The European Union is a political and economic union of 28 member states that are located in Europe. It has an area of an estimated population of about 513 million; the EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture and regional development. For travel within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished. A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002 and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency; the EU and European citizenship were established when the Maastricht Treaty came into force in 1993. The EU traces its origins to the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community, established by the 1951 Treaty of Paris and 1957 Treaty of Rome.
The original members of what came to be known as the European Communities were the Inner Six: Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, West Germany. The Communities and its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit; the latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009. While no member state has left the EU or its antecedent organisations, the United Kingdom signified the intention to leave after a membership referendum in June 2016 and is negotiating its withdrawal. Covering 7.3% of the world population, the EU in 2017 generated a nominal gross domestic product of 19.670 trillion US dollars, constituting 24.6% of global nominal GDP. Additionally, all 28 EU countries have a high Human Development Index, according to the United Nations Development Programme. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has developed a role in external relations and defence.
The union maintains permanent diplomatic missions throughout the world and represents itself at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G7 and the G20. Because of its global influence, the European Union has been described as an emerging superpower. During the centuries following the fall of Rome in 476, several European States viewed themselves as translatio imperii of the defunct Roman Empire: the Frankish Empire and the Holy Roman Empire were thereby attempts to resurrect Rome in the West; this political philosophy of a supra-national rule over the continent, similar to the example of the ancient Roman Empire, resulted in the early Middle Ages in the concept of a renovatio imperii, either in the forms of the Reichsidee or the religiously inspired Imperium Christianum. Medieval Christendom and the political power of the Papacy are cited as conducive to European integration and unity. In the oriental parts of the continent, the Russian Tsardom, the Empire, declared Moscow to be Third Rome and inheritor of the Eastern tradition after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
The gap between Greek East and Latin West had been widened by the political scission of the Roman Empire in the 4th century and the Great Schism of 1054. Pan-European political thought emerged during the 19th century, inspired by the liberal ideas of the French and American Revolutions after the demise of Napoléon's Empire. In the decades following the outcomes of the Congress of Vienna, ideals of European unity flourished across the continent in the writings of Wojciech Jastrzębowski, Giuseppe Mazzini or Theodore de Korwin Szymanowski; the term United States of Europe was used at that time by Victor Hugo during a speech at the International Peace Congress held in Paris in 1849: A day will come when all nations on our continent will form a European brotherhood... A day will come when we shall see... the United States of America and the United States of Europe face to face, reaching out for each other across the seas. During the interwar period, the consciousness that national markets in Europe were interdependent though confrontational, along with the observation of a larger and growing US market on the other side of the ocean, nourished the urge for the economic integration of the continent.
In 1920, advocating the creation of a European economic union, British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote that "a Free Trade Union should be established... to impose no protectionist tariffs whatever against the produce of other members of the Union." During the same decade, Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, one of the first to imagine of a modern political union of Europe, founded the Pan-Europa Movement. His ideas influenced his contemporaries, among which Prime Minister of France Aristide Briand. In 1929, the latter gave a speech in favour of a European Union before the assembly of the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations. In a radio address in March 1943, with war still raging, Britain's leader Sir Winston Churchill spoke warmly of "restoring the true greatness of Europe" once victory had been achieved, mused on the post-war creation of a "Council of Europe" which would bring the European nations together to build peace. After World War II, European integration was seen as an antidote to the extreme nationalism which had devastated the continent.
In a speech delivered on 19
Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal, with an estimated population of 505,526 within its administrative limits in an area of 100.05 km2. Its urban area extends beyond the city's administrative limits with a population of around 2.8 million people, being the 11th-most populous urban area in the European Union. About 3 million people live including the Portuguese Riviera, it is the only one along the Atlantic coast. Lisbon lies in the western Iberian Peninsula on the River Tagus; the westernmost areas of its metro area form the westernmost point of Continental Europe, known as Cabo da Roca, located in the Sintra Mountains. Lisbon is recognised as an alpha-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group because of its importance in finance, media, arts, international trade and tourism. Lisbon is the only Portuguese city besides Porto to be recognised as a global city, it is one of the major economic centres on the continent, with a growing financial sector and one of the largest container ports on Europe's Atlantic coast.
