Formally known to many as Peking, Beijing literally means ‘northern capital’ (北京 běi jīng) and is China’s second city in size only to Shanghai.

As for its prehistoric origins, Beijing has produced remnants of human habitation, which dates back to Peking Man of a half million years ago!

Last year, “Beijing” became almost synonymous with the 2008 Olympic Games. Ah, but how soon we forget—One World, One Dream?!

Forget we may, but I will never my first visit to Beijing, when I arrived to China to teach linguistics in one of the remote regions of the country.

It was the mid-Eighties. Construction was raging everywhere. Instead of TV antennas striping the skyline, cranes sat perched on the roofs of countless unfinished high-rises and skyscrapers.

Overshadowed by the massive heaps of glass and concrete, however, the traditional bijou of China’s yester years was all but hidden: unrefurbished homes graced with delicate wooden birdcages hanging outside walled-in courtyards.

Pouring down the streets were thick, oncoming, bumper-to-bumper torrents of bicycles and tricycles, horse carts and pull carts, three- and four-wheeled tractors, buses, cars, vans—even 1940 trucks—and, yes, farmers who carefully balanced produce that hung from opposite ends of bamboo poles straddled across their shoulders!

But times have changed in just twenty years—a modern industrial miracle—at a cost, of course! Nevertheless, Beijing has become an ultra-modern, post-industrial financial and business center.

Beijing is also becoming home to a number of talented fashion designers, such as Chi Zhang (pronounced like chir jang).

Born in Beijing, Chi Zhang went to the UK to study at the young age of 16, pursuing a master’s degree in Milan, Italy, at Istituto Marangoni.

When he returned to Beijing in August of last year, he launched his menswear label CHI ZHANG, which he recently debuted at Shanghai Fashion Week.

Photo top right CHI ZHANG 2009 a/w collection from Larapixie.
Slide show
CHI ZHANG 2009 a/w collection from Larapixie.

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