in 2014. To expand the sector, casinos were legalised in 2005, but only two licenses for “Integrated Resorts” were issued, to control money laundering and addiction. Singapore also promotes itself as a medical tourism hub: about 200,000 foreigners seek medical care there each year. Singapore medical services aim to serve at least one million foreign patients annually and generate USD3 billion in revenue. In 2015, Lonely Planet and The New York Times listed Singapore as their top and 6th best world destination to visit respectively.

Singapore is an education hub, with more than 80,000 international students in 2006. 5,000 Malaysian students cross the Johor–Singapore Causeway daily to attend schools in Singapore. In 2009, 20% of all students in Singaporean universities were international students – the maximum cap allowed, a majority from ASEAN, China and India.

Infrastructure


Information and communications

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The Ministry of Communications and Information oversees the development of Infocomms, Media and the Arts.

Information and communications technologies (ICT) is one of the pillars of Singapore’s economic success. However, Singapore’s mass communications networks, including television and phone networks, have long been operated by the government. When Singapore first came online, Singaporeans could use Teleview to communicate with each other, but no one outside of their sovereign city-state. Publications such as The Wall Street Journal were censored.

The ‘Intelligent Island’ is a term used to describe Singapore in the 1990s, in reference to the island nation’s early adaptive relationship with the internet. The term is referenced in William Gibson’s 1993 essay Disneyland with the Death Penalty.

The World Economic Forum’s 2015 Global Technology Report placed Singapore as the most “Tech-Ready Nation”. It is the most comprehensive survey of the pervasiveness and network-readiness of a country, in terms of market, political and regulatory infrastructure for connectivity. Singapore has also topped Waseda University’s International e-Government rankings from 2009 to 2013, and 2015.

Singapore has the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates, in surveys by Deloitte and Google Consumer Barometer – at 89% and 85% of the population respectively in 2014. Overall mobile phone penetration rate is at 148 mobile phone subscribers per 100 people.

Internet in Singapore is provided by state owned Singtel and partially state owned Starhub and M1 Limited plus some other business internet service providers (ISPs) that offer residential service plans of speeds up to 2 Gbit/s as of Spring 2015.

Equinix (332 participants) and also it’s smaller brother Singapore Internet Exchange (70 participants) are Internet exchange points where Internet service providers and Content delivery networks exchange Internet traffic between their networks (autonomous systems) in various locations in Singapore.

Transport

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Electronic Road Pricing gantry (road sign) at Beach Road.

As Singapore is a small island with a high population density, the number of private cars on the road is restricted so as to curb pollution and congestion. Car buyers must pay for duties one-and-a-half times the vehicle’s market value, and bid for a Singaporean Certificate of Entitlement (COE), which allows the car to run on the road for a decade. The cost of the Singaporean certificate of entitlement alone would buy a Porsche Boxster in the United States. Car prices are generally significantly higher in Singapore than in other English-speaking countries. As with most Commonwealth countries, vehicles on the road and people walking on the streets keep to the left.

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A Singapore MRT train at Eunos station

Singaporean residents also travel by bicycles, bus, taxis and train (MRT or LRT). Two companies run the train transport system—SBS Transit and SMRT Corporation. Four companies, Go-Ahead, Tower-Transit, SBS Transit and SMRT Corporation run the public buses under a ‘Bus Contracting Model’ where operators bid for routes. There are six taxi companies, who together put out over 28,000 taxis on the road. Taxis are a popular form of public transport as the fares are relatively cheap compared to many other developed countries.

Singapore has a road system covering 3,356 kilometres (2,085 mi), which includes 161 kilometres (100 mi) of expressways. The Singapore Area Licensing Scheme, implemented in 1975, became the world’s first congestion pricing scheme, and included other complementary measures such as stringent car ownership quotas and improvements in mass transit. Upgraded in 1998 and renamed Electronic Road Pricing, the system introduced electronic toll collection, electronic detection, and video surveillance technology.

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Changi Airport continues to expand with a 4th Terminal and mixed-use complex Jewel by 2018

Singapore is a major international transport hub in Asia, serving some of the busiest sea and air trade routes. Changi Airport is an aviation centre for Southeast Asia and a stopover on the Kangaroo Route between Sydney and London. There are eight airports in the country, and Singapore Changi Airport hosts a network of over 100 airlines connecting Singapore to some 300 cities in about 70 countries and territories worldwide. It has been rated one of the best international airports by international travel magazines, including being rated as the world’s best airport for the first time in 2006 by Skytrax. The national airline is Singapore Airlines.

The Port of Singapore, managed by port operators PSA International and Jurong Port, was the world’s second-busiest port in 2005 in terms of shipping tonnage handled, at 1.15 billion gross tons, and in terms of containerised traffic, at 23.2 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). It is also the world’s second-busiest, behind Shanghai, in terms of cargo tonnage with 423 million tons handled. In addition, the port is the world’s busiest for transshipment traffic and the world’s biggest ship refuelling centre.

1280px-Singapore_port_panoramaThe Port of Singapore, one of the top two busiest container ports in the world since the 1990s. Sentosa island in the background

Water Supply and Sanitation

Access to water is universal, affordable, efficient and of high quality. Innovative integrated water management approaches such as the reuse of reclaimed water, the establishment of protected areas in urban rainwater catchments and the use of estuaries as freshwater reservoirs have been introduced along with seawater desalination to reduce the country’s dependence on water imported from neighbouring Malaysia.

Singapore’s approach does not rely only on physical infrastructure, but it also emphasises proper legislation and enforcement, water pricing, public education as well as research and development.

Demographics


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Chinese and Malay women in Singapore, circa 1890

As of mid-2015, the estimated population of Singapore was 5,535,000 people, 3,375,000 (60.98%) of whom were citizens, while the remaining 2,160,000 (39.02%) were permanent residents (527,700) or foreign students/foreign workers/dependants (1,632,300). According to the country’s most recent census in 2010, nearly 23% of Singaporean residents (i.e. citizens and permanent residents) were foreign born (which means about 10% of Singapore citizens were foreign-born naturalised citizens); if non-residents were counted, nearly 43% of the total population were foreign born.

The same census also reports that about 74.1% of residents were of Chinese descent, 13.4% of Malay descent, 9.2% of Indian descent, and 3.3% of other (including Eurasian) descent. Prior to 2010, each person could register as a member of only one race, by default that of his or her father, therefore mixed-race persons were solely grouped under their father’s race in government censuses. From 2010 onward, people may register using a multi-racial classification, in which they may choose one primary race and one secondary race, but no more than two.

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High-rise HDB flats in Bishan overlooking Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park

90.3% of resident households (i.e. households headed by a Singapore citizen or permanent resident) own the homes they live in, and the average household size is 3.43 persons (which include dependants who are neither citizens nor permanent residents). However, due to scarcity of land, 80.4% of resident households live in subsidised, high-rise, public housing apartments known as “HDB flats” because of the government board (Housing and Development Board) responsible for public housing in the country. Also, 75.9% of resident households live in properties that are equal to, or larger than, a four-room (i.e. three bedrooms plus one living room) HDB flat or in private housing. Live-in foreign domestic workers are quite common in Singapore, with about 224,500 foreign domestic workers there, as of December 2013.

The median age of Singaporean residents is 39.3, and the total fertility rate is estimated to be 0.80 children per woman in 2014, the lowest in the world and well below the 2.1 needed to replace the population. To overcome this problem, the Singapore government has been encouraging foreigners to immigrate to Singapore for the past few decades. The large number of immigrants has kept Singapore’s population from declining.

Religion

Religion

Buddhism is the most widely practised religion in Singapore, with 33% of the resident population declaring themselves adherents at the most recent census. The next-most practised religion is Christianity, followed by Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism. 17% of the population did not have a religious affiliation. The proportion of Christians, Taoists, and non-religious people increased between 2000 and 2010 by about 3% each, whilst the proportion of Buddhists decreased. Other faiths remained largely stable in their share of the population. An analysis by the Pew Research Center found Singapore to be the world’s most religiously diverse nation.

There are monasteries and Dharma centres from all three major traditions of Buddhism in Singapore: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. Most Buddhists in Singapore are Chinese and are of the Mahayana tradition, with missionaries having come into the country from Taiwan and China for several decades. However, Thailand’s Theravada Buddhism has seen growing popularity among the populace (not only the Chinese) during the past decade. The religion of Soka Gakkai International, a Japanese Buddhist organisation, is practised by many people in Singapore, but mostly by those of Chinese descent. Tibetan Buddhism has also made slow inroads into the country in recent years.

Languages

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A multilingual sign in Singapore’s four official languages: English, Chinese, Tamil, Malay.

Singapore has four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil. English is the common language, and is the language of business, government, and the medium of instruction in schools. Public bodies in Singapore, such as the Singapore Public Service, (which includes the Singapore Civil Service and other agencies), conduct their business in English, and official documents written in a non-English official language such as Malay, Chinese or Tamil typically have to be translated into English to be accepted for submission.

The Constitution of Singapore and all laws are written in English, and interpreters are required if one wishes to address the Singaporean Courts in a language other than English. English is the native tongue for only one-third of all Singaporeans, with roughly a quarter of all Singaporean Malays, a third of all Singaporean Chinese, and half of all Singaporean Indians speaking it as their native tongue. Twenty percent of Singaporeans cannot read or write in English.

Singaporeans are mostly bilingual, with English as their common language and usually the mother-tongue as a second language taught in schools, in order to preserve each individual’s ethnic identity and values. The official languages amongst Singaporeans are English (80% literacy), Mandarin (65% literacy), Malay (17% literacy), and Tamil (4% literacy).] Singapore English is based on British English, and forms of English spoken in Singapore range from Standard Singapore English to a colloquial form known as “Singlish”. Singlish is discouraged by the government.

Languages

English is the language spoken by most Singaporeans at home, 36.9% of the population, just ahead of Mandarin. Nearly half a million speak other varieties of Chinese, mainly Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese, as their home language, although the use of these is declining in favour of Mandarin and English. Singapore Chinese characters are written using simplified Chinese characters.

Malay was chosen as a national language by the Singaporean government after independence from Britain in the 1960s to avoid friction with Singapore’s Malay-speaking neighbours—Malaysia and Indonesia. It has a symbolic, rather than functional purpose. It is used in the national anthem “Majulah Singapura”, in citations of Singaporean orders and decorations, and in military commands. In general, Malay is spoken mainly within the Singaporean Malay community, with only 17% of all Singaporeans literate in Malay and only 12% using it as their native language. While Singaporean Malay is officially written in the Latin-based Rumi script, some Singaporean Malays still learn the Arabic-based Jawi script as children alongside Rumi, and Jawi is considered an ethnic script for use on Singaporean Identity Cards.

Around 100,000, or 3%, of Singaporeans speak Tamil as their native language. Tamil has official status in Singapore and there have been no attempts to discourage the use of other Indian languages.

Education


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Singapore Management University is one of six public universities in the city-state.

Education for primary, secondary, and tertiary levels is mostly supported by the state. All institutions, private and public, must be registered with the Ministry of Education. English is the language of instruction in all public schools, and all subjects are taught and examined in English except for the “mother tongue” language paper. While the term “mother tongue” in general refers to the first language internationally, in Singapore’s education system, it is used to refer to the second language, as English is the first language. Students who have been abroad for a while, or who struggle with their “Mother Tongue” language, are allowed to take a simpler syllabus or drop the subject.

Education takes place in three stages: primary, secondary, and pre-university education. Only the primary level is compulsory. Students begin with six years of primary school, which is made up of a four-year foundation course and a two-year orientation stage. The curriculum is focused on the development of English, the mother tongue, mathematics, and science. Secondary school lasts from four to five years, and is divided between Special, Express, Normal (Academic), and Normal (Technical) streams in each school, depending on a student’s ability level. The basic coursework breakdown is the same as in the primary level, although classes are much more specialised. Pre-university education takes place over two to three years at senior schools, mostly called Junior Colleges.

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Hwa Chong Institution was the first Chinese institution of higher learning in Southeast Asia in 1919.

National examinations are standardised across all schools, with a test taken after each stage. After the first six years of education, students take the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), which determines their placement at secondary school. At the end of the secondary stage, GCE “O”-Level or “N”-level exams are taken; at the end of the following pre-university stage, the GCE “A”-Level exams are taken. Some schools have a degree of freedom in their curriculum and are known as autonomous schools, for secondary education level and above.]

Post-secondary education institutions include 5 polytechnics, institutes of technical education (ITEs), 6 public universities of which the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University are among the top 20 universities in the world.

Singapore students excelled in most of the world education benchmarks in maths, science and reading. In 2015, both its primary and secondary students rank first in OECD’s global school performance rankings across 76 countries – described as the most comprehensive map of education standards. In 2016, Singapore students topped both the Program International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

In the 2015 International Baccalaureate exams taken in 107 countries, Singapore students fared best with more than half of the world’s 81 perfect scorers and 98% passing rate. In the 2016 EF English Proficiency Index taken in 72 countries, Singapore place 6th and has been the only Asian country in the top ten. Singapore literature students has won the Angus Ross Prize by Cambridge Examinations every year since 1987 (except in 2000), awarded to the top A-level English literature student outside Britain, with about 12,000 international candidates.

Health


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Singapore General Hospital Museum is housed in the “Bowyer Block”

Singapore has a generally efficient healthcare system, even though their health expenditures are relatively low for developed countries. The World Health Organisation ranks Singapore’s healthcare system as 6th overall in the world in its World Health Report. In general, Singapore has had the lowest infant mortality rate in the world for the past two decades. Life expectancy in Singapore is 80 for males and 85 for females, placing the country 4th in the world for life expectancy. Almost the whole population has access to improved water and sanitation facilities. There are fewer than 10 annual deaths from HIV per 100,000 people. There is a high level of immunisation. Adult obesity is below 10%. The Economist Intelligence Unit, in its 2013 “Where-to-be-born Index”, ranks Singapore as having the best quality of life in Asia and sixth overall in the world.

The government’s healthcare system is based upon the “3M” framework. This has three components: Medifund, which provides a safety net for those not able to otherwise afford healthcare, Medisave, a compulsory national medical savings account system covering about 85% of the population, and Medishield, a government-funded health insurance program. Public hospitals in Singapore have autonomy in their management decisions, and compete for patients. A subsidy scheme exists for those on low income. In 2008, 32% of healthcare was funded by the government. It accounts for approximately 3.5% of Singapore’s GDP.

Culture


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Sultan Mosque, a historic mosque in Kampong Glam.

Despite its small size, Singapore has a diversity of languages, religions, and cultures. Former Prime Ministers of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, have stated that Singapore does not fit the traditional description of a nation, calling it a society-in-transition, pointing out the fact that Singaporeans do not all speak the same language, share the same religion, or have the same customs. Even though English is the first language of the nation, according to the 2010 census, 20% of Singaporeans are illiterate in English. This is however an improvement from 1990, when 40% of Singaporeans were illiterate in English.

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Ornate details on top of Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown district, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple since 1827

From 1819, it served as a trading port for British ships on their way to India. Being a major trading hub and its close proximity to its neighbor Malaysia, Singapore was prone to many foreign influences, both from Britain and from other Asian countries. Chinese and Indian workers moved to Singapore to work at the harbor. The country remained a British colony until 1942.

When Singapore became independent from the United Kingdom in 1963, most Singaporean citizens were uneducated labourers from Malaysia, China and India. Many were transient labourers, seeking to make some money in Singapore, with no intention of staying permanently. There was also a sizeable minority of middle-class, locally-born people—known as Peranakans or Baba-Nyonya—descendants of 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants. With the exception of the Peranakans who pledged their loyalties to Singapore, most of the labourers’ loyalties lay with their respective homelands of Malaysia, China and India. After independence, the government began a deliberate process of crafting a Singaporean identity and culture.

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Clan associations played an important role in preserving ethnic dialects and cultural practices in the early years.

Each Singaporean’s behaviours and attitudes are influenced by, among other things, his or her home language and his religion. Singaporeans who speak English as their native language tend to lean toward Western culture, while those who speak Chinese as their native language tend to lean toward Chinese culture and Confucianism. Malay-speaking Singaporeans tend to lean toward Malay culture, which itself is closely linked to Islamic culture.[original research?]

Racial and religious harmony is regarded by Singaporeans as a crucial part of Singapore’s success, and played a part in building a Singaporean identity.

The national flower of Singapore is the hybrid orchid, Vanda ‘Miss Joaquim’, named in memory of a Singapore-born Armenian woman, who crossbred the flower in her garden at Tanjong Pagar in 1893. Many national symbols such as the Coat of arms of Singapore and the Lion head symbol of Singapore make use of the lion, as Singapore is known as the Lion City. Major religious festivals are public holidays.

Singapore has a reputation as a nanny state. However, the government places heavy emphasis on meritocracy, where one is judged based on one’s ability.

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A scene in a street market in Chinatown, Singapore, during the Chinese New Year holidays.

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Thaipusam procession in Singapore

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Saint Andrew’s Cathedral in the Civic District has existed since 1836.

Cuisine

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Lau Pa Sat hawker centre in the midst of the financial district. Satay cart-stalls rolls in after dusk, on a side street

The diversity of food is touted as a reason to visit the country, and the variety of food representing different ethnicities is seen by the government as a symbol of its multiculturalism.

In popular culture, food items belong to a particular ethnicity, with Chinese, Malay, and Indian food clearly defined. However, the diversity of cuisine has been increased further by the “hybridisation” of different styles (e.g., the Peranakan cuisine, a mix of Chinese and Malay cuisine).

Arts

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Esplanade performing arts centre, fronting Marina Bay.

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Supertree Grove in Gardens by the bay

Since the 1990s, the government has been promoting Singapore as a centre for arts and culture, in particular the performing arts, and to transform the country into a cosmopolitan “gateway between the East and West”. For example:

  • The Esplanade, a performing arts centre opened in October 2002.
  • The national orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, plays at the Esplanade.
  • The annual Singapore Arts Festival is organised by the National Arts Council.
  • The stand-up comedy scene has been growing, with a weekly open mic.

Sport and Recreation

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The National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub in Kallang.

Popular sports include walking, jogging, swimming, badminton, football and basketball. Most Singaporeans live in public residential areas (known as “HDB flats”) near amenities such as public swimming pools, outdoor basketball courts and indoor sport complexes. Water sports are popular, including sailing, kayaking and water skiing. Scuba diving is another popular recreational sport.

Singapore’s football league, the S.League, launched in 1996, currently comprises nine clubs, including two foreign teams.

The Singapore Slingers, formerly the Hunter Pirates in the Australian National Basketball League, is one of the inaugural teams in the ASEAN Basketball League which was founded in October 2009.

Singapore began hosting a round of the Formula One World Championship, the Singapore Grand Prix, in 2008. The race takes place on the Marina Bay Street Circuit and was the inaugural F1 night race, and the first F1 street race in Asia. Singapore will remain on the F1 calendar until at least 2017, after race organisers signed a contract extension with Formula One Management on the eve of the 2012 event.

Kranji Racecourse is run by the Singapore Turf Club and hosts several meetings per week, including international races—notably the Singapore Airlines International Cup.

Singapore also hosted the inaugural 2010 Summer Youth Olympics.

Singapore is home to the biggest Mixed Martial Arts promotion in Asia, ONE Championship. Notable fighters on the promotions roster include Ben Askren, Roger Gracie, Brandon Vera and Shinya Aoki.