Additionally, Humberto Delgado Airport served 26.7 million passengers in 2017, being the busiest airport in Portugal, the 3rd busiest in the Iberian Peninsula and the 20th busiest in Europe, the motorway network and the high-speed rail system of Alfa Pendular links the main cities of Portugal to Lisbon. The city is the 9th-most-visited city in Southern Europe, after Rome, Barcelona, Venice, Madrid and Athens, with 3,320,300 tourists in 2017; the Lisbon region contributes with a higher GDP PPP per capita than any other region in Portugal. Its GDP amounts to thus $32,434 per capita; the city occupies the 40th place of highest gross earnings in the world. Most of the headquarters of multinational corporations in Portugal are located in the Lisbon area, it is the political centre of the country, as its seat of Government and residence of the Head of State. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, one of the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London and Rome by centuries.
Julius Caesar made it. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city and since it has been a major political and cultural centre of Portugal. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon's status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed – by statute or in written form, its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal. One claim repeated in non-academic literature is that the name of Lisbon can be traced back to Phoenician times, referring to a Phoenician term Alis-Ubo, meaning "safe harbour". Roman authors of the first century AD referred to popular legends that the city of Lisbon was founded by the mythical hero Odysseus on his journey home from Troy. Although modern archaeological excavations show a Phoenician presence at this location since 1200 BC, neither of these folk etymologies has any historical credibility.
Lisbon's origin may in fact derive from Proto-Celtic or Celtic Olisippo, Lissoppo, or a similar name which other visiting peoples like the Ancient Phoenicians and Romans adapted accordingly. The name of the settlement may be derived from the pre-Roman appellation for the Tagus River, Lisso or Lucio. Lisbon's name was written Ulyssippo in Latin by a native of Hispania, it was referred to as "Olisippo" by Pliny the Elder and by the Greeks as Olissipo or Olissipona. Lisbon's name is abbreviated to'LX' or'Lx', originating in an antiquated spelling of Lisbon as ‘’Lixbõa’’. While the old spelling has since been dropped from usage and goes against modern language standards, the abbreviation is still used. During the Neolithic period, the region was inhabited by Pre-Celtic tribes, who built religious and funerary monuments, megaliths and menhirs, which still survive in areas on the periphery of Lisbon; the Indo-European Celts invaded in the 1st millennium BC, mixing with the Pre-Indo-European population, thus giving rise to Celtic-speaking local tribes such as the Cempsi.
Although the first fortifications on Lisbon's Castelo hill are known to be no older than the 2nd century BC, recent archaeological finds have shown that Iron Age people occupied the site from the 8th to 6th centuries BC. This indigenous settlement maintained commercial relations with the Phoenicians, which would account for the recent findings of Phoenician pottery and other material objects. Archaeological excavations made near the Castle of São Jorge and Lisbon Cathedral indicate a Phoenician presence at this location since 1200 BC, it can be stated with confidence that a Phoenician trading post stood on a site now the centre of the present city, on the southern slope of the Castle hill; the sheltered harbour in the Tagus River estuary was an ideal spot for an Iberian settlement and would have provided a secure harbour for unloading and provisioning Phoenician ships. The Tagus settlement was an important centre of commercial trade with the inland tribes, providing an outlet for the valuable metals and salted-fish they collected, for the sale of the Lusitanian horses renowned in antiquity.
Gulf of Guinea
The Gulf of Guinea is the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian is in the gulf. Among the many rivers that drain into the Gulf of Guinea are the Volta; the coastline on the gulf includes the Bight of Bonny. The origin of the name Guinea is thought to be an area in the region, although the specifics are disputed. Bovill gives a thorough description: The name Guinea is said to have been a corrupt form of the name Ghana, picked up by the Portuguese in the Maghrib; the present writer finds this unacceptable. The name Guinea has been in use both in Europe long before Prince Henry's time. For example, on a map dated about 1320 by the Genoese cartographer Giovanni di Carignano, who got his information about Africa from a fellow-countryman in Sijilmas, we find Gunuia, in the Catalan atlas of 1375 as Ginyia. A passage in Leo points to Guinea having been a corrupt form of Jenne, less famous than Ghana but for many centuries famed in the Maghrib as a great market and a seat of learning.
