The modern day capital of China is Beijing (literally "Northern Capital"), which first served as China's capital city in 1261, when the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan established his seat of power in the area centered around what is today Beihai Park. The framework of the city as it currently exists, and in particular the maze of interlocking gates and buildings that comprise the Forbidden City, began to take shape in 1402 when Emperor Yongle relocated the Ming court in an effort to secure China's northern frontier. Remnants of old Beijing are still visible in the narrow alleys and traditional courtyards, or "hutongs", scattered throughout the area to the east of the Forbidden City.

President Clinton will be welcomed at the Great Hall of the People, which was built in 1959 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. It is the seat of government, and home to the Chinese parliament, the National People's Congress. Adjacent to the Great Hall is Tiananmen Square, an enormous (500 meters by 880 meters) area that has been the center of large-scale demonstrations against the government in 1976, when the death or Premier Zhou Enlou was mourned, in 1986, when students gathered to protest against the slow pace of reform, and in 1989, when students mourned the death of Party Secretary Hu Yaobang, protested against government corruption and called for greater political freedom.

The President will also tour the Forbidden City, which is located in the center of Beijing. The Forbidden City was originally constructed in the 15th Century by the Ming Emperor Yongle. China's emperors governed from the Forbidden City and rarely ventured outside the palace grounds. Twenty-four emperors lived in the Forbidden City over the course of over 500 years. The City is divided into three parts, the outer court, where the emperor received senior officials and conducted affairs of state, the inner court, where the emperor lived with his family, and the Imperial Garden, where the family spent most of their leisure time.

The Forbidden City is fronted by Tiananmen Gate, a symbol of ruling power in China. Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China from the tower of the gate. On national days, the tower is used as a rostrum for reviewing parades. Today, a large portrait of Mao Zedong hangs on the front of Tiananmen Gate. To the left of the portrait is the slogan "Long Live the People's Republic of China" and to the right "Long Live the Unity of the Peoples of the World."

Just outside of Beijing, the President will tour a section of the Great Wall of China, which stretches over 3,000 miles from China's border with North Korea on the Yalu River, to the foot of the Qilian and Tainshan mountains in China's westernmost region. The Great Wall began as a series of unconnected protective walls constructed by rival kingdoms in ancient China. When Qin Shihuang unified China in 221 B.C., he ordered the walls of his defeated rivals be connected. In the centuries that followed, the Great Wall has expanded, ultimately reaching the length we know today.

June 1998

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