Media

Companies linked to the government control much of the domestic media in Singapore. MediaCorp operates most free-to-air television channels and free-to-air radio stations in Singapore. There are a total of seven free-to-air TV channels offered by Mediacorp. Starhub Cable Vision (SCV) also offers cable television with channels from all around the world, and Singtel’s Mio TV provides an IPTV service. Singapore Press Holdings, a body with close links to the government, controls most of the newspaper industry in Singapore.

Singapore’s media industry has sometimes been criticised for being overly regulated and lacking in freedom by human rights groups such as Freedom House. Self-censorship among journalists is said to be common. In 2014, Singapore dipped to its lowest ranking ever (153rd of 180 nations) on the Press Freedom Index published by the French Reporters Without Borders. The Media Development Authority regulates Singaporean media, claiming to balance the demand for choice and protection against offensive and harmful material.

Private ownership of TV satellite dishes is banned. In 2016, there were an estimated 4.7 million internet users in Singapore, representing 82.5% of the population. The Singapore government does not engage in widespread censoring of the internet, but it maintains a list of one hundred websites—mostly pornographic—that it blocks as a “symbolic statement of the Singaporean community’s stand on harmful and undesirable content on the Internet”. As the block covers only home internet access, users may still visit the blocked websites from their office computers.

Hong Kong

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is an autonomous territory in China, south of the mainland Chinese province of Guangdong and east of the former Portuguese colony and fellow Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Macao. With around 7.2 million Hong Kongers of various nationalities[note 2] in a territory of 1,104 km2, Hong Kong is the world’s fourth most densely populated country or territory.

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hong kong DATA

Hong Kong used to be a British colony with the perpetual cession of Hong Kong Island from the Qing Empire after the First Opium War (1839–1842). The colony expanded to the Kowloon Peninsula in 1860 and acquired a 99-year lease of the New Territories from 1898. Hong Kong was later occupied by Japan during the Second World War until British control resumed in 1945. The Sino-British Joint Declaration signed between the United Kingdom and China in 1984 paved way for the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997, when it became a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China with a high degree of autonomy.

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Under the principle of “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong maintains a separate political and economic system from China. Except in military defence and foreign affairs, Hong Kong maintains its independent executive, legislative and judiciary powers. In addition, Hong Kong develops relations directly with foreign states and international organisations in a broad range of “appropriate fields”. Hong Kong involves in international organizations, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the World Trade Organization (WOR), actively and independently.

Hong Kong is one of the world’s most significant financial centres, with the highest Financial Development Index score and consistently ranks as the world’s most competitive and freest economic entity. Known to be “Asia’s World City”, Hong Kong is the world’s most popular international traveller destination, and the home to the world’s most frequently travelled citizens. As the world’s 8th largest trading entity, its legal tender, Hong Kong dollar, is the world’s 13th most traded currency. Hong Kong’s tertiary sector dominated economy is characterised by competitive simple taxation and supported by its independent judiciary system. Even with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, it suffers from severe income inequality.

Nicknamed “Pearl of the Orient”, Hong Kong has a harbour named Victoria Harbour, and it features the most skyscrapers in the world. It has a very high Human Development Index ranking and the world’s longest life expectancy. Over 90% of the population makes use of well-developed public transportation. Seasonal air pollution with origins from neighbouring industrial areas of Mainland China, which adopts loose emissions standards, has resulted in a high level of atmospheric particulates in winter.

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Contents
1 Etymology
2 History
2.1 Prehistory
2.2 Imperial China
2.3 British Crown Colony: 1842–1941
2.4 Japanese occupation: 1941–1945
2.5 Resumption of British rule and industrialisation: 1945–1997
2.6 Handover and Special Administrative Region status
3 Governance
3.1 Structure of government
3.2 Electoral and political reforms
3.3 Legal system and judiciary
3.4 Foreign relations
3.5 Human rights
3.6 Regions and districts
3.7 Military
4 Geography and climate
5 Economy
5.1 Financial centre
5.2 International trading
5.3 Tourism and expatriation
5.4 Policy
5.5 Infrastructure
6 Demographics
6.1 Languages
6.2 Religion
6.3 Personal income
6.4 Education
6.5 Health
7 Culture
7.1 Sports
7.2 Architecture
7.3 Cityscape
7.4 Symbols

Etymology


Hong Kong was officially recorded in the 1842 Treaty of Nanking to encompass the entirety of the island.

The source of the romanised name Hong Kong is not known, but it is generally believed to be an early imprecise phonetic rendering of the pronunciation in spoken Cantonese 香港 (Cantonese Yale: Hēung Góng), which means “Fragrant Harbour” or “Incense Harbour”. Before 1842, the name referred to a small inlet—now Aberdeen Harbour (Chinese: 香港仔; Cantonese Yale: Hēunggóng jái), literally means “Little Hong Kong”—between Aberdeen Island and the southern coast of Hong Kong Island. Aberdeen was an initial point of contact between British sailors and local fishermen.

Another theory is that the name would have been taken from Hong Kong’s early inhabitants, the Tankas (水上人); it is equally probable that romanisation was done with a faithful execution of their speeches, i.e. hōng, not hēung in Cantonese. Detailed and accurate romanisation systems for Cantonese were available and in use at the time.

Fragrance may refer to the sweet taste of the harbour’s fresh water estuarine influx of the Pearl River or to the incense from factories lining the coast of northern Kowloon. The incense was stored near Aberdeen Harbour for export before Hong Kong developed Victoria Harbour.

The name had often been written as the single word Hongkong until the government adopted the current form in 1926. Nevertheless, a number of century-old institutions still retain the single-word form, such as the Hongkong Post, Hongkong Electric and the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.

As of 1997, its official name is the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. This is the official title as mentioned in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the Hong Kong Government’s website, but Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Hong Kong are widely accepted.

Hong Kong has carried many nicknames. The most famous among those is the “Pearl of the Orient”, which reflected the impressive nightscape of the city’s light decorations on the skyscrapers along both sides of the Victoria Harbour. The territory is also known as “Asia’s World City”.

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History


Prehistory

Archaeological studies support human presence in the Chek Lap Kok area (now Hong Kong International Airport) from 35,000 to 39,000 years ago and on Sai Kung Peninsula from 6,000 years ago.

Wong Tei Tung and Three Fathoms Cove are the earliest sites of human habitation in Hong Kong during the Paleolithic Period. It is believed that the Three Fathom Cove was a river-valley settlement and Wong Tei Tung was a lithic manufacturing site. Excavated Neolithic artefacts suggested cultural differences from the Longshan culture of northern China and settlement by the Che people, prior to the migration of the Baiyue to Hong Kong. Eight petroglyphs, which dated to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC – 1066 BC) in China, were discovered on the surrounding islands.

Imperial China

In 214 BC, Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of a centralised China, conquered the Baiyue tribes in Jiaozhi (modern-day Liangguang region and Vietnam) and incorporated the area of Hong Kong into his imperial China for the first time. Hong Kong proper was assigned to the Nanhai commandery (modern-day Nanhai District), near the commandery’s capital city Panyu.

After a brief period of centralisation and collapse of the Qin dynasty, the area of Hong Kong was consolidated under the Kingdom of Nanyue, founded by general Zhao Tuo in 204 BC. When Nanyue lost the Han-Nanyue War in 111 BC, Hong Kong came under the Jiaozhi commandery of the Han dynasty. Archaeological evidence indicates an increase of population and flourish of salt production. The Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb on the Kowloon Peninsula is believed to have been built as a burial site during the Han dynasty.

From the Han dynasty to the early Tang dynasty, Hong Kong was a part of Bao’an County. In the Tang dynasty, modern-day Guangzhou (Canton) flourished as an international trading centre. In 736, the Emperor Xuanzong of Tang established a military stronghold in Tuen Mun to strengthen defence of the coastal area. The nearby Lantau Island was a salt production centre and salt smuggler riots occasionally broke out against the government. In c. 1075, The first village school, Li Ying College, was established around 1075 AD in modern-day New Territories by the Northern Song dynasty. During their war against the Mongols, the imperial court of Southern Song was briefly stationed at modern-day Kowloon City (the Sung Wong Toi site) before their ultimate defeat by the Mongols at the Battle of Yamen in 1279. The Mongols then established their dynastic court and governed Hong Kong for 97 years.

From the mid-Tang dynasty to the early Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Hong Kong was a part of Dongguan County. During the Ming dynasty, the area was transferred to Xin’an County. The indigenous inhabitants at that time consisted of several ethnicities such as Punti, Hakka, Tanka and Hoklo.

European Discovery

The earliest European visitor on record was Jorge Álvares, a Portuguese explorer, who arrived in 1513. Having established a trading post in a site they called “Tamão” in Hong Kong waters, Portuguese merchants commenced with regular trading in southern China. Subsequent military clashes between China and Portugal, however, led to the expulsion of all Portuguese merchants from southern China.

Since the 14th century, the Ming court had enforced the maritime prohibition laws that strictly forbade all private maritime activities in order to prevent contact with foreigners by sea. When the Manchu Qing dynasty took over China, Hong Kong was directly affected by the Great Clearance decree of the Kangxi Emperor, who ordered the evacuation of coastal areas of Guangdong from 1661 to 1669. Over 16,000 inhabitants of Xin’an County including those in Hong Kong were forced to migrate inland; only 1,648 of those who had evacuated subsequently returned.

British Crown Colony: 1842–1941

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A painter at work, John Thomson. Hong Kong, 1871, The Wellcome Collection, London

In 1839, threats by the imperial court of Qing to place sanctions on opium imports caused diplomatic friction with the British Empire. Tensions escalated into the First Opium War. The Qing admitted defeat when British forces captured Hong Kong Island on 20 January 1841. The island was initially ceded under the Convention of Chuenpi as part of a ceasefire agreement between Captain Charles Elliot and Governor Qishan. A dispute between high-ranking officials of both countries, however, led to the failure of the treaty’s ratification. On 29 August 1842, Hong Kong Island was formally ceded in perpetuity to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Treaty of Nanking. The British officially established a Crown colony and founded the City of Victoria in the following year.

The population of Hong Kong Island was 7,450 when the Union Flag raised over Possession Point on 26 January 1841. It mostly consisted of Tanka fishermen and Hakka charcoal burners, whose settlements scattered along several coastal hamlets. In the 1850s, a large number of Chinese immigrants crossed the then-free border to escape from the Taiping Rebellion. Other natural disasters, such as flooding, typhoons and famine in mainland China would play a role in establishing Hong Kong as a place for safe shelter.

Further conflicts over the opium trade between Britain and Qing quickly escalated into the Second Opium War. Following the Anglo-French victory, the Crown Colony was expanded to include Kowloon Peninsula (south of Boundary Street) and Stonecutter’s Island, both of which were ceded to the British in perpetuity under the Convention of Beijing in 1860.

In 1898, Britain obtained a 99-year lease from Qing under the Convention for the Extension of Hong Kong Territory, in which Hong Kong obtained a 99-year lease of Lantau Island, the area north of Boundary Street in Kowloon up to Shenzhen River and over 200 other outlying islands.

Hong Kong soon became a major entrepôt thanks to its free port status, attracting new immigrants to settle from both China and Europe. The society, however, remained racially segregated and polarised under early British colonial policies. Despite the rise of a British-educated Chinese upper-class by the late-19th century, race laws such as the Peak Reservation Ordinance prevented ethnic Chinese in Hong Kong from acquiring houses in reserved areas such as Victoria Peak. At this time, the majority of the Chinese population in Hong Kong had no political representation in the British colonial government. The British governors did rely, however, on a small number of Chinese elites, including Sir Kai Ho and Robert Hotung, who served as ambassadors and mediators between the government and local population.

In 1904, the United Kingdom established the world’s first border and immigration control; all residents of Hong Kong were given citizenship as Citizens of United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC).

Hong Kong continued to experience modest growth during the first half of the 20th century. The University of Hong Kong was established in 1911 as the territory’s first higher education institute. While there had been an exodus of 60,000 residents for fear of a German attack on the British colony during the First World War, Hong Kong remained unscathed. Its population increased from 530,000 in 1916 to 725,000 in 1925 and reached 1.6 million by 1941.

In 1925, Cecil Clementi became the 17th Governor of Hong Kong. Fluent in Cantonese and without a need for translator, Clementi introduced the first ethnic Chinese, Shouson Chow, into the Executive Council as an unofficial member. Under Clementi’s tenure, Kai Tak Airport entered operation as RAF Kai Tak and several aviation clubs. In 1937, the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out when the Japanese Empire expanded its territories from northeastern China into the mainland proper. To safeguard Hong Kong as a freeport, Governor Geoffry Northcote declared the Crown Colony as a neutral zone.

Japanese occupation: 1941–1945

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The Cenotaph in Hong Kong commemorates those who died in service in the First World War and the Second World War.

As part of its military campaign in Southeast Asia during Second World War, the Japanese army moved south from Guangzhou of mainland China and attacked Hong Kong in on 8 December 1941. Crossing the border at Shenzhen River on 8 December, the Battle of Hong Kong lasted for 18 days when British and Canadian forces held onto Hong Kong Island. Unable to defend against intensifying Japanese air and land bombardments, they eventually surrendered control of Hong Kong on 25 December 1941. The Governor of Hong Kong was captured and taken as a prisoner of war. This day is regarded by the locals as “Black Christmas”.

During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, the Japanese army committed atrocities against civilians and POWs, such as the St. Stephen’s College massacre. Local residents also suffered widespread food shortages, limited rationing and hyper-inflation arising from the forced exchange of currency from Hong Kong dollars to Japanese military banknotes. The initial ratio of 2:1 was gradually devalued to 4:1 and ownership of Hong Kong dollars was declared illegal and punishable by harsh torture. Due to starvation and forced deportation for slave labour to mainland China, the population of Hong Kong had dwindled from 1.6 million in 1941 to 600,000 in 1945, when the United Kingdom resumed control of the colony on 2 September 1945.

Resumption of British rule and industrialisation: 1945–1997

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Flag of British Hong Kong from 1959 to 1997

Hong Kong’s population recovered quickly after the war, as a wave of skilled migrants from the Republic of China moved in to seek refuge from the Chinese Civil War. When the Communist Party eventually took full control of mainland China in 1949, even more skilled migrants fled across the open border for fear of persecution. Many newcomers, especially those who had been based in the major port cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou, established corporations and small- to medium-sized businesses and shifted their base operations to British Hong Kong. The establishment of a socialist state in China (People’s Republic of China) on 1 October 1949 caused the British colonial government to reconsider Hong Kong’s open border to mainland China. In 1951, a boundary zone was demarked as a buffer zone against potential military attacks from communist China. Border posts along the north of Hong Kong began operation in 1953 to regulate the movement of people and goods into and out of the territory.

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Stamp with portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953

In the 1950s, Hong Kong became the first of the Four Asian Tiger economies under rapid industrialisation driven by textile exports, manufacturing industries and re-exports of goods to China. As the population grew, with labour costs remaining low, living standards began to rise steadily. The construction of the Shek Kip Mei Estate in 1953 marked the beginning of the public housing estate programme to provide shelter for the less privileged and to cope with the influx of immigrants.

Under Sir Murray MacLehose, 25th Governor of Hong Kong (1971–82), a series of reforms improved the public services, environment, housing, welfare, education and infrastructure of Hong Kong. MacLehose was British Hong Kong’s longest-serving governor and, by the end of his tenure, had become one of the most popular and well-known figures in the Crown Colony. MacLehose laid the foundation for Hong Kong to establish itself as a key global city in the 1980s and early 1990s.

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A sky view of Hong Kong Island

An aerial view of the northern shore of Hong Kong Island in 1986
To resolve traffic congestion and to provide a more reliable means of crossing the Victoria Harbour, a rapid transit railway system (metro), the MTR, was planned from the 1970s onwards. The Island Line (Hong Kong Island), Kwun Tong Line (Kowloon Peninsula and East Kowloon) and Tsuen Wan Line (Kowloon and urban New Territories) opened in the early 1980s.

In 1983, the Hong Kong dollar left its 16:1 peg with the Pound sterling and switched to the current US-HK Dollar peg. Hong Kong’s competitiveness in manufacturing gradually declined due to rising labour and property costs, as well as new development in southern China under the Open Door Policy introduced in 1978 which opened up China to foreign business. Nevertheless, towards the early 1990s, Hong Kong had established itself as a global financial centre along with London and New York City, a regional hub for logistics and freight, one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia and the world’s exemplar of Laissez-faire market policy.

The Hong Kong Issue

In 1971, the Republic of China (Taiwan)’s permanent seat on the United Nations was transferred to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong’s status as a recognised colony became terminated in 1972 under the request of PRC. Facing the uncertain future of Hong Kong and expiry of land lease of New Territories beyond 1997, Governor MacLehose raised the question of Hong Kong’s return to China in the late 1970s.

The British Nationality Act 1981 reclassified Hong Kong into a British Dependent Territory amid the reorganisation of global territories of the British Empire. All residents of Hong Kong became British Dependent Territory Citizens (BDTC). Diplomatic negotiations began with China and eventually concluded with the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. Both countries agreed to transfer Hong Kong’s sovereignty to China on 1 July 1997, when Hong Kong would remain autonomous as a special administrative region and be able to retain its free-market economy, British common law through the Hong Kong Basic Law, independent representation in international organisations (e.g. WTO and WHO), treaty arrangements and policy-making except foreign diplomacy and military defence.

It stipulated that Hong Kong would retain its laws and be guaranteed a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years after the transfer. The Hong Kong Basic Law, based on English law, would serve as the constitutional document after the transfer. It was ratified in 1990. The expiry of the 1898 lease on the New Territories in 1997 created problems for business contracts, property leases and confidence among foreign investors.

Handover and Special Administrative Region status

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Golden Bauhinia Square

On 1 July 1997, the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People’s Republic of China took place, officially marking the end of Hong Kong’s 156 years under British colonial governance. As the largest remaining colony of the United Kingdom, the loss of Hong Kong effectively represented the end of the British Empire. This transfer of sovereignty made Hong Kong the first special administrative region of China. Tung Chee-Hwa, a pro-Beijing business tycoon, was elected Hong Kong’s first Chief Executive by a selected electorate of 800 in a televised programme.

Tung Chee-Hwa: 1997–2003

Soon after Hong Kong’s transfer to China, the territory has suffered coincidentally an economic double-blow: Asian Financial Crisis and the H5N1 avian flu pandemic. The then-Financial Secretary, Sir Donald Tsang, adopted a radical measure to make use of British Hong Kong foreign currency reserves and restored Hong Kong’s financial stability. In December 1997, officials had to destroy 1.4 million livestock in order to contain the H5 virus from spreading.

Despite a recovering economy from the Asian Financial Crisis, mismanagement of Tung’s housing policy triggered a housing market crisis in 1998, disrupting market supply and sent properties prices tumbling until 2002. This caused many homeowners to become bankrupt due to negative equity.

In 1998, Hong Kong moved its international airport from Kai Tak to an artificially-reclaimed island north of Lantau Island. Construction of this new airport began under the British Rose Garden Project and was completed in May 1998.