The relevant passage reads: "The Kingdom of Ghinea... called by the merchants of our nation Gheneoa, by the natural inhabitants thereof Genni and by the Portugals and other people of Europe Ghinea." But it seems more probable that Guinea derives from the Berber for Negro. Marrakech has a gate, built in the twelfth century, called the Bab Aguinaou, the Gate of the Negro; the modern application of the name Guinea to the coast dates only from 1481. In that year the Portuguese built a fort, São Jorge da Mina, on the Gold Coast region, their king, John II, was permitted by the Pope to style himself Lord of Guinea, a title that survived until the recent extinction of the monarchy; the name "Guinea" was applied to south coast of West Africa, north of the Gulf of Guinea, which became known as "Upper Guinea", the west coast of Southern Africa, to the east, which became known as "Lower Guinea". The name "Guinea" is still attached to the names of three countries in Africa: Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, as well as New Guinea in Melanesia.
The main river shedding its waters in the gulf is the Niger River. Different definitions of the geographic limits of the Gulf of Guinea are given; the Gulf of Guinea contains a number of islands, the largest of which are in a southwest-northeast chain, forming part of the Cameroon line of volcanoes. Annobón known as Pagalu or Pigalu, is an island, part of Equatorial Guinea. Bobowasi Island is an island off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, part of Western region Ghana. Bioko is an island off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, part of Equatorial Guinea. Corisco is an island belonging to Equatorial Guinea. Elobey Grande and Elobey Chico are two small islands belonging to Equatorial Guinea. São Tomé and Príncipe is a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea that became independent from Portugal in 1975, it is located off the western equatorial coast of Africa and consists of two islands, São Tomé and Príncipe. They are located about 140 kilometres apart and about 250 and 225 kilometres off the northwestern coast of Gabon.
Both islands are part of an extinct volcanic mountain range. São Tomé, the sizeable southern island, is situated just north of the Equator. Media related to Gulf of Guinea at Wikimedia Commons The Gulf of Guinea Commission - CGG - GGC
Angola the Republic of Angola, is a west-coast country of south-central Africa. It is the seventh-largest country in Africa, bordered by Namibia to the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Zambia to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Angola has an exclave province, the province of Cabinda that borders the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; the capital and largest city of Angola is Luanda. Although inhabited since the Paleolithic Era, what is now Angola was molded by Portuguese colonisation, it began with, was for centuries limited to, coastal settlements and trading posts established starting in the 16th century. In the 19th century, European settlers and hesitantly began to establish themselves in the interior; the Portuguese colony that became Angola did not have its present borders until the early 20th century because of resistance by groups such as the Cuamato, the Kwanyama and the Mbunda. After a protracted anti-colonial struggle, independence was achieved in 1975 as the Marxist–Leninist People's Republic of Angola, a one-party state supported by the Soviet Union and Cuba.
The civil war between the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola and the insurgent anti-communist National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, supported by the United States and South Africa, lasted until 2002. The sovereign state has since become a stable unitary, presidential constitutional republic. Angola has vast mineral and petroleum reserves, its economy is among the fastest-growing in the world since the end of the civil war. Angola's economic growth is uneven, with most of the nation's wealth concentrated in a disproportionately small sector of the population. Angola is a member state of the United Nations, OPEC, African Union, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the Southern African Development Community. A multiethnic country, Angola's 25.8 million people span tribal groups and traditions. Angolan culture reflects centuries of Portuguese rule, in the predominance of the Portuguese language and of the Catholic Church; the name Angola comes from the Portuguese colonial name Reino de Angola, which appeared as early as Dias de Novais's 1571 charter.
