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Few cities in the world besides Beijing have served as the political and cultural centre of an area as immense as China for so long. The [Encyclopædia Britannica] describes it as "one of the world's great cities," and declares that the city has been an integral part of China’s history for centuries; there is scarcely a major building of any age in Beijing that doesn't have at least some national historical significance. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates. Its art treasures and universities have long made the city a centre of culture and art in China.

"Beijing" means "northern capital", in line with the common [East Asia] n tradition whereby capital cities are explicitly named as such. Other cities that are similarly named include [Nanjing] , China, meaning "southern capital"; [Tokyo] , Japan, and [Đông Kinh] , now [Hanoi] , [Vietnam] , both meaning "eastern capital"; as well as [Kyoto] , Japan, and [Gyeongseong] (; now [Seoul] ), Korea, both meaning simply "capital".

Peking is the name of the city according to [Chinese Postal Map Romanization] , and the traditional customary name for Beijing in English. The term Peking originated with French missionaries four hundred years ago and corresponds to an older pronunciation predating a subsequent [sound change] in [Mandarin] from to Coblin, W. South. "A Brief History of Mandarin." Journal of the American Oriental Society 120, no. 4 (2000): 537-52. ( is represented in [pinyin] as j , as in Bei j ing). It is still used in many languages. However in recent decades popular use has moved away from using the Peking variant and most Western maps now show Beijing.

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