China is a vast region with tremendous diversity in all facets of life: culture, language, climate and terrain. Travelers to the capital city of Beijing (formerly named Peking) will have the opportunity to experience a vibrant cross-section of Chinese lifestyles.For business travelers, Beijing is easily navigable. Its streets are laid out in a grid pattern, with the Forbidden City (Old City) approximately in the centre. The main thoroughfares run in straightforward, north-south or east-west lines. In between these main roads is a network of back roads and small alleys, as well as many hard-to-find addresses. The financial district and business centers, however, are located on main roads and will not necessitate travel through the complex, so-called cobweb of side streets.
The centre of the ancient city was a north-south road from the palace, or the Forbidden City, to the outer walls. This historic axis is the present-day thoroughfare of Qianmen Dajie. Today, however, the central street of Beijing is the east-west road that divides Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. In the city centre, this road is called Chang'an Jie, although the name changes several times as it runs through Beijing's outer suburbs.
The overall shape and outer limits of Beijing are defined by three freeways called the ring roads. These rapid-access thoroughfares are arranged in concentric rectangles centering on the Forbidden City. Whilst most of the historic and cultural sights are found in the city centre, most of the modern buildings such as hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and business districts, are located on the ring roads.
The national language is Guoyu or putonghua (common language); however, there are numerous regional dialects, such as Cantonese. It will be very valuable to learn certain key phrases before entering China, since the level of spoken English throughout the country is, on average, quite low. Even telephone operators and staff members of international hotels have a limited understanding of the English language. Be certain that you speak clearly and slowly. It is wise to have all messages and directions written down. Directions in Chinese characters will be a useful aid when using a taxi service, as most drivers do not speak English.
Located in the north-eastern section of China, Beijing is subject to very cold winters, with temperatures sometimes dipping to -20°C/-4°F. Summers generally have high humidity and temperatures that can reach 31°C/90°F. The spring months of April and May are known for being quite windy.