The toponym was derived by the Portuguese from the title ngola held by the kings of Ndongo. Ndongo in the highlands, between the Kwanza and Lukala Rivers, was nominally a possession of the Kingdom of Kongo, but was seeking greater independence in the 16th century. Modern Angola was populated predominantly by nomadic Khoi and San prior to the first Bantu migrations; the Khoi and San peoples hunter-gatherers. They were displaced by Bantu peoples arriving from the north, most of whom originated in what is today northwestern Nigeria and southern Niger. Bantu speakers introduced the cultivation of bananas and taro, as well as large cattle herds, to Angola's central highlands and the Luanda plain. Hendese Bantu established a number of political entities, it established trade routes with other city-states and civilisations up and down the coast of southwestern and western Africa and with Great Zimbabwe and the Mutapa Empire, although it engaged in little or no transoceanic trade. To its south lay the Kingdom of Ndongo, from which the area of the Portuguese colony was sometimes known as Dongo.
Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão reached the area in 1484. The previous year, the Portuguese had established relations with the Kongo, which stretched at the time from modern Gabon in the north to the Kwanza River in the south; the Portuguese established their primary early trading post at Soyo, now the northernmost city in Angola apart from the Cabinda exclave. Paulo Dias de Novais founded São Paulo de Loanda in 1575 with a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers. Benguela was fortified in 1587 and became a township in 1617; the Portuguese established several other settlements and trading posts along the Angolan coast, principally trading in Angolan slaves for Brazilian plantations. Local slave dealers provided a large number of slaves for the Portuguese Empire in exchange for manufactured goods from Europe; this part of the Atlantic slave trade continued until after Brazil's independence in the 1820s. Despite Portugal's territorial claims in Angola, its control over much of the country's vast interior was minimal.
In the 16th century Portugal gained control of the coast through a series of wars. Life for European colonists was progress slow. John Iliffe notes that "Portuguese records of Angola from the 16th century show that a great famine occurred on average every seventy years. During the Portuguese Restoration War, the Dutch West India Company occupied the principal settlement of Luanda in 1641, using alliances with local peoples to carry out attacks against Portuguese holdings elsewhere. A fleet under Salvador de Sá retook Luanda in 1648. New treaties with the Kongo were signed in 1649.
Belgium the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, the North Sea to the northwest, it has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; the sovereign state is a federal constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. Its institutional organisation is structured on both regional and linguistic grounds, it is divided into three autonomous regions: Flanders in the north, Wallonia in the south, the Brussels-Capital Region. Brussels is the smallest and most densely populated region, as well as the richest region in terms of GDP per capita. Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups or Communities: the Dutch-speaking Flemish Community, which constitutes about 59 percent of the population, the French-speaking Community, which comprises about 40 percent of all Belgians. A small German-speaking Community, numbering around one percent, exists in the East Cantons.
The Brussels-Capital Region is bilingual, although French is the dominant language. Belgium's linguistic diversity and related political conflicts are reflected in its political history and complex system of governance, made up of six different governments. Belgium was part of an area known as the Low Countries, a somewhat larger region than the current Benelux group of states that included parts of northern France and western Germany, its name is derived after the Roman province of Gallia Belgica. From the end of the Middle Ages until the 17th century, the area of Belgium was a prosperous and cosmopolitan centre of commerce and culture. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Belgium served as the battleground between many European powers, earning the moniker the "Battlefield of Europe", a reputation strengthened by both world wars; the country emerged in 1830 following the Belgian Revolution. Belgium participated in the Industrial Revolution and, during the course of the 20th century, possessed a number of colonies in Africa.
The second half of the 20th century was marked by rising tensions between the Dutch-speaking and the French-speaking citizens fueled by differences in language and culture and the unequal economic development of Flanders and Wallonia. This continuing antagonism has led to several far-reaching reforms, resulting in a transition from a unitary to a federal arrangement during the period from 1970 to 1993. Despite the reforms, tensions between the groups have remained, if not increased. Unemployment in Wallonia is more than double that of Flanders. Belgium is one of the six founding countries of the European Union and hosts the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, as well as a seat of the European Parliament in the country's capital, Brussels. Belgium is a founding member of the Eurozone, NATO, OECD, WTO, a part of the trilateral Benelux Union and the Schengen Area. Brussels hosts several of the EU's official seats as well as the headquarters of many major international organizations such as NATO.