Chris Patten’s democratic reform of the Legislative Council Election in 1994 was abruptly terminated when Hong Kong transferred to China in 1997. In 1995, China set up a parallel “Provisional Council” of pro-Beijing members in Shenzhen. This Provisional Legislative Council, lacking legislative or constitutional power, moved into Hong Kong and completed its term in 1999. The Legislative Council resumed its full function after the 1999 election under pre-reformed rules; one of the prominent tasks was to complete legislation of articles in the Hong Kong Basic Law, constitutional document of the territory.

Despite the unopposed re-election of Tung in July 2002, distrust of China remained throughout Tung’s first term as Chief Executive. In 2003, Hong Kong was gravely affected by the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The World Health Organization reported 1,755 infected and 299 deaths in Hong Kong. Economic activities slowed down and schools were closed for weeks at the height of SARS epidemic. An estimated 380 million Hong Kong dollars (US$48.9 million) in contracts were lost as a result of the epidemic.

In May 2003, the government’s attempt to legislate Article 23 (National Security) of the Basic Law aroused strong suspicion among Hong Kong citizens. This Article would grant Hong Kong’s police force right of access to private property on grounds of ‘safeguarding national security’, but without court warrants. Coupled with years of economic hardships and discontent of Tung’s pro-Beijing stance, a mass demonstration broke out on 1 July 2003. This demonstration hastened the resignations of two government ministers and, eventually, that of Tung on 10 March 2005.

Sir Donald Tsang: 2005–2012

Sir Donald Tsang, then-Chief Secretary for Administration and ex-official of the British Hong Kong government, entered the 2005 election uncontested and was appointed by Beijing as the second Chief Executive of Hong Kong on 21 June 2005. In 2006, Tsang introduced food safety procedures to Hong Kong in light of loose vetting standards, contamination and counterfeit food issues of mainland China.

Tsang went on to win a second term in office following the 2007 Chief Executive election under managed voting. As a result of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Tsang’s government rolled out a package of financial stimulus of HK$11 billion and a depositor guarantee scheme to safeguard Hong Kong dollar savings in bank accounts. Hong Kong narrowly avoided a technical recession from the ongoing crisis.

In 2009, Hong Kong hosted the 5th East Asian Games and nine national teams competed in it. The Games were the first and largest international multi-sport event ever organised and hosted by the city. Major infrastructure and tourist projects also began under Sir Tsang’s second term, including the Ngong Ping Cable Car, Tian Tan Buddha and the West Kowloon Cultural District. However, the most controversial was the high-speed railway link connecting Hong Kong and neighbouring cities of mainland China; as of 2016, the project has suffered numerous delays, surging labour and material costs and dispute over immigration procedures.

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Hong Kong branded as “Asia’s World City”

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Overlook Hong Kong Island north coast, Victoria Harbour and Central and East Kowloon from middle section of Lugard Road at daytime

During Tsang’s second term, he initiated modest reforms in areas of education, environment and food safety. He concluded his term, however, when a local news media uncovered evidence of him receiving favours and hospitality from business tycoons on various occasions. This resulted in further discovery of bribery in Tsang’s government; then-Chief Secretary of Administration, Rafael Hui, was convicted of corruption in 2014.

Leung Chun-ying: 2012–2017

3 candidates stood for the 2012 Chief Executive Election, including one from the Democratic Party. A selected electorate of 1,200 pro-Beijing members constituted the election committee; Leung Chun-ying won 689 votes and was appointed Chief Executive on 1 July by China.

During Leung’s term, the government completed legislation of Anti-trust and Competition Ordinance and introduced minimum wage in 2015. Political debates, however, have centred themselves predominately on universal suffrage and education reform. The government’s proposed National Education curriculum in 2014 attracted polarising reactions across Hong Kong’s public and a draft bill was eventually withdrawn. Reactions from China, including the 2014 White Paper on Hong Kong, attracted worldwide allegations of Beijing’s intervention into Hong Kong’s high-degree autonomy. The most contentious issue was China’s outright disregard of its commitment to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration in written text. This has fuelled up a number of mass protests and the most prominent one was the Occupy Central (later termed “Umbrella”) movement in September to December 2014.

Hong Kong’s high-degree autonomy, along with neutrality of press and media, judicial independence and freedom of speech and publication, have at times been scrutinised. With continued distrust of Chinese government, notable events such as violent attack on journalists, increasing level of press self-censorship, alleged extraterritorial abduction of anti-China publishers and covert intervention into Hong Kong’s educational, political and independent institutions have posed challenges to the “One Country, Two Systems” arrangement. In the 2016 Legislative Council Election, there were reports of discrepancies in the electorate registry, which contains ghost registrations across constituencies, as well as political intervention to strip pro-Independence individuals of their right to stand in elections and alleged death threats to election candidates.

Social tension has heightened during Leung’s term, with many Hongkongers believing that China increased their efforts to exert influence on everyday life in Hong Kong. The territory currently delegates control of Chinese immigrants, as well as issue of visitor permits, to Chinese authorities. On the first day of Chinese New Year 2016, riots targeting the police force broke out. The most recent survey in 2016 (with a sample base of 573) in Hong Kong shows that 17.8% respondents considered themselves as “Chinese citizens”, whereas 41.9% considered themselves purely as “citizens of Hong Kong”.

Governance


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Carrie Lam – Chief Executive

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Matthew Cheung – Chief Secretary

Structure of Government

Hong Kong’s current structure of governance inherits from the British model of colonial administration set up in the 1850s. The 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration states that “Hong Kong should enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all areas except defence and foreign affairs” with reference to the underlying principle of one country, two systems.[ note 3] This Declaration stipulates that Hong Kong maintains her capitalist economic system and guarantees the rights and freedoms of her people for at least 50 years after the 1997 handover. [note 4] Such guarantees are enshrined in the Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the territory’s constitutional document, which outlines the system of governance after 1997, albeit subject to interpretation by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC).

Hong Kong’s most senior leader, Chief Executive, is elected by a committee of 1,200 selected members (600 in 1997) and nominally appointed by the Government of China. The primary pillars of government are the Executive Council, Legislative Council, civil service and Judiciary.

Policy-making is initially discussed in the Executive Council, presided by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, before passing to the Legislative Council for bill adoption. The Executive Council consists of 30 official/unofficial members appointed by the Chief Executive and one member among them acts as the convenor.

The Legislative Council, set up in 1843, debates policies and motions before voting to adopt or rejecting bills. It has 70 members (originally 60) and 40 (originally 30) among them are directly elected by universal suffrage; the other 30 members are “functional constituencies” (indirectly) elected by a smaller electorate of corporate bodies or representatives of stipulated economic sectors as defined by the government. The Legislative Council is chaired by a president who acts as the speaker.

In 1997, seating of the Legislative Council (also public services and election franchises) of Hong Kong modelled on the British system: Urban Council (Hong Kong and Kowloon) and District Council (New Territories and Outlying Islands). In 1999, this system has been reformed into 18 directly elected District Offices across 5 Legislative Council constituencies: Hong Kong Island (East/West), Kowloon and New Territories (East/West); the remaining outlying islands are divided across the aforementioned regions.

Hong Kong’s Civil Service, created by the British colonial government, is a politically neutral body that implements government policies and provides public services. Senior civil servants are appointed based on meritocracy. The territory’s police, firefighting and customs forces, as well as clerical officers across various government departments, make up the civil service.

Electoral and Political Reforms

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Opened in 1912, this granite neo-classical building in Central used to house the Supreme Court and became the home to the Legislative Council of Hong Kong (dubbed “Legco”) from 1985 to 2011, spanning across the British and the Chinese rule, though as the Legco has moved to a new complex in 2011, the building reverted to a judicial function, housing the Court of Final Appeal from 2015 onwards.

Hong Kong’s Basic Law, implemented in the territory on 1 July 1997, consists of outstanding articles which require bill adoption by the Legislative Council before becoming effective laws. Two of the most prominent articles include Article 23 (“National Security”) and universal suffrage of Chief Executive elections. In 2002, the government’s motion of an anti-subversion bill pursuant to Article 23, was met with fierce opposition and eventually dropped. Reform bills on universal suffrage, however, have made partial progress in expanding the Chief Executive election’s committee (from 600 to 800 in 2007 and to 1,200 selected members in 2012) and the Legislative Council (from 60 to 70 seats). These additional 10 seats are created through directly elected members of District Offices.

Continual debate between pro-Beijing and pan-democratic factions characterises Hong Kong’s contemporary political landscape across the transition from the British Empire to China. Aside from clashes over a range of social, welfare, labour and economic policies, the most contentious topic has been universal suffrage. Ideological differences over the pace of democratisation have shadowed over the 2004 Bill of Political Reform “District Council Model (District Office)”, 2009 Bill of Political Reform (passed 46–12) “Consultation Document on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the LegCo in 2012” and the 2015 Bill of Political Reform (blocked 8–27).

Legal System and Judiciary

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Themis or Lady Justice, armed with sword and balance scales (Court of Final Appeal Building, Central, Hong Kong), is the personification of justice balancing the scales of truth and fairness

Hong Kong’s current legal system, independent of the legal system of mainland China and Chinese civil law, inherits from British Common Law established before 1997. The guiding principle is an independent judicial system in which the Rule of Law, as opposed to Rule by Law, safeguards judicial courts from government intervention.

The essence of British Common Law is the juror system: court judges (equivalent to British JPs) make case verdicts with the assistance of a group of eligible, court-appointed jurors who are members of the public. One feature of the Common Law system is the basis of legal precedent (stare decisis) in which judges refer to empirical evidence from previous cases of a similar category prior to handing out a final verdict. According to Article 92 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, judicial courts may refer to decisions which are rendered by courts of other common law jurisdictions as precedents (England, Canada and Australia). Judges from these jurisdictions are permitted to sit as non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal.

Hong Kong’s court system comprises the Court of Final Appeal (formerly HM Court of Final Appeal in the United Kingdom), the High Court (constitutes the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance) and the District Court (includes the Family Court). Other adjudicative bodies include the Lands Tribunal, the Magistrates’ Courts, the Juvenile Court, the Coroner’s Court, the Labour Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal and the Obscene Articles Tribunal. Judges are appointed by the Chief Executive on the recommendation of an independent commission. The Court of Final Appeal has the power of final adjudication with respect to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, as well as the power of final interpretation over local laws such as the power to strike down local ordinances on the grounds of inconsistency with the Basic Law.

The Department of Justice is responsible for handling legal matters for the government. Its responsibilities include providing legal advice, criminal prosecution, civil representation, legal and policy drafting and reform and international legal co-operation between different jurisdictions. Apart from prosecuting criminal cases, lawyers of the Department of Justice act on behalf of the government in all civil and administrative lawsuits against the government. As protector of public interest, the department may apply for judicial reviews and may intervene in any cases involving the greater public interest. The Basic Law protects the Department of Justice from any interference by the government when exercising its control over criminal prosecution.

Foreign Relations

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Olympic Square, Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Basic Law (Article 151) delegates all diplomatic affairs to China’s Foreign Ministry, but the territory retains exclusive rights in fostering external relations in international organisations, co-operation bodies and sports and cultural events. Under the alias “Hong Kong, China”, Hong Kong maintains active partnerships with foreign nations in the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Overseas Representatives of Hong Kong cover the fields of economy, trade, monetary finance, shipping, communications, tourism, culture and sports.

Under the special condition of Hong Kong’s high-degree autonomy, the territory is able to maintain an independent customs area and separate immigration policy from those of China. This separate exercise of customs and immigration, subject to conditional reviews, is recognised by foreign nations through their legislature, such as the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act. Hong Kong maintains an international border with mainland China across 5 border control stations by land, 3 entry and exit points by sea and the International Airport. Applications for entry permits are, however, handled by Chinese Embassies for Hong Kong.

Foreign representation in Hong Kong includes 59 Consulates-General, 62 Consulates/Embassies and 5 officially recognised international bodies, such as the Office of the European Union. A number of Consulate-Generals in Hong Kong, such as the United States and United Kingdom, operate independently of their embassies in Beijing, extend their areas of jurisdiction beyond Hong Kong to include Macau, and report directly to their respective foreign offices.

Human Rights

The Hong Kong government generally respects the human rights of its citizens, and members of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and the District Council of Hong Kong are elected into office by Hong Kong citizens. However, there are 27 ex officio members of the district council (the Rural Committee Chairmen in the New Territories) as of the fifth District Council Assembly, and roughly half of the legislative council seats are elected by 3% of the people in Hong Kong through the functional constituency. The imbalance of voting power in the LegCo has led to widespread criticism of its inability to represent Hongkongers’ socio-economic needs. In addition, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong is elected by 1,200 members based on their contributions to four different sectors of Hong Kong’s society. This policy has received criticism from various political figures in Hong Kong, and led to the Umbrella Revolution. Plans to expand the voting population had begun to appear in the 2000s, and political figures liaised with the government to provide universal suffrage.

There are restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of assembly. 200,000 migrant workers cannot make complaints against their employers since they face deportation if dismissed from their jobs. A 2008 law against racial discrimination does not cover mainlanders, immigrants or migrant workers. The police have been accused of using heavy-handed tactics toward protesters in public rallies, and there is controversy regarding the extensive powers of the police. Covert surveillance is another major concern.

Hong Kong has a higher age-of-consent and harsher punishments for illegal homosexual acts.

Internet censorship in Hong Kong operates under different principles and regulations from those of mainland China. In November 2015, the newly established Innovation and Technology Bureau pushed for the legislation of the Copyright (Amendment) Bill 2014, more popularly known as the Internet Article 23, which would severely limit the legality of derivative works and other activities previously permitted on the Internet. Supporters of the bill point to the fact that Hong Kong is lagging behind in the protection of intellectual property rights, but detractors state that creative work on the Internet should be exempt from legislation, and the ordinance would severely violate human rights.

Regions and Districts

Main articles: List of cities and towns in Hong Kong and Districts of Hong Kong
Hong Kong comprises three geographical regions, which coincided with its historical expansion by the British colonial government: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon (1860) and the New Territories and Outlying Islands (1898). The first established settlement was City of Victoria on Hong Kong Island. Its area coincided with modern-day Central and Western District (#15 in map).

Since the abolition of decentralised Urban and District Councils in 1999, Hong Kong is now a unitary territory subdivided into 18 districts. Each district is represented by a district council, who advises the government on various local agendas such as public facilities, community programmes, cultural activities and environmental policies. There are a total of 541 district council seats, 412 of which are directly elected and another 27 are ex-officio chairmen of rural committees (families of landowners in the New Territories before 1898); the remaining seats are appointed by the Chief Executive. The Home Affairs Department communicates government policies and plans to the public through the district offices.

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Hong Kong Island

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Kowloon

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New Territories

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18 Administrative Districts: 1. Islands, 2. Kwai Tsing, 3. North, 4. Sai Kung, 5. Sha Tin, 6. Tai Po, 7. Tsuen Wan, 8. Tuen Mun, 9. Yuen Long, 10. Kowloon City, 11. Kwun Tong, 12. Sham Shui Po, 13. Wong Tai Sin, 14. Yau Tsim Mong, 15. Central & Western, 16. Eastern, 17. Southern, 18. Wan Chai

Military

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PLA Hong Kong Garrison arm badge

Since July 1997, the responsibility of maintaining the military forces in Hong Kong has been transferred from the British Armed Forces to China’s PLA Hong Kong Garrison under the Liberation Army. The garrison, consisting of units from ground, naval and air forces, reports its command to the Central Military Commission.

The Basic Law of Hong Kong protects all civilians and civil affairs against any interference by the garrison. All military personnel, while stationed in Hong Kong, must remain within barrack grounds. When such personnel leave their barracks, they are subject to Hong Kong laws. The territory’s police, who are civil servants, are responsible for maintaining public order; under exceptional circumstances, however, the police force may ask the central government of China for assistance from the garrison in disaster relief.

In January 2015, the People’s Liberation Army sponsored the establishment of Hong Kong Army Cadets Association for children over 6 years old. The inauguration ceremony was held at a garrison’s naval base in Hong Kong; but most media were excluded from this event except pro-Beijing press.

Geography and Climate


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Areas of urban development and vegetation are visible in this false-colour satellite image

Hong Kong is located on China’s south coast, 60 km (37 mi) east of Macau on the opposite side of the Pearl River Delta. It is surrounded by the South China Sea on the east, south, and west, and borders the Guangdong city of Shenzhen to the north over the Sham Chun River. The territory’s 2,755 km2 (1,064 sq mi) area consists of Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, and over 200 offshore islands, of which the largest is Lantau Island. Of the total area, 1,106 km2 (427 sq mi) is land and 1,649 km2 (637 sq mi) is water. Hong Kong claims territorial waters to a distance of 3 nautical miles (5.6 km). Its land area makes Hong Kong the 167th largest inhabited territory in the world. Less than 25% of Hong Kong’s land area is built-up, while the majority is grassland, woodland, shrubland, and agricultural land.

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Higher-altitude areas of Hong Kong are often dominated by grassland: Lantau Island during the dry season

As much of Hong Kong’s terrain is hilly to mountainous with steep slopes, less than 25% of the territory’s landmass is developed, and about 40% of the remaining land area is reserved as country parks and nature reserves. Low altitude vegetation in Hong Kong is dominated by secondary rainforests, as the primary forest was mostly cleared during the Second World War, and higher altitudes are dominated by grasslands. Most of the territory’s urban development exists on Kowloon peninsula, along the northern edge of Hong Kong Island, and in scattered settlements throughout the New Territories. The highest elevation in the territory is at Tai Mo Shan, 957 metres (3,140 ft) above sea level. Hong Kong’s long and irregular coast provides it with many bays, rivers and beaches. On 18 September 2011, UNESCO listed the Hong Kong National Geopark as part of its Global Geoparks Network. Hong Kong Geopark is made up of eight Geo-Areas distributed across the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region and Northeast New Territories Sedimentary Rock Region.

Despite Hong Kong’s reputation of being intensely urbanised, the territory has tried to promote a green environment, and recent growing public concern has prompted the severe restriction of further land reclamation from Victoria Harbour. Awareness of the environment is growing as Hong Kong suffers from increasing pollution compounded by its geography and tall buildings. Approximately 80% of the city’s smog originates from other parts of the Pearl River Delta.

Though it is situated 128 km (80 miles) south of the Tropic of Cancer, Hong Kong has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cwa). Summer is hot and humid with occasional showers and thunderstorms, and warm air coming from the southwest. Typhoons most often occur in summer. They sometimes result in flooding or landslides. Winters are mild and usually start sunny, becoming cloudier towards February; the occasional cold front brings strong, cooling winds from the north. The most temperate seasons are spring, which can be changeable, and autumn, which is generally sunny and dry. Snowfall is extremely rare, and usually occurs in areas of high elevation. Hong Kong averages 1,948 hours of sunshine per year, while the highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures at the Hong Kong Observatory are 36.6 °C (97.9 °F) on 22 August 2017 and 0.0 °C (32.0 °F) on 18 January 1893, respectively. The highest and lowest ever recorded temperatures across all of Hong Kong, on the other hand, are 42.1 °C (108 °F) at Waglan Island in June 1991 and −6.0 °C (21.2 °F) at Tai Mo Shan on 24 January 2016, respectively.

