Found at the Beijing Urban Planning Museum, this topographical map does a good job of explaining Beijing’s history and significance. In its early history, before it was a capitol city, Beijing served two purposes: it was a resting spot after a long journey along the Silk Road and it was a forward operating base for invading Korea. The map also explains how smog gets trapped in the city. It’s not only the manufacturers who are to blame (though I’d argue that given the geography this is not a city where any manufacturing should take place) but the mountains trap the pollution in the city just as they do in Los Angeles.
I went to this museum as part of a walking tour. I’d passed by the museum dozens of times and never went in. If I hadn’t gone on the tour, I wouldn’t have appreciated how good it was. It does a great job of showing how the city’s grown and how its different rulers changed its city limits. They want to change those limits even more by combining Beijing with Tianjin, a city about 100 kms away that’s also huge. Tianjin’s on the coast and there are some sources of water between the two.