Belgium is a developed country, with an advanced high-income economy. It has high standards of living, quality of life, education, is categorized as "very high" in the Human Development Index, it ranks as one of the safest or most peaceful countries in the world. The name "Belgium" is derived from Gallia Belgica, a Roman province in the northernmost part of Gaul that before Roman invasion in 100 BC, was inhabited by the Belgae, a mix of Celtic and Germanic peoples. A gradual immigration by Germanic Frankish tribes during the 5th century brought the area under the rule of the Merovingian kings. A gradual shift of power during the 8th century led the kingdom of the Franks to evolve into the Carolingian Empire; the Treaty of Verdun in 843 divided the region into Middle and West Francia and therefore into a set of more or less independent fiefdoms which, during the Middle Ages, were vassals either of the King of France or of the Holy Roman Emperor. Many of these fiefdoms were united in the Burgundian Netherlands of the 15th centuries.
Emperor Charles V extended the personal union of the Seventeen Provinces in the 1540s, making it far more than a personal union by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1549 and increased his influence over the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. The Eighty Years' War divided the Low Countries into the northern United Provinces and the Southern Netherlands; the latter were ruled successively by the Spanish and the Austrian Habsburgs and comprised most of modern Belgium. This was the theatre of most Franco-Spanish and Franco-Austrian wars during the 17th and 18th centuries. Following the campaigns of 1794 in the French Revolutionary Wars, the Low Countries—including territories that were never nominally under Habsburg rule, such as the Prince-Bishopric of Liège—were annexed by the French First Republic, ending Austrian rule in the region; the reunification of the Low Countries as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands occurred at the dissolution of the First French Empire in 1815, after the defeat of Napo
Brussels the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. Brussels is the most densely populated and the richest region in Belgium in terms of GDP per capita, it covers 161 km2, a small area compared to the two other regions, has a population of 1.2 million. The metropolitan area of Brussels counts over 2.1 million people, which makes it the largest in Belgium. It is part of a large conurbation extending towards Ghent, Antwerp and Walloon Brabant, home to over 5 million people. Brussels grew from a small rural settlement on the river Senne to become an important city-region in Europe. Since the end of the Second World War, it has been a major centre for international politics and the home of numerous international organisations, politicians and civil servants.
Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union, as it hosts a number of principal EU institutions, including its administrative-legislative, executive-political, legislative branches and its name is sometimes used metonymically to describe the EU and its institutions. The secretariat of the Benelux and headquarters of NATO are located in Brussels; as the economic capital of Belgium and one of the top financial centres of Western Europe with Euronext Brussels, it is classified as an Alpha global city. Brussels is a hub for rail and air traffic, sometimes earning the moniker "Crossroads of Europe"; the Brussels Metro is the only rapid transit system in Belgium. In addition, both its airport and railway stations are the busiest in the country. Dutch-speaking, Brussels saw a language shift to French from the late 19th century; the Brussels-Capital Region is bilingual in French and Dutch though French is now the de facto main language with over 90% of the population speaking it. Brussels is increasingly becoming multilingual.
English is spoken as a second language by nearly a third of the population and a large number of migrants and expatriates speak other languages. Brussels is known for its cuisine and gastronomy, as well as its historical and architectural landmarks. Main attractions include its historic Grand Place, Manneken Pis and cultural institutions such as La Monnaie and the Museums of Art and History; because of its long tradition of Belgian comics, Brussels is hailed as a capital of the comic strip. The most common theory of the origin of the name Brussels is that it derives from the Old Dutch Bruocsella, Broekzele or Broeksel, meaning "marsh" and "home" or "home in the marsh". Saint Vindicianus, the bishop of Cambrai, made the first recorded reference to the place Brosella in 695, when it was still a hamlet; the names of all the municipalities in the Brussels-Capital Region are of Dutch origin, except for Evere, Celtic. In French, Bruxelles is pronounced and in Dutch, Brussel is pronounced. Inhabitants of Brussels are known in French in Dutch as Brusselaars.