Climate data for Hong Kong

Economy


Financial Centre

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The Two International Finance Centre in Central, an integrated commercial development in Central

Hong Kong at evening

As one of the world’s leading international financial centres, Hong Kong has a major capitalist service economy characterised by low taxation and free trade. From the second half of the 19th century and continuing into the first half of the 20th century, Hong Kong operated as a key command centre for the allocation of Asian capital in its broadest form. Hong Kong stature as an International Financial centre (IFC), gradually developed from the 1950s to become a key component of the island’s economy. It is an important centre for international finance and trade, with one of the greatest concentrations of corporate headquarters in the Asia-Pacific region. The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is the seventh largest in the world and has a market capitalisation of US$3.2 trillion as of December 2016. In 2009, Hong Kong raised 22 percent of worldwide initial public offering (IPO) capital, making it the largest centre of IPOs in the world and the easiest place to raise capital. In the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Hong Kong was ranked as having the fourth most competitive financial center in the world (alongside cities such as London, New York City, Tokyo, San Francisco, Chicago, Sydney, Boston, and Toronto in the top 10), and second most competitive in Asia after Singapore.

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The currency, Hong Kong dollar, is the thirteenth most traded currency in the world as of 2016, it has been pegged to the US dollar since 1983. Hong Kong was once described by Milton Friedman as the world’s greatest experiment in laissez-faire capitalism, but has since instituted a regime of regulations including a minimum wage. It maintains a highly developed capitalist economy, ranked the freest in the world by the Index of Economic Freedom every year since 1995. It is known as one of the Four Asian Tigers for its high growth rates and rapid development from the 1960s to the 1990s. Between 1961 and 1997 Hong Kong’s gross domestic product grew 180 times while per-capita GDP increased 87 times over. In 2008, the territory was named as a Nylonkong global metropolis and financial centre.

International Trading

Hong Kong is the world’s eleventh largest trading entity, with the total value of imports and exports exceeding its gross domestic product. It is the world’s largest re-export centre. Much of Hong Kong’s exports consist of re-exports, which are products made outside of the territory, especially in mainland China, and distributed via Hong Kong. Its physical location has allowed the city to establish a transportation and logistics infrastructure that includes the world’s second busiest container port and the world’s busiest airport for international cargo. Even before the transfer of sovereignty, Hong Kong had established extensive trade and investment ties with the mainland, which now enable it to serve as a point of entry for investment flowing into the mainland. At the end of 2007, there were 3.46 million people employed full-time, with the unemployment rate averaging 4.1% for the fourth straight year of decline. Hong Kong’s economy is dominated by the service sector, which accounts for over 90% of its GDP, while industry constitutes 9%. Inflation was at 2.5% in 2007. Hong Kong’s largest export markets are mainland China, the United States, and Japan.

The territory has little arable land and few natural resources, so it imports most of its food and raw materials. Imports account for more than 90% of Hong Kong’s food supply, including nearly all of the meat and rice available there. Agricultural activity—relatively unimportant to Hong Kong’s economy and contributing just 0.1% of its GDP—primarily consists of growing premium food and flower varieties.

Tourism and Expatriation

In 2014, Hong Kong was the eleventh most popular destination for international tourists among countries and territories worldwide, with a total of 27.8 million visitors contributing a total of US$38,376 million in international tourism receipts. Hong Kong is also the most popular city for tourists, nearly two times of its nearest competitor Macau.

As of 2010 Hong Kong is the eighth most expensive city for expatriates, falling from fifth position in the previous year. Hong Kong is ranked fourth in terms of the highest percentage of millionaire households, behind Switzerland, Qatar, and Singapore with 8.5 percent of all households owning at least one million US dollars. Hong Kong is also ranked second in the world by the most billionaires per capita (one per 132,075 people), behind Monaco. In 2011, Hong Kong was ranked second in the Ease of Doing Business Index, behind Singapore. Hong Kong is also ranked No. 1 in the world in the Crony Capitalism Index by The Economist.

Policy

The Hong Kong Government has traditionally played a mostly passive role in the economy, with little by way of industrial policy and almost no import or export controls. Market forces and the private sector were allowed to determine practical development. Under the official policy of “positive non-interventionism”, Hong Kong is often cited as an example of laissez-faire capitalism. Following the Second World War, Hong Kong industrialised rapidly as a manufacturing centre driven by exports, and then underwent a rapid transition to a service-based economy in the 1980s. Since then, it has grown to become a leading centre for management, financial, IT, business consultation and professional services.

Hong Kong financial centre matured in the 1990s, but was greatly affected by the Asian financial crisis in 1998, and again in 2003 by the SARS outbreak. A revival of external and domestic demand has led to a strong recovery, as cost decreases strengthened the competitiveness of Hong Kong exports and a long deflationary period ended. Government intervention, initiated by the later colonial governments and continued since 1997, has steadily increased, with the introduction of export credit guarantees, a compulsory pension scheme, a minimum wage, anti-discrimination laws, and a state mortgage backer.

Infrastructure

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The Mass Transit Railway has more than 150 stations in its network

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CityBus Alexander Dennis Enviro 400 10.5m—a double-decker in Hong Kong heading to Stanley

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Hong Kong – Kowloon Star Ferry

Hong Kong top tourist attractions printable map

Hong Kong – Bus Tours Map

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Hong Kong’s transportation network is highly developed. Over 90% of daily travels (11 million) are on public transport, the highest such percentage in the world. Payment can be made using the Octopus card, a stored value system introduced by the MTR (Mass Transit Railway), which is widely accepted on railways, buses and ferries, and accepted like cash at other outlets.

The city’s main railway company (KCRC) was merged with MTR in 2007, creating a comprehensive rail network for the whole territory (also called MTR). The MTR rapid transit system has 152 stations which serve 3.4 million people a day. Hong Kong Tramways, which has served the territory since 1904, covers the northern parts of Hong Kong Island.

Hong Kong’s bus service is franchised and run by private operators. Five privately owned companies provide franchised bus service across the territory, together operating more than 700 routes as of 2014. The largest are Kowloon Motor Bus, providing 402 routes in Kowloon and New Territories, and Citybus, operating 154 routes on Hong Kong Island; both run cross-harbour services. Double-decker buses were introduced to Hong Kong in 1949, and are now almost exclusively used; single-decker buses remain in use for routes with lower demand or roads with lower load capacity. Public light buses serve most parts of Hong Kong, particularly areas where standard bus lines cannot reach or do not reach as frequently, quickly, or directly.

The Star Ferry service, founded in 1888, operates two lines across Victoria Harbour and provides scenic views of Hong Kong’s skyline for its 53,000 daily passengers. It acquired iconic status following its use as a setting on The World of Suzie Wong. Travel writer Ryan Levitt considered the main Tsim Sha Tsui to Central route one of the most picturesque in the world. Other ferry services are provided by operators serving outlying islands, new towns, Macau, and cities in mainland China. Hong Kong is famous for its junks traversing the harbour, and small kai-to ferries that serve remote coastal settlements. The Port of Hong Kong is a busy deepwater port, specialising in container shipping.

Hong Kong Island’s steep, hilly terrain was initially served by sedan chairs. The Peak Tram, the first public transport system in Hong Kong, has provided vertical rail transport between Central and Victoria Peak since 1888. In Central and Western district, there is an extensive system of escalators and moving pavements, including the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, the Mid-Levels escalator.

Hong Kong International Airport is a leading air passenger gateway and logistics hub in Asia and one of the world’s busiest airports in terms of international passenger and cargo movement, serving more than 47 million passengers and handling 3.74 million tonnes (4.12 million tons) of cargo in 2007. It replaced the overcrowded Kai Tak Airport in Kowloon in 1998, and has been rated as the world’s best airport in a number of surveys. Over 85 airlines operate at the two-terminal airport and it is the primary hub of Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Air Hong Kong, Hong Kong Airlines, and Hong Kong Express.

Providing an adequate water supply for Hong Kong has always been difficult because the region has few natural lakes and rivers, inadequate groundwater sources (inaccessible in most cases due to the hard granite bedrock found in most areas in the territory), a high population density, and extreme seasonable variations in rainfall. Thus about 70 percent of water demand is met by importing water from the Dongjiang River in neighbouring Guangdong province. In addition, freshwater demand is curtailed by the use of seawater for toilet flushing, using a separate distribution system.

Demographics


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St. John’s Cathedral, Anglican cathedral in Hong Kong, the oldest church building in Hong Kong

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The Big Buddha, on Lantau Island, Hong Kong

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The Wong Tai Sin Temple

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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Catholic cathedral in Hong Kong

The territory’s population in mid-2015 was 7.3 million, with an average annual growth rate of 0.8% over the previous five years. The current population of Hong Kong comprises 91% ethnic Chinese. 3 million British nationals form nearly half of the territory’s inhabitants. A major part of Hong Kong’s Cantonese-speaking majority originated from the neighbouring Guangdong province, from where many fled during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War, and the communist rule in China.

Residents of the Mainland do not automatically receive the Right of Abode, and many may not enter the territory freely. Like other non-natives, they may apply for the Right of Abode after seven years of continuous residency. Some of the rights may also be acquired by marriage (e.g., the right to work), but these do not include the right to vote or stand for office. However, the influx of immigrants from mainland China, approximating 45,000 per year, is a significant contributor to its population growth – a daily quota of 150 Mainland Chinese with family ties in Hong Kong are granted a “one way permit”. Life expectancy in Hong Kong is 81.2 years for males and 86.9 years for females as of 2014, making it the highest life expectancy in the world.

About 91% of the people of Hong Kong are of Chinese descent, the majority of whom are Taishanese, Chiu Chow, other Cantonese people, and Hakka. Hong Kong’s Han majority originate mainly from the Guangzhou and Taishan regions in Guangdong province. The remaining 6.9% of the population is composed of non-ethnic Chinese. There is a South Asian population of Indians and Pakistanis; some Vietnamese refugees have become permanent residents of Hong Kong. There are also Britons, Americans, Canadians, Japanese, and Koreans working in the city’s commercial and financial sector.[note 5] In 2011, 133,377 foreign domestic helpers from Indonesia and 132,935 from the Philippines were working in Hong Kong.

Languages

Hong Kong’s de facto official language is Cantonese, a variety of Chinese originating from Guangdong province to the north of Hong Kong. According to the 2016 by-census, Cantonese is spoken by 94.6% of the Hong Kong population; 88.9 percent as a first language and 5.7% as a second language. English is also an official language, and according to the 2016 by-census is spoken by 53.2% of the population; 4.3 percent as a first language and 48.9 percent as a second language. Signs displaying both Chinese and English are common throughout the territory. Since the 1997 Handover, an increase in immigrants from mainland China and greater interaction with the mainland’s economy have brought an increasing number of Mandarin speakers to Hong Kong. According to the 2016 by-census, Mandarin is spoken by 48.6% of the population; 1.9 percent as a first language and 46.7 percent as a second language.

Religion

Hong Kong is a multi-faith society. A majority of residents of Hong Kong have no religious affiliation, professing a form of agnosticism or atheism. According to the United States Department of State 43 percent of the population practises some form of religion. According to a Gallup poll, 64% of Hong Kong residents do not believe in any religion.

In Hong Kong teaching evolution won out in curriculum dispute about whether to teach other explanations, and that creationism and intelligent design will form no part of the senior secondary biology curriculum.

Hong Kong enjoys a high degree of religious freedom, guaranteed by the Basic Law. Hong Kong’s main religions are Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism; a local religious scholar in contact with major denominations estimates there are approximately 1.5 million Buddhists and Taoists.A Christian community of around 833,000 forms about 11.7% of the total population; Protestants outnumber Roman Catholics by a ratio of 4:3, and smaller Christian communities also exist, including the Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Anglican and Roman Catholic churches each freely appoint their own bishops, unlike in mainland China. There are also Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Bahá’í communities. The practice of Falun Gong is tolerated.

Personal Income

Statistically Hong Kong’s income gap is the largest in Asia Pacific. According to a report by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme in 2008, Hong Kong’s Gini coefficient, at 0.53, was the highest in Asia and “relatively high by international standards”. However, the government has stressed that income disparity does not equate to worsening of the poverty situation, and that the Gini coefficient is not strictly comparable between regions. The government has named economic restructuring, changes in household sizes, and the increase of high-income jobs as factors that have skewed the Gini coefficient.

Education

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University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s education system used to roughly follow the system in England,although international systems exist. The government maintains a policy of “mother tongue instruction” (Chinese: 母語教學) in which the medium of instruction is Cantonese, with written Chinese and English, while some of the schools (international schools) are using English as the teaching language. In secondary schools, “biliterate and trilingual” (Chinese: 兩文三語) proficiency is emphasised, and Mandarin-language education has been increasing. The Programme for International Student Assessment ranked Hong Kong’s education system as the second best in the world.

Hong Kong’s public schools are operated by the Education Bureau. The system features a non-compulsory three-year kindergarten, followed by a compulsory six-year primary education, a compulsory three-year junior secondary education, a non-compulsory two-year senior secondary education leading to the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examinations and a two-year matriculation course leading to the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examinations. The New Senior Secondary academic structure and curriculum was implemented in September 2009, which provides for all students to receive three years of compulsory junior and three years of compulsory senior secondary education. Under the new curriculum, there is only one public examination, namely the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.

Most comprehensive schools in Hong Kong fall under three categories: the rarer public schools; the more common subsidised schools, including government aids-and-grant schools; and private schools, often run by Christian organisations and having admissions based on academic merit rather than on financial resources. Outside this system are the schools under the Direct Subsidy Scheme and private international schools.

There are eight public and one private universities in Hong Kong, the oldest being the University of Hong Kong (HKU), established in 1910–1912. The Chinese University of Hong Kong was founded in 1963 to fulfill the need for a university with a medium of instruction of Chinese. Competition among students to receive an offer for an undergraduate programme is fierce as the annual number of intakes is limited, especially when some disciplines are offered by select tertiary institutions, like medicine which is provided by merely two medical schools in the territory, the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong and the Faculty of Medicine of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. In addition to the public post-secondary institutions there are also a number of private higher institutions which offer higher diplomas and associate degree courses for those who fail to enter a college for a degree study so as to boost their qualification of education, some of whom can have a second chance of getting into a university if they have a good performance in these sub-degree courses.

Health

There are 13 private hospitals and more than 40 public hospitals in Hong Kong. There is little interaction between public and private healthcare. The hospitals offer a wide range of healthcare services, and some of the territory’s private hospitals are considered to be world class. According to UN estimates, Hong Kong has one of the longest life expectancies of any country or territory in the world. As of 2012, Hong Kong women are the longest living demographic group in the world.

There are two medical schools in the territory, one based at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the other at the University of Hong Kong. Both have links with public sector hospitals. With respect to postgraduate education, traditionally many doctors in Hong Kong have looked overseas for further training, and many took British Royal College exams such as the MRCP(UK) and the MRCS(UK). However, Hong Kong has been developing its own postgraduate medical institutions, in particular the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, and this is gradually taking over the responsibility for all postgraduate medical training in the territory.

Since 2011, there have been growing concerns that mothers-to-be from mainland China, in a bid to obtain the right of abode in Hong Kong and the benefits that come with it, have saturated the neonatal wards of the city’s hospitals both public and private. This has led to protest from local pregnant women for the government to remedy the issue, as they have found difficulty in securing a bed space for giving birth and routine check-ups. Other concerns in the decade of 2001–2010 relate to the workload medical staff experience; and medical errors and mishaps, which are frequently highlighted in local news.

Culture



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Ocean Park Hong Kong, a marine mammal park, oceanarium, animal theme park and amusement park in Hong Kong

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A statue of Bruce Lee on the Avenue of Stars, a tribute to the city’s martial arts

Hong Kong is frequently described as a place where “East meets West”, reflecting the culture’s mix of the territory’s Chinese (mainly Cantonese) roots with Western (mainly British) influences from its time as a British colony. Concepts like feng shui are taken very seriously, with expensive construction projects often hiring expert consultants, and are often believed to make or break a business. Other objects like Ba gua mirrors are still regularly used to deflect evil spirits, and buildings often lack any floor number that has a 4 in it, due to its similarity to the word for “die” in Cantonese. The fusion of east and west also characterises Hong Kong’s cuisine, where dim sum, hot pot, and fast food restaurants coexist with haute cuisine.

Hong Kong is a recognized global centre of trade and calls itself an “entertainment hub”. Its martial arts film genre gained a high level of popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s. Several Hollywood performers, notable actors and martial artists have originated from Hong Kong cinema, notably Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Jet Li. A number of Hong Kong film-makers have achieved widespread fame in Hollywood, such as John Woo, Wong Kar-wai, and Stephen Chow. Homegrown films such as Chungking Express, Infernal Affairs, Shaolin Soccer, Rumble in the Bronx, In the Mood for Love and Echoes of the Rainbow have gained international recognition. Hong Kong is the centre for Cantopop music, which draws its influence from other forms of Chinese music and Western genres, and has a multinational fanbase.

The Hong Kong government supports cultural institutions such as the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. The government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department subsidises and sponsors international performers brought to Hong Kong. Many international cultural activities are organised by the government, consulates, and privately.

Hong Kong had two licensed terrestrial broadcasters – ATV and TVB, the former of which has now been defunct. There are three local and a number of foreign suppliers of cable and satellite services. The production of Hong Kong’s soap dramas, comedy series, and variety shows reach audiences throughout the Cantonese-speaking population. Magazine and newspaper publishers in Hong Kong distribute and print in both Chinese and English, with a focus on sensationalism and celebrity gossip. The media in Hong Kong is relatively free from official interference compared to Mainland China, although the Far Eastern Economic Review pointed to signs of self-censorship by media whose owners have close ties to or business interests in the People’s Republic of China and states that even Western media outlets are not immune to growing Chinese economic power.

Hong Kong offers wide recreational and competitive sport opportunities despite its limited land area. It sends delegates to international competitions such as the Olympic Games and Asian Games, and played host to the equestrian events during the 2008 Summer Olympics. There are major multipurpose venues like Hong Kong Coliseum and MacPherson Stadium. Hong Kong’s steep terrain and extensive trail network with expansive views attracts hikers, and its rugged coastline provides many beaches for swimming.

Sports

The Hong Kong Sevens is considered the premier tournament on the IRB Sevens World Series rugby sevens competition and is held annually in Hong Kong on a weekend in late March

Sports in Hong Kong are a significant part of its culture. Due mainly to British influence going as far back as the late 19th century, Hong Kong had an earlier introduction to Western athletics compared to other Asia regions. Football, cricket, basketball, swimming, badminton, table tennis, cycling and running have the most participants and spectators. In 2009, Hong Kong successfully organised the V East Asian Games. Other major international sporting events including the Equestrian at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Hong Kong Sevens, Hong Kong Marathon, AFC Asian Cup, EAFF East Asian Cup, Hong Kong Tennis Classic, Premier League Asia Trophy, and Lunar New Year Cup are also held in the territory. As of 2010, there were 32 Hong Kong athletes from seven sports ranking in world’s Top 20, 29 athletes in six sports in Asia top 10 ranking. Moreover, Hong Kong athletes with disabilities are equally impressive in their performance as of 2009, having won four world championships and two Asian Championships.

