New Emperor (03:30)
The deserts, jungles, and mountains that cut China off from the rest of the world, and China's own Great Wall, have historically isolated the country. In 1269, Kublai Khan became the Supreme Leader of the Mongols and the Emperor of China after his brother's death. In order to gain acceptance from the ethnic Chinese, the nomadic Kublai Khan created the capital of Dadu, located where today's Beijing stands.
Most Magnificent City (02:42)
Khan's capital of Dadu was built in seven years, becoming one of the most cosmopolitan cities of its time. Marco Polo claimed to have visited the city shortly after its completion and became the first European to share his visit to Asia with the rest of the world.
Chinese Literati (02:30)
In 1275, the storyteller and linguist of Marco Polo arrived to Kublai Khan's court, bringing his Christian faith along with him. Kublai Khan opened China to the world with his mother's Christian faith and encouraged foreigners to visit Beijing. He did not hire many of Chinese elite to help him rule, so the elite instead filled their time creating art.
Forbidden City (03:24)
After 17 years in China, Marco Polo began his journey home. Floods, famine, and crumbling infrastructure drove the Chinese to revolt against Mongol rule in 1368. The Mongols abandoned Beijing at the peasants uprising. The new Ming dynasty destroyed Mongol structures, and a Chinese capital was built under Zhu Di's rule.
Middle Kingdom (03:49)
A Jesuit named Matteo Ricci made a voyage into China in 1578 to find converts. To get into the country, he dressed as a Chinese-style monk. At the time, the Chinese believed their country was the center of the world, and Ricci's map showing many countries was the first of its kind in China.
Chinese Exams (03:00)
After 16 years in China, Ricci was allowed to travel to Beijing. Educated men ran the country in China rather than aristocrats in Europe; it was the world's first meritocracy.
Privileged Few (02:50)
Scholars were tested for days and then the highest scorers took final exams in Beijing under the watch of the emperor. High scores could provide security to the candidate for life. On the other hand, cheating meant a death sentence.
New Opportunities (04:38)
Ricci worked with Chinese scholars, translating Euclid's geometry into Chinese and Confucius's teachings into Latin. He worked alongside Xu Guangqi, who is now regarded as the father of Chinese science. Nineteen years after Ricci arrived in China, he thought he was going to meet the emperor, but he was wrong.
Emperor's Payroll (02:11)
Through the repair of mechanical clocks Ricci had gifted to the emperor, he was allowed to live in Beijing and given an imperial stipend. He died in 1610, never meeting the emperor, but his Jesuit successors did.
Outsider's Rule (03:26)
In 1644, the peasant rebels that had founded the Ming dynasty again decided to move. The emperor was enraged, but the imperial troops deserted the dynasty, and the troops ran into Beijing to loot the city. However, they were faced with the Manchus, who then formed the Qing dynasty.
Head of the Imperial Observatory (02:33)
Thirteen years after Ricci's death, Adam Schall von Bell arrived and brought his own Jesuit faith as well as his astronomy knowledge. He was granted permission to build the first church in Beijing in 1650, where it still exists in downtown Beijing today.
People of the Steppe (04:20)
Manchu Prince Qianlong grew up in Beijing, where he learned the martial arts. Military training was supremely important to the Manchu people, and Manchu people were bicultural, embracing Chinese culture.
Flourishing City (03:03)
Many scholars studied and took examinations in Manchu Beijing, a haven for intellectuals. Bookshops, boarding houses, and restaurants catered to visiting scholars. At age 25, Qianlong became emperor, ruling for 59 years in 18th century China.
Chinese Film History (03:37)
In 1796, the Manchu dynasty experienced a golden age, with its emperor celebrating the his 80th birthday. Filmmaker Ren Jingfeng created the first kung-fu Chinese film as a birthday present.
Short-Lived Success (03:49)
The end of imperial Beijing was brought upon by guns and opium brought from outsiders. Opium addiction afflicted two to ten million people in the country, and Britain was blamed. In 1839, Chinese officials seized over a million kilos of opium from European traders, resulting in two wars that crushed China.
Credits: Barbarians at the Gate: Episode 2—Beijing, Biography of an Imperial Capital (00:39)
Credits: Barbarians at the Gate: Episode 2—Beijing, Biography of an Imperial Capital
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