In the Brabantian dialect of Brussels, they are called Brusseleirs. The written x noted the group. In the Belgian French pronunciation as well as in Dutch, the k disappeared and z became s, as reflected in the current Dutch spelling, whereas in the more conservative French form, the spelling remained; the pronunciation in French only dates from the 18th century, but this modification did not affect the traditional Brussels' usage. In France, the pronunciations and are heard, but are rather rare in Belgium. See also: History of Brussels The history of Brussels is linked to that of Western Europe. Traces of human settlement go back to the Stone Age, with vestiges and place-names related to the civilisation of megaliths and standing stones. During late antiquity, the region was home to Roman occupation, as attested by archaeological evidence discovered near the centre. Following the decline of the Western Roman Empire, it was incorporated into the Frankish Empire; the origin of the settlement, to become Brussels lies in Saint Gaugericus' construction of a chapel on an island in the river Senne around 580.
The official founding of Brussels is situated around 979, when Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel. Charles would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island. Lambert I of Leuven, Count of Leuven, gained the County of Brussels around 1000, by marrying Charles' daughter; because of its location on the shores of the Senne, on an important trade route between Bruges and Ghent, Cologne, Brussels became a commercial centre specialised in the textile trade. The town grew quite and extended towards the upper town, where there was a smaller risk of floods; as it grew to a population of around 30,000, the surrounding marshes were drained to allow for further expansion. Around
Beijing romanized as Peking, is the capital of the People's Republic of China, the world's third most populous city proper, most populous capital city. The city, located in northern China, is governed as a municipality under the direct administration of central government with 16 urban and rural districts. Beijing Municipality is surrounded by Hebei Province with the exception of neighboring Tianjin Municipality to the southeast. Beijing is an important world capital and global power city, one of the world's leading centers for politics and business, education, culture and technology, architecture and diplomacy. A megacity, Beijing is the second largest Chinese city by urban population after Shanghai and is the nation's political and educational center, it is home to the headquarters of most of China's largest state-owned companies and houses the largest number of Fortune Global 500 companies in the world, as well as the world's four biggest financial institutions. It is a major hub for the national highway, expressway 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. Combining both modern and traditional architecture, Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world, with a rich history dating back three millennia; as the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Beijing has been the political center of the country for most of the past eight centuries, was the largest city in the world by population for much of the second millennium A. D. Encyclopædia Britannica notes that "few cities in the world have served for so long as the political headquarters and cultural center of an area as immense as China." 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.
The city is renowned for its opulent palaces, parks, tombs and gates. It has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites—the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs and parts of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal— all tourist locations. Siheyuans, the city's traditional housing style, hutongs, the narrow alleys between siheyuans, are major tourist attractions and are common in urban Beijing. Many of Beijing's 91 universities rank among the best in China, such as the Peking University and Tsinghua University. Beijing CBD is a center for Beijing's economic expansion, with the ongoing or completed construction of multiple skyscrapers. Beijing's Zhongguancun area is known as China's Silicon Valley and a center of innovation and technology entrepreneurship. Over the past 3,000 years, the city of Beijing has had numerous other names; the name Beijing, which means "Northern Capital", was applied to the city in 1403 during the Ming dynasty to distinguish the city from Nanjing. 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, 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"; 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 lived there more 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 Jicheng, the capital city of the state of Ji and was built in 1045 BC. Within modern Beijing, Jicheng was located around the present Guang'anmen area in the south of Xicheng District; this settlement was conquered by the state of Yan and made its capital. After the First Emperor unified China, Jicheng became a prefectural capital for the region. During the Three Kingdoms period, it was held by Gongsun Zan and Yuan Shao before falling to the Wei Kingdom of Cao Cao; the AD 3rd-century Western Jin demoted the town, placing the prefectural seat in neighboring Zhuozhou. During the Sixteen Kingdoms period when northern China was conquered and divided by the Wu Hu, Jicheng was the capital of the Xianbei Former Yan Kingdom. After China was reunified during the Sui dynasty, Jicheng known as Zhuojun, became the northern terminus of the Grand Canal.
Under the Tang dynasty, Jicheng as Youzhou, 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 shor