Architecture

According to Emporis, there are 1,223 skyscrapers in Hong Kong, which puts the city at the top of world rankings. It has more buildings taller than 500 feet (150 m) than any other city. The high density and tall skyline of Hong Kong’s urban area is due to a lack of available sprawl space, with the average distance from the harbour front to the steep hills of Hong Kong Island at 1.3 km (0.81 mi), much of it reclaimed land. This lack of space causes demand for dense, high-rise offices and housing. Thirty-six of the world’s 100 tallest residential buildings are in Hong Kong. More people in Hong Kong live or work above the 14th floor than anywhere else on Earth, making it the world’s most vertical city.

As a result of the lack of space and demand for construction, few older buildings remain, and the city is becoming a centre for modern architecture. The International Commerce Centre (ICC), at 484 m (1,588 ft) high, is the tallest building in Hong Kong and the third tallest in the world, by height to roof measurement. The tallest building prior to the ICC is Two International Finance Centre, at 415 m (1,362 ft) high. Other recognisable skyline features include the HSBC Headquarters Building, the triangular-topped Central Plaza with its pyramid-shaped spire, The Center with its night-time multi-coloured neon light show; A Symphony of Lights and I. M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower with its sharp, angular façade. According to the Emporis website, the city skyline has the biggest visual impact of all world cities. Also, Hong Kong’s skyline is often regarded to be the best in the world, with the surrounding mountains and Victoria Harbour complementing the skyscrapers. Most of the oldest remaining historic structures, including the Tsim Sha Tsui Clock Tower, the Central Police Station, and the remains of Kowloon Walled City were constructed during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

There are many development plans in place, including the construction of new government buildings, waterfront redevelopment in Central, and a series of projects in West Kowloon. More high-rise development is set to take place on the other side of Victoria Harbour in Kowloon, as the 1998 closure of the nearby Kai Tak Airport lifted strict height restrictions. The Urban Renewal Authority is highly active in demolishing older areas, including the razing and redevelopment of Kwun Tong town centre, an approach which has been criticised for its impact on the cultural identity of the city and on lower-income residents.

Cityscape

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City view of Kowloon, Hong Kong Island and the Hong Kong Skyline

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A panoramic view of the Hong Kong Island skyline at night, taken from Tsim Sha Tsui

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View from the highest mountain of Kowloon overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hongkong Island

Symbols

The flag of Hong Kong was announced in 1990 and is red with a white Hong Kong orchid tree flower. It was first officially hoisted on 1 July 1997 in the sovereignty handover ceremony. China’s March of the Volunteers is the national anthem.

List of Heads of Hong Kong by Education


Below is the list of leaders of Hong Kong by university education. There has been a total of 60 heads, as administrators, governors, and now chief executives. 52 of them ruled under the United Kingdom, four for the Empire of Japan, and five so far for the People’s Republic of China.

By education, at least 31 were graduates whilst an additional 15 undertook military training without attending university. Among the university graduates,at least 12 studied at the University of Oxford (five at Balliol College), eight at the University of Cambridge, three at Trinity College, Dublin, two at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, one each at the Universities of Yale, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Michigan, Hong Kong, Bath, Adelaide, Hong Kong Polytechnic, University College Cork, Queen’s University of Ireland, University of the West of England, Toronto, Groningen, Tasmania, and Harvard.

At least six attended a military college, including three who went to the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Five were trained as lawyers, including two at Lincoln’s Inn.

On 26 March 2017, Carrie Lam was elected chief executive. She is the first to have read for a degree at the University of Hong Kong (second, after Lord Wilson, to have attended) and the eighth to have studied at the University of Cambridge.

List of Leaders of the Hong Kong by Education


List of leaders of the Hong Kong by education

Universities and Institutions by Number of Hong Kong Leaders


Universities and Institutions by Number of Hong Kong Leaders

Hong Kong Panorama


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Panorama.8-Hong_Kong_Night_Skyline

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Beijing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Beijing : 北京市

Municipality: Beijing Municipality

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Clockwise from top: Beijing CBD skyline, Tiananmen, Temple of Heaven, National Center for the Performing Arts, and Beijing National Stadium

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Location of Beijing Municipality within China
Coordinates: 39°55′N 116°23′E

  • Country: People’s Republic of China
  • Established date: 1046 BC
  • Divisions
    – County-level: 16 districts
    – Township-level: 289 towns and villages
  • Government
    • Type: Municipality
    • Party: Secretary Cai Qi
    • Mayor: Chen Jining (acting)
    • Congress Chairman: Li Wei
    • Conference Chairman: Ji Lin
  • Area
    • Municipality 16,411 km2 (6,336 sq mi)
    • Land 16,801 km2 (6,487 sq mi)
    • Urban 1,368 km2 (528 sq mi)
    • Rural 15,042 km2 (5,808 sq mi)
  • Elevation: 43.5 m (142.7 ft)
  • Population: (2015)[3]
    • Municipality 21,700,000
    • Density 1,300/km2 (3,400/sq mi)
    • Urban 18,590,000
    • Metro (2010)[4] 24,900,000
    • Ranks in China Population: 27th;
  • Density: 4th
  • Major ethnic groups
    • Han 95%
    • Manchu 2%
    • Hui 2%
    • Mongol 0.3%
    • Other 0.7%
  • Time zone: CST (UTC+8)
  • Postal code: 100000–102629
  • Area code(s) 10
  • GDP (nominal) 2016
    – Total CNY 2.49 trillion
  • USD 375 billion (13th)
    – Per capita CNY 114,742
  • USD 17,278 (2nd)
    – Growth Increase 6.7%
  • HDI (2014) 0.869 (1st)—very high
  • License plate prefixes:
    • 京A, C, E, F, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, Q
    • 京B (taxis)
    • 京G, Y (outside urban area)
    • 京O, D (police and authorities)
  • Abbreviation: BJ / 京 (jīng)
  • City trees: Chinese arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis)
  • Pagoda tree: (Sophora japonica)
  • City flowers:
    • China rose (Rosa chinensis)
    • Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)

Beijing NAME

Beijing, (/beɪˈdʒɪŋ/) formerly romanized as Peking, is the capital of the People’s Republic of China and the world’s second most populous city proper and most populous capital city. The city, located in northern China, is governed as a direct-controlled municipality under the national government with 16 urban, suburban, and rural districts. Beijing Municipality is surrounded by Hebei Province with the exception of neighbouring Tianjin Municipality to the southeast; together the three divisions form the Jingjinji metropolitan region and the national capital region of China.

As a city combining both modern and traditional architecture, Beijing is an ever-changing megacity rich in history but also truly modern, exemplified in its global influence in politics, business & economy, education, history, culture, language, music, sporting, architecture, civilization, fashion, art, entertainment, innovation, and technology. Beijing is the second largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai and is the nation’s political, cultural, and educational center. It is home to the headquarters of most of China’s largest state-owned companies and is a major hub for the national highway, expressway, railway, and high-speed rail networks. The Beijing Capital International Airport has been the second busiest in the world by passenger traffic since 2010, and, as of 2016, the city’s subway network is the busiest and second longest in the world, after Shanghai’s subway system.

The city’s history dates back three millennia. As the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Beijing has been the political center of the country for much of the past eight centuries. With mountains surrounding the inland city on three sides, in addition to the old inner and outer city walls, Beijing was strategically poised and developed to be the residence of the emperor and thus was the perfect location for the imperial capital. Beijing was the largest city in the world by population for much of the second millennium A.D. The city is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, parks, gardens, tombs, walls and gates. Its art treasures and universities have made it center of culture and art in China. Encyclopædia Britannica notes that “few cities in the world have served for so long as the political headquarters and cultural centre of an area as immense as China.” Beijing has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian, as well as parts of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal, all popular locations for tourism. Siheyuans, the city’s traditional housing style, and hutongs, the narrow alleys between siheyuans, are major tourist attractions and are common in urban Beijing. The city hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, making it the first city to ever host both Winter and Summer Olympics.

Many of Beijing’s 91 universities consistently rank among the best in China, of which Peking University and Tsinghua University are ranked in the top 60 universities of the world. In 2015, 52 companies of the Fortune Global 500 company headquarters were located in Beijing, more than any other city in the world, including state-owned enterprises State Grid, China National Petroleum, and Sinopec Group, ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, respectively. Beijing CBD is quickly becoming the center for Beijing’s economic expansion, rapid modernization, and radically changing skyline, with the ongoing or recently completed construction of multiple skyscrapers. Beijing’s Zhongguancun area is also known as China’s Silicon Valley and China’s center of innovation and technology entrepreneurship. According to the 2016 InterNations Expat Insider Survey, Beijing ranked first in Asia in the subcategory “Personal Finance Index,” a measure of expats’ salaries versus cost of living in the city. Expats live primarily in urban districts such as Dongcheng and Chaoyang in the east, or in suburban districts such as Shunyi.

Contents

1 Etymology
2 History
2.1 Early history
2.2 Early Imperial China
2.3 Ming dynasty
2.4 Qing dynasty
2.5 Republic of China
2.6 People’s Republic of China
3 Geography
3.1 Climate
3.2 Environmental problems
4 Politics and government
4.1 Administrative divisions
4.2 Judiciary and procuracy
4.3 Diplomatic missions
5 Economy
5.1 Sector composition
5.2 Economic zones
6 Demographics
7 Culture
7.1 Places of interest
7.2 Architecture
7.3 Religion
8 Media
8.1 Television and radio
8.2 Press
9 Sports
9.1 Events
9.2 Venues
9.3 Clubs
10 Transportation
10.1 Rail and high-speed rail
10.2 Roads and expressways
10.3 Air
10.4 Public transit
10.5 Taxi
10.6 Bicycles
11 Defense and aerospace
12 Nature and wildlife

1 | Etymology


Over the past 3,000 years, the city of Beijing has had numerous other names. The name Beijing, which means “Northern Capital” (from the Chinese characters 北 for north and 京 for capital), was applied to the city in 1403 during the Ming Dynasty to distinguish the city from Nanjing (the “Southern Capital”). 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 romanization of the same two characters as they are pronounced in Chinese dialects spoken in the southern port towns first visited by European traders and missionaries. Those dialects preserve the Middle Chinese pronunciation of 京 as kjaeng, prior to a phonetic shift in the northern dialects to the modern pronunciation. Although Peking is no longer the common name for the city, some of the city’s older locations and facilities, such as Beijing Capital International Airport, with IATA Code PEK, and Peking University, still use the former romanization.

The single Chinese character abbreviation for Beijing is 京, which appears on automobile license plates in the city. The official Latin alphabet abbreviation for Beijing is “BJ”.

2 | History


2.1 | Early History

The earliest traces of human habitation in the Beijing municipality were found in the caves of Dragon Bone Hill near the village of Zhoukoudian in Fangshan District, where Peking Man lived. Homo erectus fossils from the caves date to 230,000 to 250,000 years ago. Paleolithic Homo sapiens also lived there more recently, about 27,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found neolithic settlements throughout the municipality, including in Wangfujing, located in downtown Beijing.

The first walled city in Beijing was Ji, a city from the 11th to 7th century BC. Within modern Beijing, Ji was located around the present Guang’anmen area in the south of Xicheng District. This settlement was later conquered by the state of Yan and made its capital under the name Yanjing.

2.2 | Early Imperial China

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The Tianning Pagoda, built around 1120 during the Liao dynasty.

After the First Emperor unified China, Beijing became a prefectural capital for the region. During the Three Kingdoms period, it was held by Gongsun Zan and Yuan Shao before falling to Cao Cao’s Wei Kingdom. The AD 3rd-century Western Jin demoted the town, placing the prefectural seat in neighbouring Zhuozhou.

During the Sixteen Kingdoms period when northern China was conquered and divided by the Wu Hu, Beijing, as Jicheng, was briefly the capital of the Xianbei Former Yan Kingdom.

After China was reunified during the Sui Dynasty, Beijing, known as Zhuojun, became the northern terminus of the Grand Canal. Under the Tang Dynasty, Beijing as Fanyang, served as a military frontier command center. During the An-Shi Rebellion and again amidst the turmoil of the late Tang, local military commanders founded their own short-lived Yan Dynasties and called the city Yanjing, or the “Yan Capital.” In 938, after the fall of the Tang, the Later Jin ceded the entire northern frontier to the Khitan Liao Dynasty, which renamed the city Nanjing, or the “Southern Capital”, one of four secondary capitals to complement its “Supreme Capital”, Shangjing (modern Baarin Left Banner in Inner Mongolia). Some of the oldest surviving structures in Beijing date to the Liao period, including the Tianning Pagoda.

颐和园佛香阁

Longevity Hill in Beijing where Kublai Khan wrote his poem.

The Liao fell to the Jurchen Jin dynasty in 1122, which gave the city to the Song Dynasty and then retook it in 1125 during its conquest of northern China. In 1153, the Jurchen Jin made Beijing their “Central Capital”, called Zhongdu. The city was besieged by Genghis Khan’s invading Mongolian army in 1213 and razed to the ground two years later. Two generations later, Kublai Khan ordered the construction of Dadu (or Daidu to the Mongols, commonly known as Khanbaliq), a new capital for his Yuan dynasty to be located adjacent to the Jurchen Jin ruins. The construction took from 1264 to 1293, but greatly enhanced the status of a city on the northern fringe of China proper. The city was centered on the Drum Tower slightly to the north of modern Beijing and stretched from the present-day Chang’an Avenue to the Line 10 subway. Remnants of the Yuan rammed earth wall still stand and are known as the Tucheng.

2.3 | Ming Dynasty

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One of the corner towers of the Forbidden City.

In 1368, soon after declaring the new Hongwu era of the Ming dynasty, the rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang sent an army to Khanbaliq and conquered it. Since the Yuan continued to occupy Shangdu and Mongolia, however, a new town was established to supply the military garrisons in the area. This was called Beiping and under the Hongwu Emperor’s feudal policies it was given to Zhu Di, one of his sons, who was created “Prince of Yan”.

The early death of Zhu Yuanzhang’s heir led to a succession struggle on his death, one that ended with the victory of Zhu Di and the declaration of the new Yongle era. Since his harsh treatment of the Ming capital Yingtian (modern Nanjing) alienated many there, he established his fief as a new co-capital. The city of Beiping became Shuntian in 1403. The construction of the new imperial residence, the Forbidden City, took from 1406 to 1420; this period was also responsible for several other of the modern city’s major attractions, such as the Temple of Heaven and Tian’anmen (although the square facing it was not cleared until 1651). On 28 October 1420, the city was officially designated the capital of the Ming Dynasty in the same year that the Forbidden City was completed. Beijing became the empire’s primary capital (Jingshi) and Yingtian – or called Nanjing – became the co-capital. (A 1425 order by Zhu Di’s son, the Hongxi Emperor, to return the capital to Nanjing was never carried out: he died, probably of a heart attack, the next month. He was buried, like almost every Ming emperor to follow him, in an elaborate necropolis to Beijing’s north.)

By the 15th century, Beijing had essentially taken its current shape. The Ming city wall continued to serve until modern times, when it was pulled down and the 2nd Ring Road was built in its place. It is generally believed that Beijing was the largest city in the world for most of the 15th, 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The first known church was constructed by Catholics in 1652 at the former site of Matteo Ricci’s chapel; the modern Nantang Cathedral was later built upon the same site.

The capture of Beijing by Li Zicheng’s peasant army in 1644 ended the dynasty, but he and his Shun court abandoned the city without a fight when the Manchu army of Prince Dorgon arrived 40 days later.

2.4 | Qing Dynasty

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A Pekingese chiropodist. John Thomson. China,1869. The Wellcome Collection, London

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Chongwenmen, a gate to the inner walled city, c. 1906

Dorgon established the Qing Dynasty as a direct successor of the Ming (delegitimising Li Zicheng and his followers) and Beijing became China’s sole capital. The Qing emperors made some modifications to the Imperial residence but, in large part, the Ming buildings and the general layout remained unchanged. Facilities for Manchu worship were introduced, but the Qing also continued the traditional state rituals. Signage was bilingual or Chinese. This early Qing Beijing later formed the setting for the Chinese novel Dream of the Red Chamber.

During the Second Opium War, Anglo-French forces captured the city, looting and burning the Old Summer Palace in 1860. Under the Convention of Peking ending that war, Western powers for the first time secured the right to establish permanent diplomatic presences within the city. In 1900, the attempt by the “Boxers” to eradicate this presence, as well as Chinese Christian converts, led to Beijing’s reoccupation by foreign powers. During the fighting, several important structures were destroyed, including the Hanlin Academy and the (new) Summer Palace.

2.5 | Republic of China

The fomenters of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 sought to replace Qing rule with a republic and leaders like Sun Yat-sen originally intended to return the capital to Nanjing. After the Qing general Yuan Shikai forced the abdication of the last Qing emperor and ensured the success of the revolution, the revolutionaries accepted him as president of the new Republic of China. Yuan maintained his capital at Beijing and quickly consolidated power, declaring himself emperor in 1915. His death less than a year later left China under the control of the warlords commanding the regional armies. Following the success of the Nationalists’ Northern Expedition, the capital was formally removed to Nanjing in 1928. On 28 June the same year, Beijing’s name was returned to Beiping (written at the time as “Peiping”).

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Beiping fell to Japan on 29 July 1937 and was made the seat of the Provisional Government of the Republic of China, a puppet state that ruled the ethnic-Chinese portions of Japanese-occupied northern China. This government was later merged into the larger Wang Jingwei government based in Nanjing.

2.6 | People’s Republic of China

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Mao Zedong proclaiming the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949

In the final phases of the Chinese Civil War, the People’s Liberation Army seized control of the city peacefully on 31 January 1949 in the course of the Pingjin Campaign. On 1 October that year, Mao Zedong announced the creation of the People’s Republic of China from atop Tian’anmen. He restored the name of the city, as the new capital, to Beijing, a decision that had been reached by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference just a few days earlier.

In the 1950s, the city began to expand beyond the old walled city and its surrounding neighborhoods, with heavy industries in the west and residential neighborhoods in the north. Many areas of the Beijing city wall were torn down in the 1960s to make way for the construction of the Beijing Subway and the 2nd Ring Road.

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A scene from the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

During the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, the Red Guard movement began in Beijing and the city’s government fell victim to one of the first purges. By the fall of 1966, all city schools were shut down and over a million Red Guards from across the country gathered in Beijing for eight rallies in Tian’anmen Square with Mao. In April 1976, a large public gathering of Beijing residents against the Gang of Four and the Cultural Revolution in Tiananmen Square was forcefully suppressed. In October 1976, the Gang was arrested in Zhongnanhai and the Cultural Revolution came to an end. In December 1978, the Third Plenum of the 11th Party Congress in Beijing under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping reversed the verdicts against victims of the Cultural Revolution and instituted the “policy of reform and opening up.”

Since the early 1980s, the urban area of Beijing has expanded greatly with the completion of the 2nd Ring Road in 1981 and the subsequent addition of the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Ring Roads. According to one 2005 newspaper report, the size of newly developed Beijing was one-and-a-half times larger than before. Wangfujing and Xidan have developed into flourishing shopping districts, while Zhongguancun has become a major center of electronics in China. In recent years, the expansion of Beijing has also brought to the forefront some problems of urbanization, such as heavy traffic, poor air quality, the loss of historic neighborhoods, and a significant influx of migrant workers from less-developed rural areas of the country. Beijing has also been the location of many significant events in recent Chinese history, principally the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The city has also hosted major international events, including the 2008 Summer Olympics and the 2015 World Championships in Athletics.

