Even today, people are confused about whether to call the capital of China Peking or Beijing. There is no denying that Beijing has served as the capital of the country for centuries. It is one of the oldest cities in the region. However, the fact is that the name had not been transcribed into Roman letters until recently. Peking was used in older English spelling. The sound produced by the word was misheard. The difference between the two was not universal in Mandarin as there were more dialects back in the day than there are now.
Only when a standard Mandarin dialect was selected as the official language in 1929 did language become more streamlined. Despite the initial establishment of the standard dialect, the distinction in the “KI-CHI” sounds was not recognized. Then, language reforms were made during the 1950s which led to an official Romanized spelling system being adopted for transcribing Chinese words. This resulted in the old “CHI” and “KI” sounds being replaced with “JI”. Thus, Peking was no longer the spelling used by Westerners and Beijing was the spelling used to refer to the capital of the Middle Kingdom. The sound of the letter “J” is similar to the sound of the letter “J” in Jingle.
Until the mid-70s, this rationalized new spelling system was ignored outside China. It was then that the Chinese government simply refused to transcribe Chinese words for official press releases. However, as foreign reporters barely knew Chinese, they were unable to make transcriptions on their own. Similarly, foreign news agencies like AP, UPI, Reuters, and AFP were unable to handle transcriptions. Today, the capital of China is spelled as Beijing in English.
Although Peking continues to be used in specific phrases, it is no longer as widely used. The final reforms made by the Chinese government displaced all of the older English names of Chinese cities with official versions. This led to Amoy becoming Xiamen, Canton becoming Guangzhou, and Shantung becoming Shandong to name just a few. It is important to note that the official capital had been to Nanjing for a few decades under the Nationalist government. However, it was moved back to Beijing later on.
Is There Any Chinese City That Retained Its Name?
If there is one Chinese city that has had the same name in both the old and new spelling systems, it is Shanghai. The city has always been the easiest to pronounce and foreigners have never had trouble pronouncing it. Only Peking to Beijing has been the most dramatic of cases. Only a brief history of the country has been mentioned. The truth is that China as a country has experienced considerable changes over the years. It is both modern and traditional at the same time.
Once you have finished reading this post, you will know whether the Chinese capital is Peking ou Beijing. Even if you use the former, people would instantly understand that you are referring to the capital. However, Beijing is the official name of the city.