3 | Geography


Large_Beijing_Landsat

Landsat 7 Satellite image of Beijing Municipality with the surrounding mountains in dark brown

Beijing is situated at the northern tip of the roughly triangular North China Plain, which opens to the south and east of the city. Mountains to the north, northwest and west shield the city and northern China’s agricultural heartland from the encroaching desert steppes. The northwestern part of the municipality, especially Yanqing County and Huairou District, are dominated by the Jundu Mountains, while the western part is framed by Xishan or the Western Hills. The Great Wall of China across the northern part of Beijing Municipality was built on the rugged topography to defend against nomadic incursions from the steppes. Mount Dongling, in the Western Hills and on the border with Hebei, is the municipality’s highest point, with an altitude of 2,303 metres (7,556 ft).

GreatWall6

Remnants of the Great Wall of China in the mountains north of the city.

Major rivers flowing through the municipality, including the Chaobai, Yongding, Juma, are all tributaries in the Hai River system, and flow in a southeasterly direction. The Miyun Reservoir, on the upper reaches of the Chaobai River, is the largest reservoir within the municipality. Beijing is also the northern terminus of the Grand Canal to Hangzhou, which was built over 1,400 years ago as a transportation route, and the South–North Water Transfer Project, constructed in the past decade to bring water from the Yangtze River basin.

The urban area of Beijing, on the plains in the south-central of the municipality with elevation of 40 to 60 metres (130–200 feet), occupies a relatively small but expanding portion of the municipality’s area. The city spreads out in concentric ring roads. The Second Ring Road traces the old city walls and the Sixth Ring Road connects satellite towns in the surrounding suburbs. Tian’anmen and Tian’anmen Square are at the center of Beijing, directly to the south of the Forbidden City, the former residence of the emperors of China. To the west of Tian’anmen is Zhongnanhai, the residence of China’s current leaders. Chang’an Avenue, which cuts between Tiananmen and the Square, forms the city’s main east-west axis.

3.1 | Climate

Beijing has a monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dwa), characterized by higher humidity in the summers due to the East Asian monsoon, and colder, windier, drier winters that reflect the influence of the vast Siberian anticyclone. Spring can bear witness to sandstorms blowing in from the Gobi Desert across the Mongolian steppe, accompanied by rapidly warming, but generally dry, conditions. Autumn, like Spring, is a season of transition and minimal precipitation. The monthly daily average temperature in January is −3.7 °C (25.3 °F), while in July it is 26.2 °C (79.2 °F). Precipitation averages around 570 mm (22 in) annually, with close to three-fourths of that total falling from June to August. With monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 47% in July to 65% in January and February, the city receives 2,671 hours of bright sunshine annually. Extremes since 1951 have ranged from −27.4 °C (−17.3 °F) on 22 February 1966 to 41.9 °C (107.4 °F) on 24 July 1999 (unofficial record of 42.6 °C (108.7 °F) was set on 15 June 1942).

Climate data for Beijing (normals 1971–2000, extremes 1951–present)

Climate data for Beijing

3.2 | Environmental Problems

Beijing has a long history of environmental problems. Between 2000 and 2009 Beijing’s urban extent quadrupled, which not only strongly increased the extent of anthropogenic emissions, but also changed the meteorological situation fundamentally, even if emissions of human society are not included. For example, surface albedo, wind speed and humidity near the surface were decreased, whereas ground and near-surface air temperatures, vertical air dilution and ozone levels were increased. Because of the combined factors of urbanization and pollution caused by burning of fossil fuel, Beijing is often affected by serious environmental problems, which lead to health issues of many inhabitants. In 2013 heavy smog struck Beijing and most parts of northern China, in total 600 million people. After this “pollution shock” air pollution became an important economic and social concern in China. After that the government of Beijing announced measures to reduce air pollution, for example by lowering the share of coal from 24% in 2012 to 10% in 2017, while the national government ordered heavily polluting vehicles to be removed from 2015 to 2017 and increased its efforts to transition the energy system to clean sources.

Air Quality

Joint research between American and Chinese researchers in 2006 concluded that much of the city’s pollution comes from surrounding cities and provinces. On average 35–60% of the ozone can be traced to sources outside the city. Shandong Province and Tianjin Municipality have a “significant influence on Beijing’s air quality”, partly due to the prevailing south/southeasterly flow during the summer and the mountains to the north and northwest.

Beijing_smog_comparison_August_2005

Heavy air pollution has resulted in widespread smog. These photographs, taken in August 2005, show the variations in Beijing’s air quality.

In preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics and to fulfill promises to clean up the city’s air, nearly 17 billion USD was spent. Beijing implemented a number of air improvement schemes for the duration of the Games, including halting work at all construction sites, closing many factories in Beijing permanently, temporarily shutting industry in neighbouring regions, closing some gas stations, and cutting motor traffic by half by limiting drivers to odd or even days (based on their license plate numbers), reducing bus and subway fares, opening new subway lines, and banning high-emission vehicles. The city further assembled 3,800 natural gas-powered buses, one of the largest fleets in the world. Beijing became the first city in China to require the Chinese equivalent to the Euro 4 emission standard.

Coal burning accounts for about 40% of the PM 2.5 in Beijing and is also the chief source of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide. Since 2012, the city has been converting coal-fired power stations to burn natural gas and aims to cap annual coal consumption at 20 million tons. In 2011, the city burned 26.3 million tons of coal, 73% of which for heating and power generation and the remainder for industry. Much of the city’s air pollutants are emitted by neighbouring regions. Coal consumption in neighbouring Tianjin is expected to increase from 48 to 63 million tons from 2011 to 2015. Hebei Province burned over 300 million tons of coal in 2011, more than all of Germany, of which only 30% were used for power generation and a considerable portion for steel and cement making. Power plants in the coal-mining regions of Shanxi, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi, where coal consumption has tripled since 2000, and Shandong also contribute to air pollution in Beijing. Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei and Inner Mongolia, respectively rank from first to fourth, among Chinese provinces by coal consumption. There were four major coal-fired power plants in the city to provide electricity as well as heating during the winter. The first one (Gaojing Thermal Power Plant) was shut down in 2014. Another two were shut in March 2015. The last one (Huaneng Thermal Power Plant) would be shut in 2016. Between 2013 and 2017, the city planned to reduce 13 million tons of coal consumption and cap coal consumption to 15 million tons in 2015.

The government sometimes uses cloud-seeding measures to increase the likelihood of rain showers in the region to clear the air prior to large events, such as prior to the 60th anniversary parade in 2009 as well as to combat drought conditions in the area. More recently, however, the government has increased its usage of such measures as closing factories temporarily and implementing greater restrictions for cars on the road, as in the case of “APEC blue” and “parade blue,” short periods during and immediately preceding the APEC China 2014 and the 2015 China Victory Day Parade, respectively. During and prior to these events, Beijing’s air quality improved dramatically, only to fall back to unhealthy levels shortly after.

Beijing air quality is often poor, especially in winter. In mid-January 2013, Beijing’s air quality was measured on top of the city’s US embassy at a PM2.5 density of 755 micrograms per cubic meter, which went off the US Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality index. It was widely reported, originally through a Twitter account, that the category was “crazy bad”. This was later changed to “beyond index”.
On 8 and 9 December 2015 Beijing had its first smog alert which shut down a majority of the industry and other commercial businesses in the city. Later in the month another smog “red alert” was issued.

According to Beijing’s environmental protection bureau’s announcement in November 2016, starting from 2017 highly polluting old cars wil be banned from being driven whenever Smog “red alerts” are issued in the city or neighboring regions.

Readings

Due to Beijing’s high-level of air pollution, there are various readings by different sources on the subject. Daily pollution readings at 27 monitoring stations around the city are reported on the website of the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau (BJEPB). The American Embassy of Beijing also reports hourly fine particulate (PM2.5) and ozone levels on Twitter. Since the BJEPB and US Embassy measure different pollutants according to different criteria, the pollution levels and the impact to human health reported by the BJEPB are often lower than that reported by the US Embassy.

Air pollution in Beijing in 2016, measured by Air Quality Index

2016_Air_pollution_in_Beijing-vert

Dust from the erosion of deserts in northern and northwestern China results in seasonal dust storms that plague the city; the Beijing Weather Modification Office sometimes artificially induces rainfall to fight such storms and mitigate their effects. In the first four months of 2006 alone, there were no fewer than eight such storms. In April 2002, one dust storm alone dumped nearly 50,000 tons of dust onto the city before moving on to Japan and Korea.

4 | Politics and Government


Municipal government is regulated by the local Communist Party of China (CPC), led by the Beijing CPC Secretary (Chinese: 北京市委书记). The local CPC issues administrative orders, collects taxes, manages the economy, and directs a standing committee of the Municipal People’s Congress in making policy decisions and overseeing the local government.

Government officials include the mayor (Chinese: 市长) and vice-mayor. Numerous bureaus focus on law, public security, and other affairs. Additionally, as the capital of China, Beijing houses all of the important national governmental and political institutions, including the National People’s Congress.

4.1 | Administrative Divisions

Beijing Municipality currently comprises 16 administrative county-level subdivisions including 16 urban, suburban, and rural districts. On 1 July 2010, Chongwen and Xuanwu were merged into Dongcheng and Xicheng, respectively. On 13 November 2015 Miyun and Yanqing were upgraded to districts.

Administrative Divisions of Beijing

Administrative divisions of Beijing 1-vert

Divisions in Chinese and varieties of romanizations

Divisions in Chinese and varieties of romanizations

  1. Jump up ^ Including “area” (地区).
  2. Jump up ^ Including other township related subdivisions.

1280px-Beijing_Shichahai_view

Shichahai, in the Xicheng District, is traditionally considered one of Beijing’s most beautiful and charming scenic areas.

Towns

Beijing’s 16 county-level divisions (districts) are further subdivided into 273 lower third-level administrative units at the township level: 119 towns, 24 townships, 5 ethnic townships and 125 subdistricts. Towns within Beijing Municipality but outside the urban area include (but are not limited to):

  • Changping 昌平
  • Huairou 怀柔
  • Miyun 密云
  • Liangxiang 良乡
  • Liulimiao 琉璃庙
  • Tongzhou 通州
  • Yizhuang 亦庄
  • Tiantongyuan 天通苑
  • Beiyuan 北苑
  • Xiaotangshan 小汤山

Several place names in Beijing end with mén (门), meaning “gate”, as they were the locations of gates in the former Beijing city wall. Other place names end in cūn (村), meaning “village”, as they were originally villages outside the city wall.

Neighborhoods

768px-Niujie_Mosque_-_CIMG3671

The Niujie Mosque is an important historical attraction

Neighborhoods may extend across multiple districts. Major neighborhoods in urban Beijing include:

  • Qianmen 前门
  • Tian’anmen 天安门
  • Di’anmen 地安门
  • Chongwenmen 崇文门
  • Xuanwumen 宣武门
  • Fuchengmen 阜成门
  • Xizhimen 西直门
  • Deshengmen 德胜门
  • Andingmen 安定门
  • Sanlitun 三里屯
  • Dongzhimen 东直门
  • Chaoyangmen 朝阳门
  • Yongdingmen 永定门
  • Zuo’anmen 左安门
  • You’anmen 右安门
  • Guangqumen 广渠门
  • Guang’anmen 广安门
  • Huashi 花市
  • Xibianmen 西便门
  • Hepingmen 和平门
  • Fuxingmen 复兴门
  • Jianguomen 建国门
  • Gongzhufen 公主坟
  • Fangzhuang 方庄
  • Guomao 国贸
  • Hepingli 和平里
  • Ping’anli 平安里
  • Beixinqiao 北新桥
  • Jiaodaokou 交道口
  • Kuanjie 宽街
  • Wangjing 望京
  • Wangfujing 王府井
  • Dengshikou 灯市口
  • Wudaokou 五道口
  • Xidan 西单
  • Dongdan 东单
  • Zhongguancun 中关村
  • Panjiayuan 潘家园
  • Beijing CBD 北京商务中心区
  • Yayuncun 亚运村
  • Shifoying 石佛营

4.2| Judiciary and procuracy

The judicial system in Beijing consists of the Supreme People’s Court, the highest court in the country, the Beijing Municipal High People’s Court, the high people’s court of the municipality, three intermediate people’s courts, one intermediate railway transport court, 14 basic people’s court (one for each of the municipality’s districts and counties), and one basic railway transport court. The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in Shijingshan oversees the basic courts of Haidian, Shijingshan, Mentougou, Changping and Yanqing. The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People’s Court in Fengtai oversees the basic courts of Dongcheng, Xicheng, Fengtai, Fangshan and Daxing. The Beijing No. 3 Intermediate People’s Court in Laiguangying, is the newest of the three intermediate people’s courts and opened on 21 August 2013. It oversees the district courts of Chaoyang, Tongzhou, Shunyi, Huairou, Pinggu and Miyun. Each court in Beijing has a corresponding people’s procuratorate.

4.3 | Diplomatic Missions

About 163 countries have embassies in Beijing, which are concentrated in Jianguomenwai, Sanlitun and Liangmaqiao in Chaoyang District.

5 | Economy


1280px-Wangfujing_street,_Beijing

Wangfujing Street is one of the oldest and busiest shopping streets in Beijing with nearly 100,000 visitors daily (August 2008). The sale of consumer goods both retail and wholesale accounted for about ⅛ of Beijing’s economic output in 2013.

Beijing’s economy ranks among the most developed and prosperous in China. In 2013, the municipality’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP) was CN¥1.95 trillion (US$314 billion), about 3.43% of the country’s total output, and ranked 13th among province-level administrative units. Per capita GDP, at CN¥93,213 (US$15,051) in nominal terms and Int$21,948 at purchasing power parity, was 2.2 times the national average and ranked second among province-level administrative units. The economy tripled in size from 2004 to 2012, and grew at an annual rate of 7.7% in 2013.

Due to the concentration of state owned enterprises in the national capital, Beijing in 2013 had more Fortune Global 500 Company headquarters than any other city in the world.

5.1 | Sector Composition

1280px-Sanlitun_at_dusk

The Taikoo Li Sanlitun shopping arcade is a popular destination among locals and visitors

The city has a post-industrial economy that is dominated by the tertiary sector (services), which generated 76.9% of output, followed by the secondary sector (manufacturing, construction) at 22.2% and the primary sector (agriculture, mining) at 0.8%.

The services sector is broadly diversified with professional services, wholesale and retail, information technology, commercial real estate, scientific research, and residential real estate each contributing at least 6% to the city’s economy in 2013.

The single largest sub-sector remains industry, whose share of overall output has shrunk to 18.1% in 2013. The mix of industrial output has changed significantly since 2010 when the city announced that 140 highly-polluting, energy and water resource intensive enterprises would be relocated from the city in five years. The relocation of Capital Steel to neighbouring Hebei province had begun in 2005. In 2013, output of automobiles, aerospace products, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals, and food processing all increased.

In the farmland around Beijing, vegetables and fruits have displaced grain as the primary crops under cultivation. In 2013, the tonnage of vegetable, edible fungus and fruit harvested was over three times that of grain. In 2013, overall acreage under cultivation shrank along with most categories of produce as more land was reforested for environmental reasons.

5.2 | Economic Zones

Beijing_CBD_2008-8-23

Beijing CBD

 

Central_Beijing4

Zhongguancun is a technology hub in Haidian District

In 2006, the city government identified six high-end economic output zones around Beijing as the primary engines for local economic growth. In 2012, the six zones produced 43.3% of the city’s GDP, up from 36.5% in 2007. The six zones are:

  1. Zhongguancun, China’s silicon village in Haidian District northwest of the city, is home to both established and start-up tech companies. As of the second quarter of 2014, of the 9,895 companies registered in one of the six zones, 6,150 were based in Zhongguancun.
  2. Beijing Financial Street, in Xicheng District on the west side of the city between Fuxingmen and Fuchengmen, is lined with headquarters of large state banks and insurance companies. The country’s financial regulatory agencies including the central bank, bank regulator, securities regulator, and foreign exchange authority are located in the neighborhood.
  3. Beijing Central Business District (CBD), is actually located to the east of downtown, near the embassies along the eastern Third Ring Road between Jianguomenwai and Chaoyangmenwai. The CBD is home to most of the city’s skyscraper office buildings. Most of the city’s foreign companies and professional service firms are based in the CBD.
  4. Beijing Economic and Technological Development Area, better known as Yizhuang, is an industrial park the straddles the southern Fifth Ring Road in Daxing District. It has attracted pharmaceutical, information technology, and materials engineering companies.
  5. Beijing Airport Economic Zone was created in 1993 and surrounds the Beijing Capital International Airport in Shunyi District northwest of the city. In addition to logistics, airline services, and trading firms, this zone is also home to Beijing’s automobile assembly plants.
  6. Beijing Olympic Center Zone surrounds the Olympic Green due north of downtown and is developing into an entertainment, sports, tourism and business convention center.

Shijingshan, on the western outskirts of the city, is a traditional heavy industrial base for steel-making. Chemical plants are concentrated in the far eastern suburbs.

Less legitimate enterprises also exist. Urban Beijing is known for being a center of infringed goods; anything from the latest designer clothing to DVDs can be found in markets all over the city, often marketed to expatriates and international visitors.

6 | Demographics


Historical population

Historical population

Population size may be affected by changes on administrative divisions.

In 2013, Beijing had a total population of 21.148 million within the municipality, of which 18.251 million resided in urban districts or suburban townships and 2.897 million lived in rural villages. Within China, the city ranked second in urban population after Shanghai and the third in municipal population after Shanghai and Chongqing. Beijing also ranks among the most populous cities in the world, a distinction the city has held for much of the past 800 years, especially during the 15th to early 19th centuries when it was the largest city in the world.

About 13 million of the city’s residents in 2013 had local hukou permits, which entitles them to permanent residence in Beijing. The remaining 8 million residents had hukou permits elsewhere and were not eligible to receive some social benefits provided by the Beijing municipal government.

The population increased in 2013 by 455,000 or about 7% from the previous year and continued a decade-long trend of rapid growth. The total population in 2004 was 14.213 million. The population gains are driven largely by migration. The population’s rate of natural increase in 2013 was a mere 0.441%, based on a birth rate of 8.93 and a mortality rate of 4.52. The gender balance was 51.6% males and 48.4% females.

Working age people account for nearly 80% of the population. Compared to 2004, residents age 0–14 as a proportion of the population dropped from 9.96% to 9.5% in 2013 and residents over the age of 65 declined from 11.12% to 9.2%.

According to the 2010 census, nearly 96% of Beijing’s population are ethnic Han Chinese. Of the 800,000 ethnic minorities living in the capital, Manchu (336,000), Hui (249,000), Korean (77,000), Mongol (37,000) and Tujia (24,000) constitute the five largest groups. In addition, there were 8,045 Hong Kong residents, 500 Macau residents, and 7,772 Taiwan residents along with 91,128 registered foreigners living in Beijing. A study by the Beijing Academy of Sciences estimates that in 2010 there were on average 200,000 foreigners living in Beijing on any given day including students, business travellers and tourists are not counted as registered residents.

From 2000 to 2010, the percentage of city residents with at least some college education nearly doubled from 16.8% to 31.5%. About 22.2% have some high school education and 31% had reached middle school.

7 | Culture


Ancient_Beijing_observatory_14

The Old Beijing Observatory

BeijingOperaProduction

A scene from a Peking opera

Cloisonneqing

A Chinese cloisonné dish from the Qing dynasty

People native to urban Beijing speak the Beijing dialect, which belongs to the Mandarin subdivision of spoken Chinese. This speech is the basis for putonghua, the standard spoken language used in mainland China and Taiwan, and one of the four official languages of Singapore. Rural areas of Beijing Municipality have their own dialects akin to those of Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing Municipality.

Beijing or Peking opera (京剧, Jīngjù) is a traditional form of Chinese theater well known throughout the nation. Commonly lauded as one of the highest achievements of Chinese culture, Beijing opera is performed through a combination of song, spoken dialogue, and codified action sequences involving gestures, movement, fighting and acrobatics. Much of Beijing opera is carried out in an archaic stage dialect quite different from Modern Standard Chinese and from the modern Beijing dialect.

Beijing cuisine is the local style of cooking. Peking Roast Duck is perhaps the best known dish. Fuling Jiabing, a traditional Beijing snack food, is a pancake (bing) resembling a flat disk with a filling made from fu ling, a fungus used in traditional Chinese medicine. Teahouses are common in Beijing.

The cloisonné (or Jingtailan, literally “Blue of Jingtai”) metalworking technique and tradition is a Beijing art speciality, and is one of the most revered traditional crafts in China. Cloisonné making requires elaborate and complicated processes which include base-hammering, copper-strip inlay, soldering, enamel-filling, enamel-firing, surface polishing and gilding. Beijing’s lacquerware is also well known for its sophisticated and intrinsic patterns and images carved into its surface, and the various decoration techniques of lacquer include “carved lacquer” and “engraved gold”.

Younger residents of Beijing have become more attracted to the nightlife, which has flourished in recent decades, breaking prior cultural traditions that had practically restricted it to the upper class. Today, Houhai, Sanlitun and Wudaokou are Beijing’s nightlife hotspots.

7.1 | Places of interest

…the city remains an epicenter of tradition with the treasures of nearly 2,000 years as the imperial capital still on view—in the famed Forbidden City and in the city’s lush pavilions and gardens…
— National Geographic

Qianmen_Street_1

Qianmen Avenue, a traditional commercial street in Beijing

At the historical heart of Beijing lies the Forbidden City, the enormous palace compound that was the home of the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties; the Forbidden City hosts the Palace Museum, which contains imperial collections of Chinese art. Surrounding the Forbidden City are several former imperial gardens, parks and scenic areas, notably Beihai, Shichahai, Zhongnanhai, Jingshan and Zhongshan. These places, particularly Beihai Park, are described as masterpieces of Chinese gardening art, and are popular tourist destinations with tremendous historical importance; in the modern era, Zhongnanhai has also been the political heart of various Chinese governments and regimes and is now the headquarters of the Communist Party of China and the State Council. From Tiananmen Square, right across from the Forbidden City, there are several notable sites, such as the Tiananmen, Qianmen, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, the Monument to the People’s Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The Summer Palace and the Old Summer Palace both lie at the western part of the city; the former, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains a comprehensive collection of imperial gardens and palaces that served as the summer retreats for the Qing imperial family.

Peking, Himmelstempel

Beijing’s Temple of Heaven as photographed in the early 20th century

Among the best known religious sites in the city is the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan), located in southeastern Beijing, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties made visits for annual ceremonies of prayers to Heaven for good harvest. In the north of the city is the Temple of Earth (Ditan), while the Temple of the Sun (Ritan) and the Temple of the Moon (Yuetan) lie in the eastern and western urban areas respectively. Other well-known temple sites include the Dongyue Temple, Tanzhe Temple, Miaoying Temple, White Cloud Temple, Yonghe Temple, Fayuan Temple, Wanshou Temple and Big Bell Temple. The city also has its own Confucius Temple, and a Guozijian or Imperial Academy. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, built in 1605, is the oldest Catholic church in Beijing. The Niujie Mosque is the oldest mosque in Beijing, with a history stretching back over a thousand years.

Hall_of_Supreme_Harmony,_Forbidden_City,_Beijing,_with_tourists_2

Inside the Forbidden City

Beijing contains several well-preserved pagodas and stone pagodas, such as the towering Pagoda of Tianning Temple, which was built during the Liao Dynasty from 1100 to 1120, and the Pagoda of Cishou Temple, which was built in 1576 during the Ming Dynasty. Historically noteworthy stone bridges include the 12th-century Lugou Bridge, the 17th-century Baliqiao bridge, and the 18th-century Jade Belt Bridge. The Beijing Ancient Observatory displays pre-telescopic spheres dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan) is a popular scenic public park that consists of natural landscaped areas as well as traditional and cultural relics. The Beijing Botanical Garden exhibits over 6,000 species of plants, including a variety of trees, bushes and flowers, and an extensive peony garden. The Taoranting, Longtan, Chaoyang, Haidian, Milu Yuan and Zizhu Yuan parks are some of the notable recreational parks in the city. The Beijing Zoo is a center of zoological research that also contains rare animals from various continents, including the Chinese giant panda.

There are 144 museums and galleries (as of June 2008) in the city. In addition to the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City and the National Museum of China, other major museums include the National Art Museum of China, the Capital Museum, the Beijing Art Museum, the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution, the Geological Museum of China, the Beijing Museum of Natural History and the Paleozoological Museum of China.

Located at the outskirts of urban Beijing, but within its municipality are the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, the lavish and elaborate burial sites of thirteen Ming emperors, which have been designated as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The archaeological Peking Man site at Zhoukoudian is another World Heritage Site within the municipality, containing a wealth of discoveries, among them one of the first specimens of Homo erectus and an assemblage of bones of the gigantic hyena Pachycrocuta brevirostris. There are several sections of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Great Wall of China, most notably Badaling, Jinshanling, Simatai and Mutianyu.

7.2 | Architecture

View_of_Beijing

City Skyline

Three styles of architecture are predominant in urban Beijing. First, there is the traditional architecture of imperial China, perhaps best exemplified by the massive Tian’anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace), which remains the People’s Republic of China’s trademark edifice, the Forbidden City, the Imperial Ancestral Temple and the Temple of Heaven. Next, there is what is sometimes referred to as the “Sino-Sov” style, with structures tending to be boxy and sometimes poorly constructed, which were built between the 1950s and the 1970s. Finally, there are much more modern architectural forms, most noticeably in the area of the Beijing CBD in east Beijing such as the new CCTV Headquarters, in addition to buildings in other locations around the city such as the Beijing National Stadium and National Center for the Performing Arts.

Since 2007, buildings in Beijing have received the CTBUH Skyscraper Award for best overall tall building twice, for the Linked Hybrid building in 2009 and the CCTV Headquarters in 2013. The CTBUH Skyscraper award for best tall overall building is given to only one building around the world every year.

In the early 21st century, Beijing has witnessed tremendous growth of new building constructions, exhibiting various modern styles from international designers, most pronounced in the CBD region. A mixture of both 1950s design and neofuturistic style of architecture can be seen at the 798 Art Zone, which mixes the old with the new. Beijing’s current completed tallest building is the 330-meter China World Trade Center Tower III, but will be surpassed by the 528-meter China Zun in 2018 when it is completed. Both buildings are in the Beijing CBD.

Beijing is famous for its siheyuans, a type of residence where a common courtyard is shared by the surrounding buildings. Among the more grand examples are the Prince Gong Mansion and Residence of Soong Ching-ling. These courtyards are usually connected by alleys called hutongs. The hutongs are generally straight and run east to west so that doorways face north and south for good Feng Shui. They vary in width; some are so narrow only a few pedestrians can pass through at a time. Once ubiquitous in Beijing, siheyuans and hutongs are rapidly disappearing, as entire city blocks of hutongs are replaced by high-rise buildings. Residents of the hutongs are entitled to live in the new buildings in apartments of at least the same size as their former residences. Many complain, however, that the traditional sense of community and street life of the hutongs cannot be replaced, and these properties are often government owned.

7.3 | Religion

Religion

Gubeikou_Taoist_Temple_(20150215103242)

A Temple of the Goddess in Gubeikou.

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Fire God Temple in Di’anmen.

The religious heritage of Beijing is rich and diverse as Chinese folk religion, Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam and Christianity all have significant historical presence in the city. As the national capital, the city also hosts the State Administration for Religious Affairs and various state-sponsored institutions of the leading religions. In recent decades, foreign residents have brought other religions to the city. According to Wang Zhiyun of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2010 there were 2.2 million Buddhists in the city, equal to 11.2% of the total population. According to the Chinese General Social Survey of 2009, Christians constitute 0.78% of the city’s population. According to a 2010 survey, Muslims constitute 1.76% of the population of Beijing.

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Rear hall of the Capital City God Temple of Beijing.

Chinese Folk Religion and Taoism

Beijing has many temples dedicated to folk religious and communal deities, many of which are being reconstructed or refurbished in the 2000s and 2010s. Yearly sacrifices to the God of Heaven (祭天 jìtiān) at the Temple of Heaven have been resumed by Confucian groups in the 2010s.

There are temples dedicated to the worship of the Goddess (娘娘 Niángniáng) in the city, one of them near the Olympic Village, and they revolve around a major cult center at Mount Miaofeng. There are also many temples consecrated to the Dragon God (龙神 Lóngshén), to the Medicine Master (药王 Yàowáng), to Divus Guan (关帝 Guāndì), to the Fire God (火神 Huǒshén), to the Wealth God (财神 Cáishén), temples of the City God (城隍神 Chénghuángshén), and at least one temple consecrated to the Yellow Deity of the Chariot Shaft (轩辕黄帝 Xuānyuán Huángdì) in Pinggu District. Many of these temples are governed by the Beijing Taoist Association, such as the Fire God Temple of the Shicha Lake, while many others are not and are governed by popular committees and locals. A great Temple of Xuanyuan Huangdi will be built in Pinggu (possibly as an expansion of the already existing shrine) within 2020, and the temple will feature a statue of the deity which will be amongst the tallest in the world.
The national Chinese Taoist Association and Chinese Taoist College have their headquarters at the White Cloud Temple of Quanzhen Taoism, which was founded in 741 and rebuilt numerous times. The Beijing Dongyue Temple outside Chaoyangmen is the largest temple of Zhengyi Taoism in the city. The local Beijing Taoist Association has its headquarters at the Lüzu Temple near Fuxingmen.

Buddhism

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Beijing’s Tianning Temple, in Xicheng District.

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Altar of Tsongkhapa of the Hall of the Wheel of the Law of the Yonghe Temple of Tibetan Buddhism.

11% of the population of Beijing practices Buddhism. The Buddhist Association of China, the state’s supervisory organ overseeing all Buddhist institutions in mainland China, is headquartered in the Guangji Temple, a temple founded over 800 years ago during the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in what is now Fuchengmennei. The Beijing Buddhist Association along with the Buddhist Choir and Orchestra are based in the Guanghua Temple, which dates to the Yuan Dynasty over 700 years ago. The Buddhist Academy of China and its library are housed in the Fayuan Temple near Caishikou. The Fayuan Temple, which dates to the Tang Dynasty 1300 years ago, is the oldest temple in urban Beijing. The Tongjiao Temple inside Dongzhimen is the city’s only Buddhist nunnery.

The West Yellow Temple originally dates to the Liao Dynasty. In 1651, the temple was commissioned by the Qing Emperor Shunzhi to host the visit of the Fifth Dalai Lama to Beijing. Since then, this temple has hosted the 13th Dalai Lama as well as the Sixth, Ninth and Tenth Panchen Lamas. The largest Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Beijing is the Yonghe Temple, which was decreed by the Qing Emperor Qianlong in 1744 to serve as the residence and research facility for his Buddhist preceptor of Rölpé Dorjé the third Changkya (or living Buddha of Inner Mongolia). The Yonghe Temple is so-named because it was the childhood residence of the Yongzheng Emperor, and retains the glazed tiles reserved for imperial palaces.

The Lingguang Temple of Badachu in the Western Hills also dates to the Tang Dynasty. The temple’s Zhaoxian Pagoda was first built in 1071 during the Liao Dynasty to hold a tooth relic of the Buddha. The pagoda was destroyed during the Boxer Rebellion and the tooth was discovered from its foundation. A new pagoda was built in 1964. The six aforementioned temples: Guangji, Guanghua, Tongjiao, West Yellow, Yonghe and Lingguang have been designated National Key Buddhist Temples in Han Chinese Area.
In addition, other notable temples in Beijing include the Tanzhe Temple (founded in the Jin dynasty (265–420) is the oldest in the municipality), Tianning Temple (oldest pagoda in the city), Miaoying Temple (famed for Yuan-era white dagoba), the Wanshou Temple (home to the Beijing Art Museum) and Big Bell Temple.

v t e | Buddhist temples in Beijing

Badachu . Bailin Temple . Big Bell Temple . Changchun Temple . Cheng’en Temple . Dahui Temple . Dajue Temple . Fahai Temple . Fayuan Temple . Guanghua Temple . Guangji Temple . Hongluo Temple . Jietai Temple . Miaoying Temple . Tanzhe Temple . Temple of Azure Clouds.  Tianning Temple . Wanshou Temple . Wofo Temple . Xifeng Temple . Yonghe Temple . Yunju Temple . Zhenjue Temple . Zhihua Temple

Islam

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The headquarters of the Islamic Association of China near Niujie in Xicheng District.

Beijing has about 70 mosques recognized by the Islamic Association of China, whose headquarters are located next to the Niujie Mosque, the oldest and most famous mosque in the city. The Niujie Mosque was founded in 996 during the Liao Dynasty and is frequently visited by Muslim dignitaries. Other notable mosques in the old city include the Dongsi Mosque, founded in 1346; the Huashi Mosque, founded in 1415; Nan Douya Mosque, near Chaoyangmen; Jinshifang Street Mosque, in Xicheng District; and the Dongzhimen Mosque. There are large mosques in outlying Muslim communities in Haidian, Madian, Tongzhou, Changping, Changying, Shijingshan and Miyun. The China Islamic Institute is located in the Niujie neighborhood in Xicheng District.

Christianity

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Church of the Saviour, also known as the Xishiku Church, founded in 1703.

Catholicism

In 1289, John of Montecorvino came to Beijing as a Franciscan missionary with the order from the Pope. After meeting and receiving the support of Kublai Khan in 1293, he built the first Catholic church in Beijing in 1305. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), based in Houhai is the government oversight body for Catholics in mainland China. Notable Catholic churches in Beijing include:

the Nantang or Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception also known as the Xuanwumen Church, which was founded in 1605 and whose current Archbishop Joseph Li Shan is one of the few bishops in China to have the support of both the Vatican and the CPCA.

the Dongtang or St. Joseph’s Church, better known as the Wangfujing Church, founded in 1653.

the Beitang or Church of the Saviour, also known as the Xishiku Church, founded in 1703.

the Xitang or Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel also known as the Xizhimen Church, founded in 1723.

The National Seminary of Catholic Church in China is located in Daxing District.

Protestantism

The earliest Protestant churches in Beijing were founded by British and American missionaries in the second half of the 19th century. Protestant missionaries also opened schools, universities and hospitals which have become important civic institutions. Most of Beijing’s Protestant churches were destroyed during the Boxer Rebellion and rebuilt. In 1958, the 64 Protestant churches in the city were reorganized into four and overseen by the state through the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

Eastern Orthodox

There were a significant amount of Orthodox Christian in Beijing. Orthodox has come to Beijing along with Russian prisoners from Albazino conflicts in the 17th century. In 1956, Viktor, the bishop of Beijing returned to the Soviet Union, and the Soviet embassy took over the old cathedral and demolished it. In 2007, Russian embassy has rebuilt a new church in its garden to serve the Russian Orthodox Christian in Beijing.

8 | Media


8.1 | Television and radio

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The China Central Television Headquarters building

Beijing Television broadcasts on channels 1 through 10, and China Central Television, China’s largest television network, maintains its headquarters in Beijing. Three radio stations feature programmes in English: Hit FM on FM 88.7, Easy FM by China Radio International on FM 91.5, and the newly launched Radio 774 on AM 774. Beijing Radio Stations is the family of radio stations serving the city.

8.2 | Press

The well-known Beijing Evening News (Beijing Wanbao, 北京晚报), covering news about Beijing in Chinese, is distributed every afternoon. Other newspapers include Beijing Daily, The Beijing News (Xin Jing Bao, 新京报), the Beijing Star Daily, the Beijing Morning News, and the Beijing Youth Daily (Beijing Qingnian Bao), as well as English-language weeklies Beijing Weekend and Beijing Today. The People’s Daily, Global Times and the China Daily (English) are published in Beijing as well.

Publications primarily aimed at international visitors and the expatriate community include the English-language periodicals Time Out Beijing, City Weekend, Beijing This Month, Beijing Talk, That’s Beijing, and The Beijinger.

9 | Sports


9.1 | Events

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Fireworks above Olympic venues during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Games

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Tai chi (Taijiquan) practitioners at the Fragrant Hills Park

Beijing has hosted numerous international and national sporting events, the most notable was the 2008 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Other multi-sport international events held in Beijing include the 2001 Universiade and the 1990 Asian Games. Single-sport international competitions include the Beijing Marathon (annually since 1981), China Open of Tennis (1993–97, annually since 2004), ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Cup of China (2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010), WPBSA China Open for Snooker (annually since 2005), Union Cycliste Internationale Tour of Beijing (since 2011), 1961 World Table Tennis Championships, 1987 IBF Badminton World Championships, the 2004 AFC Asian Cup (football), and 2009 Barclays Asia Trophy (football). Beijing hosted the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.

Beijing’s LeSports Center will be one of the main venues for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The city hosted the second Chinese National Games in 1914 and the first four National Games of China in 1959, 1965, 1975, 1979, respectively, and co-hosted the 1993 National Games with Sichuan and Qingdao. Beijing also hosted the inaugural National Peasants’ Games in 1988 and the sixth National Minority Games in 1999.

In November 2013, Beijing made a bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. On 31 July 2015, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to the city.

9.2 | Venues

Major sporting venues in the city include the National Stadium, also known as the “Birds’ Nest”, National Aquatics Center, also known as the “Water Cube”, National Indoor Stadium, all in the Olympic Green to the north of downtown; the MasterCard Center at Wukesong west of downtown; the Workers’ Stadium and Workers’ Arena in Sanlitun just east of downtown and the Capital Arena in Baishiqiao, northeast of downtown. In addition, many universities in the city have their own sport facilities.

9.3 | Clubs

Professional sports teams based in Beijing include:

  • China Baseball League
    • Beijing Tigers
  • Chinese Basketball Association
    • Beijing Ducks
    • Beikong Fly Dragons
  • Women’s Chinese Basketball Association
    • Beijing Shougang
  • Chinese Super League
    • Beijing Guoan
  • Kontinental Hockey League
    • HC Kunlun Red Star
  • China League One
    • Beijing Renhe
    • Beijing BG
  • China League Two
    • Beijing BIT
  • Chinese Women’s National League
    • Beijing BG

The Beijing Olympians of the American Basketball Association, formerly a Chinese

Basketball Association team, kept their name and maintained a roster of primarily Chinese players after moving to Maywood, California in 2005.

China Bandy Federation is based in Beijing, one of several cities in which the potential for bandy development is explored.

10 | Transportation


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Beijing Railway Station, one of several rail stations in the city

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Traffic jam in the Beijing CBD

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Terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital International Airport

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A Line 1 train on the Beijing Subway, which is among the longest and busiest rapid transit systems in the world.

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An articulated Beijing bus.

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Bicyclists during rush hour at the Chang’an Avenue.

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Typical Beijing traffic signage found at intersections.

Beijing is an important transport hub in North China with five ring roads, nine expressways, eleven National Highways, nine conventional railways, and two high-speed railways converging on the city.

10.1 | Rail and High-Speed Rail

Beijing serves as a large rail hub in China’s railway network. Ten conventional rail lines radiate from the city to: Shanghai (Jinghu Line), Guangzhou (Jingguang Line), Kowloon (Jingjiu Line), Harbin (Jingha Line), Baotou (Jingbao Line), Qinhuangdao (Jingqin Line), Chengde (Jingcheng Line), Tongliao, Inner Mongolia (Jingtong Line), Yuanping, Shanxi (Jingyuan Line) and Shacheng, Hebei (Fengsha Line). In addition, the Datong–Qinhuangdao Railway passes through the municipality to the north of the city.

Beijing also has three high-speed rail lines: the Beijing-Tianjin Intercity Railway, which opened in 2008; the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway, which opened in 2011; and the Beijing–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, which opened in 2012.

The city’s main railway stations are the Beijing Railway Station, which opened in 1959; the Beijing West Railway Station, which opened in 1996; and the Beijing South Railway Station, which was rebuilt into the city’s high-speed railway station in 2008. As of 1 July 2010, Beijing Railway Station had 173 trains arriving daily, Beijing West had 232 trains and Beijing South had 163. The Beijing North Railway Station, first built in 1909 and expanded in 2009, had 22 trains.

Smaller stations in the city including Beijing East Railway Station and Qinghuayuan Railway Station handle mainly commuter passenger traffic. The Fengtai Railway Station has been closed for renovation. In outlying suburbs and counties of Beijing, there are over 40 railway stations.

From Beijing, direct passenger train service is available to most large cities in China. International train service is available to Mongolia, Russia, Vietnam and North Korea. Passenger trains in China are numbered according to their direction in relation to Beijing.

10.2 | Roads and Expressways

Beijing is connected by road links to all parts of China as part of the National Trunk Road Network. Nine expressways of China serve Beijing, as do eleven China National Highways. Beijing’s urban transport is dependent upon the five “ring roads” that concentrically surround the city, with the Forbidden City area marked as the geographical centre for the ring roads. The ring roads appear more rectangular than ring-shaped. There is no official “1st Ring Road”. The 2nd Ring Road is located in the inner city. Ring roads tend to resemble expressways progressively as they extend outwards, with the 5th and 6th Ring Roads being full-standard national expressways, linked to other roads only by interchanges. Expressways to other regions of China are generally accessible from the 3rd Ring Road outward. A final outer orbital, the Capital Ring Expressway (G95), is being built and will extend into neighbouring Tianjin and Hebei.

Within the urban core, city streets generally follow the checkerboard pattern of the ancient capital. Many of Beijing’s boulevards and streets with “inner” and “outer” are still named in relation to gates in the city wall, though most gates no longer stand. Traffic jams are a major concern. Even outside of rush hour, several roads still remain clogged with traffic.

Beijing’s urban design layout further exacerbates transportation problems. The authorities have introduced several bus lanes, which only public buses can use during rush hour. In the beginning of 2010, Beijing had 4 million registered automobiles. By the end of 2010, the government forecast 5 million. In 2010, new car registrations in Beijing averaged 15,500 per week.

Towards the end of 2010, the city government announced a series of drastic measures to tackle traffic jams, including limiting the number of new license plates issued to passenger cars to 20,000 a month and barring cars with non-Beijing plates from entering areas within the Fifth Ring Road during rush hour. More restrictive measures are also reserved during major events or heavily polluted weather.

10.3 | Air

Beijing’s primary airport is the Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA: PEK) about 20 kilometres (12 mi) northeast of the city centre. The airport is the second busiest airport in the world after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. After renovations for the 2008 Olympics, the airport now boasts three terminals, with Terminal 3 being one of the largest in the world. Most domestic and nearly all international flights arrive at and depart from Capital Airport. It is the main hub for Air China and a hub for China Southern and Hainan Airlines. The airport links Beijing with almost every other Chinese city with regular air passenger service.

The Airport Expressway links the airport to central Beijing; it is a roughly 40-minute drive from the city centre during good traffic conditions. Prior to the 2008 Olympics, the 2nd Airport Expressway was built to the airport, as well as a light rail system, which now connects to the Beijing Subway.Other airports in the city include Liangxiang, Nanyuan, Xijiao, Shahe and Badaling. These airports are primarily for military use and are less well known to the public. Nanyuan serves as the hub for only one passenger airline. A second international airport, to be called Beijing Daxing International Airport, is currently being built in Daxing District, and is expected to be open by 2017.

As of 1 January 2013, tourists from 45 countries are permitted a 72-hour visa-free stay in Beijing. The 45 countries include Singapore, Japan, the United States, Canada, all EU and EEA countries (except Norway and Liechtenstein), Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina and Australia. The programme benefits transit and business travellers with the 72 hours calculated starting from the moment visitors receive their transit stay permits rather than the time of their plane’s arrival. Foreign visitors are not permitted to leave Beijing for other Chinese cities during the 72 hours.

10.4 | Public Transit

The Beijing Subway, which began operating in 1969, now has 19 lines, 345 stations, and 574 km (357 mi) of lines. It is the second longest subway system in the world and first in annual ridership with 3.66 billion rides delivered in 2016. In 2013, with a flat fare of ¥2.00 (0.31 USD) per ride with unlimited transfers on all lines except the Airport Express, the subway was also the most affordable rapid transit system in China. The subway is undergoing rapid expansion and is expected to reach 30 lines, 450 stations, 1,050 kilometres (650 mi) in length by 2020. When fully implemented, 95% of residents inside the Fourth Ring Road will be able to walk to a station in 15 minutes. The Beijing Suburban Railway provides commuter rail service to outlying suburbs of the municipality.

On December 28, 2014, the Beijing Subway switched to a distance-based fare system from a fixed fare for all lines except the Airport Express. Under the new system a trip under 6 km will cost ¥3.00(0.49 USD), an additional ¥1.00 will be added for the next 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) and the next 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) until the distance for the trip reaches 32 kilometres (20 miles). For every 20 kilometres (12 miles) after the original 32 kilometres (20 miles) an additional ¥1.00 is added. For example, a 50 kilometres (31 miles) trip would cost ¥ 8.00.

There are nearly 1,000 public bus and trolleybus lines in the city, including four bus rapid transit lines. Standard bus fares are as low as ¥1.00 when purchased with the Yikatong metrocard.

10.5 | Taxi

Metered taxi in Beijing start at ¥13 for the first 3 kilometres (1.9 mi), ¥2.3 Renminbi per additional 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) and ¥1 per ride fuel surcharge, not counting idling fees which are ¥2.3 (¥4.6 during rush hours of 7–9 am and 5–7 pm) per 5 minutes of standing or running at speeds lower than 12 kilometres per hour (7.5 mph) . Most taxis are Hyundai Elantras, Hyundai Sonatas, Peugeots, Citroëns and Volkswagen Jettas. After 15 kilometres (9.3 mi), the base fare increases by 50% (but is only applied to the portion over that distance). Different companies have special colours combinations painted on their vehicles. Usually registered taxis have yellowish brown as basic hue, with another color of Prussian blue, hunter green, white, umber, tyrian purple, rufous, or sea green. Between 11 pm and 5 am, there is also a 20% fee increase. Rides over 15 km (9 mi) and between 23:00 and 06:00 incur both charges, for a total increase of 80%. Tolls during trip should be covered by customers and the costs of trips beyond Beijing city limits should be negotiated with the driver. The cost of unregistered taxis is also subject to negotiation with the driver.

10.6 | Bicycles

Beijing has long been well known for the number of bicycles on its streets. Although the rise of motor traffic has created a great deal of congestion and bicycle use has declined, bicycles are still an important form of local transportation. Large numbers of cyclists can be seen on most roads in the city, and most of the main roads have dedicated bicycle lanes. Beijing is relatively flat, which makes cycling convenient. The rise of electric bicycles and electric scooters, which have similar speeds and use the same cycle lanes, may have brought about a revival in bicycle-speed two-wheeled transport. It is possible to cycle to most parts of the city. Because of the growing traffic congestion, the authorities have indicated more than once that they wish to encourage cycling, but it is not clear whether there is sufficient will to translate that into action on a significant scale. Recently, cycling has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to the emergence of a large number of dockless app based bikeshares such as Mobike, Bluegogo and Ofo.

11 | Defense and Aerospace


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Chinese President Xi Jinping and a military honor guard welcomes South Korean president Park Geun-hye in June 2013.

The command headquarters of China’s military forces are based in Beijing. The Central Military Commission, the political organ in charge of the military, is housed inside the Ministry of National Defense, located next to the Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution in western Beijing. The Second Artillery Corps, which controls the country’s strategic missile and nuclear weapons, has its command in Qinghe, Haidian District. The headquarters of the Beijing Military Region, one of seven nationally, is based further west in Gaojing. The Beijing Military Region oversees the Beijing Garrisons as well as the 27th, 38th and 65th Armies, which are based in Hebei.
Military institutions in Beijing also include academies and thinktanks such as the PLA National Defence University and Academy of Military Science, military hospitals such as the 301, 307 and the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, and army-affiliated cultural entities such as the 1 August Film Studios and the PLA Song and Dance Troupe.

The China National Space Administration, which oversees country’s space program, and several space-related state owned companies such as CASTC and CASIC are all based in Beijing. The Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center, in Haidian District tracks the country’s manned and unmanned flight and other space exploration initiatives.

12 | Nature and Wildlife


Beijing Municipality has 20 nature reserves that have a total area of 1,339.7 km2 (517.3 sq mi). The mountains to the west and north of the city are home to a number of protected wildlife species including leopard, leopard cat, wolf, red fox, wild boar, masked palm civet, raccoon dog, hog badger, Siberian weasel, Amur hedgehog, roe deer, and mandarin rat snake. The Beijing Aquatic Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center protects the Chinese giant salamander, Amur stickleback and mandarin duck on the Huaijiu and Huaisha Rivers in Huairou District. The Beijing Milu Park south of the city is home to one of the largest herds of Père David’s deer, now extinct in the wild. The Beijing barbastelle, a species of vesper bat discovered in caves of Fangshan District in 2001 and identified as a distinct species in 2007, is endemic to Beijing. The mountains of Fangshan are also habitat for the more common Beijing mouse-eared bat, large myotis, greater horseshoe bat and Rickett’s big-footed bat.

Each year, Beijing hosts 200-300 species of migratory birds including the common crane, black-headed gull, swan, mallard, common cuckoo and the endangered yellow-breasted bunting. In May 2016, Common cuckoos nesting in the wetlands of Cuihu (Haidian), Hanshiqiao (Shunyi), Yeyahu (Yanqing) were tagged and have been traced to far as India, Kenya and Mozambique. In the fall of 2016, the Beijing Forest Police undertook a month-long campaign to crack down on illegal hunting and trapping of migratory birds for sale in local bird markets. Over 1,000 rescued birds of protected species including streptopelia, Eurasian siskin, crested myna, coal tit and great tit were handed to the Beijing Wildlife Protection and Rescue Center for repatriation to the wild.

The city flowers are the Chinese rose and chrysanthemum. The city trees are the Chinese arborvitae, an evergreen in the cypress family and the Pagoda Tree, also called the Chinese scholar tree, a deciduous tree of the Fabaceae family. The oldest scholar tree in the city was planted in what is now Beihai Park during the Tang Dynasty, 1,300 years ago.

Borobudur


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaUNESCO World Heritage Site LOGO-100-100

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Candi Borobudur view from the northwest, the monument was mentioned in Karangtengah and Tri Tepusan inscription.

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Borobudur, or Barabudur, is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang, Central borobudur-general-informationJava, Indonesia. The monument consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. The temple is decorated with 2,672 reliefpanels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa. It is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, as well as one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.

Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple was designed in Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. The temple also demonstrates the influences of Gupta art that reflects India’s influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades. Borobudur has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world.

Evidence suggests Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and abandoned following the 14th-century decline of Hindukingdoms in Java and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage; once a year, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction.

Note on UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the heir of the League of Nations’ International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

UNESCO has 195 member states and nine associate members. Most of its field offices are “cluster” offices covering three or more countries; national and regional offices also exist.

Etymology

1024px-borobudur-nothwest-viewIn Indonesian, ancient temples are referred to as candi; thus locals refer to “Borobudur Temple” as Candi Borobudur. The term candi also loosely describes ancient structures, for example gates and baths. The origins of the name Borobudur, however, are unclear, although the original names of most ancient Indonesian temples are no longer known. The name Borobudur was first written in Sir Thomas Raffles’s book on Javan history. Raffles wrote about a monument called Borobudur, but there are no older documents suggesting the same name. The only old Javanese manuscript that hints the monument called Budur as a holy Buddhist sanctuary is Nagarakretagama, written by Mpu Prapanca, a Buddhist scholar of Majapahit court, in 1365.

Most candi are named after a nearby village. If it followed Javanese language conventions and was named after the nearby village of Bore, the monument should have been named “BudurBoro”. Raffles thought that Budur might correspond to the modern Javanese word Buda(“ancient”)—i.e., “ancient Boro”. He also suggested that the name might derive from boro, meaning “great” or “honourable” and Budur for Buddha. However, another archaeologist suggests the second component of the name (Budur) comes from Javanese termbhudhara (“mountain”).

Another possible etymology suggests that Borobudur is a corrupted simplified local Javanese pronunciation of Biara Beduhur written in Sanskrit as Vihara Buddha Uhr. The termBuddha-Uhr could mean “the city of Buddhas”, while another possible term Beduhur is probably an Old Javanese term, still survived today in Balinese vocabulary, which means “a high place”, constructed from the stem word dhuhur or luhur (high). This suggests that Borobudur means vihara of Buddha located on a high place or on a hill.

The construction and inauguration of a sacred Buddhist building—possibly a reference to Borobudur—was mentioned in two inscriptions, both discovered in Kedu, Temanggung Regency. The Karangtengah inscription, dated 824, mentioned a sacred building named Jinalaya (the realm of those who have conquered worldly desire and reached enlightenment), inaugurated by Pramodhawardhani, daughter of Samaratungga. The Tri Tepusan inscription, dated 842, is mentioned in the sima, the (tax-free) lands awarded by Çrī Kahulunnan (Pramodhawardhani) to ensure the funding and maintenance of a Kamūlān called Bhūmisambhāra. Kamūlān is from the word mula, which means “the place of origin”, a sacred building to honor the ancestors, probably those of the Sailendras. Casparis suggested that Bhūmi Sambhāra Bhudhāra, which in Sanskrit means “the mountain of combined virtues of the ten stages of Boddhisattvahood”, was the original name of Borobudur.

Location

The Three Temples

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Borobudur Temple is surrounded by mountains nearby

Approximately 40 kilometres (25 mi) northwest of Yogyakarta and 86 kilometres (53 mi) west of Surakarta, Borobudur is located in an elevated area between two twin volcanoes, Sundoro-Sumbing and Merbabu-Merapi, and two rivers, the Progo and the Elo. According to local myth, the area known as Kedu Plain is a Javanese “sacred” place and has been dubbed “the garden of Java” due to its highagricultural fertility. During the restoration in the early 20th century, it was discovered that three Buddhist temples in the region, Borobudur, Pawon and Mendut, are positioned along a straight line. A ritual relationship between the three temples must have existed, although the exact ritual process is unknown.

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Straight-line arrangement of Borobudur, Pawon, and Mendut

Ancient Lake

Speculation about the lake’s existence was the subject of intense discussion among archaeologists in the 20th century. In 1931, a Dutch artist and scholar of Hindu and Buddhist architecture, W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, developed a theory that the Kedu Plain was once a lake and Borobudur initially represented a lotus flower floating on the lake. It has been claimed that Borobudur was built on a bedrock hill, 265 m (869 ft) above sea level and 15 m (49 ft) above the floor of a dried-out paleolake.

Dumarçay together with Professor Thanikaimoni had taken soil samples in 1974 and again in 1977 from trial trenches that had been dug into the hill, as well as from the plain immediately to the south. These samples were later analysed by Professor Thanikaimoni, who examined their pollen and spore content in order to identify the type of vegetation that had grown in the area around the time of Borobudur’s construction. They were unable to discover any pollen or spore samples that were characteristic of any vegetation known to grow in an aquatic environment such as a lake, pond or marsh. The area surrounding Borobudur appears to have been surrounded by agricultural land and palm trees at the time of the monument’s construction, as is still the case today. Caesar Voûte and the geomorphologist Dr J.J. Nossin in 1985–86 field studies re-examined the Borobudur lake hypothesis and concluded the absence of a lake around Borobudur at the time of its construction and active use as a sanctuary. These findings A New Perspective on Some Old Questions Pertaining to Borobudur were published in the 2005 UNESCO publication titled “The Restoration of Borobudur”.

History

Construction

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A painting by G.B. Hooijer (c. 1916—1919) reconstructing the scene of Borobudur during its heyday

There is no written record of who built the Borobudur or of its intended purpose. The construction time has been estimated by comparison between carved reliefs on the temple’s hidden foot and the inscriptions commonly used in royal charters during the 8th and 9th centuries. Borobudur was likely founded around 800 CE. This corresponds to the period between 760 and 830 CE, the peak of the Sailendra dynasty rule of Mataram kingdom in central Java, when it was under the influence of the Srivijayan Empire. The construction has been estimated to have taken 75 years and was completed during the reign of Samaratungga in 825.

There is confusion between Hindu and Buddhist rulers in Java around that time. The Sailendras were known as ardent followers of Buddhism, though stone inscriptions found at Sojomerto suggest they may have been Hindus. It was during this time that many Hindu and Buddhist monuments were built on the plains and mountains around the Kedu Plain. The Buddhist monuments, including Borobudur, were erected around the same period as the Hindu Shiva Prambanan temple compound. In 732 CE, the Shivaite King Sanjaya commissioned a Shivalinga sanctuary to be built on the Wukir hill, only 10 km (6.2 mi) east of Borobudur.

Construction of Buddhist temples, including Borobudur, at that time was possible because Sanjaya’s immediate successor,Rakai Panangkaran, granted his permission to the Buddhist followers to build such temples. In fact, to show his respect, Panangkaran gave the village of Kalasan to the Buddhist community, as is written in the Kalasan Charter dated 778 CE. This has led some archaeologists to believe that there was never serious conflict concerning religion in Java as it was possible for a Hindu king to patronize the establishment of a Buddhist monument; or for a Buddhist king to act likewise. However, it is likely that there were two rival royal dynasties in Java at the time—the Buddhist Sailendra and the Saivite Sanjaya—in which the latter triumphed over their rival in the 856 battle on the Ratubaka plateau. This confusion also exists regarding the Lara Jonggrang temple at the Prambanan complex, which was believed to have been erected by the victor Rakai Pikatan as the Sanjaya dynasty’s reply to Borobudur,[28] but others suggest that there was a climate of peaceful coexistence whe