Mountains stand in the west, north and northeast of Beijing; the 10,417.5 square kilometers of mountainous areas, with an average elevation of 1,000-1,500 meters, account for 62 percent of its total territory. In its southeast lies the vast North China Plain of 6,390.3 kilometers, with an average altitude of 20-60 meters above sea level. The 2,303-meter-high Mount Lingshan on the border between Beijing and Hebei is the highest peak of the city.
Beijing has a semi-humid climate with clearly cut four seasons: short spring and autumn and long winter and summer. The average annual temperature is 130C (averaging 25.20C in July, the hottest month, and 3.70C in January, the coldest month). The average annual rainfall is 507.7 millimeters and the frost-free period is 180-200 days. The average annual sun radiance is 135 Cal/square centimeter.
Five rivers flow across the city, including Chaobai and Beiyun rivers in its east and the Yongding and Juma rivers in its west. Most of the rivers originate from the city's northwestern mountainous areas and, after winding southeastwards across the plain areas, flow into the Bohai Sea. The 174 km Yongding River running through southwest Beijing is the city's biggest river. Beijing has 30 big and small lakes, including such major ones as Kunming, Yuyuantan, Beihai, Zhonghai, Nanhai, Qianhai, Houhai, Xihai, Longtan, Taoranting and Zizhuyuan. Beijing's surface water totals 2.53 billion cubic meters and its ground water reserve is 2.63 billion cubic meters.
Beijing's mountainous areas produce various minerals such as coal and iron ores as well as building materials such as granite and marble.
Human activities began in the Beijing area some half a million years ago. The recorded history of Beijing as a city can date back to more than 3,000 years ago. In 1271 Kublai Khan renamed the city and decided to build it as the capital of his empire, and since then, Beijing served as a national capital for more than 700 years, being one of China's seven great ancient capitals. In this famed historical and cultural city, cultural heritage sites and scenic spots are found everywhere. Ancient palace groups, temples, parks, ancient pagodas with rock carvings, imperial gardens and tombs, former residences of historic personages throng the city side by side with modern buildings of museums and memorial halls.
Beijing has a total of 7,309 cultural heritage sites, including 42 under state protection and 222 under municipal protection. The Forbidden City, the Great Wall and the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian are on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Beijing has over 200 scenic spots open to visitors, such as the Forbidden City, the Beihai Park, the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs (Shisanling), the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Park), the Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian, the Great Wall, Yonghegong Lamasery, Tanzhe Temple, Fragrant Hills, the Ruins of the Yuanmingyuan, the Eight Great Sites, Longqing Gorge, Shihua Cave and etc.
There are 456 tourist hotels, including 407 star-rated hotels offering a total of 84,000 guest rooms. Serving travelers to Beijing are 456 travel agencies with 5,000 tour guides speaking 21 major world languages. Beijing is one of the "Excellent Chinese Tourist Cities" awarded by the China National Tourism Administration.
In recent years Beijing has managed to control dust pollution through afforestation and the efforts have proved effective. In 2003, 61.4 percent of the 365 days, or 224 days, had air of grade 2 or better, an increase of 21 days compared with the previous year.
All industrial pollutants reached required standards for environmental protection. Up to 56 percent of the city’s sewage were treated, the daily rate of treatment being 1.6 million tons. A total of 3.6 million tons of urban trash were cleared and removed during the year, up by 12.6 percent compared with the previous year.
Some 13,333 hectares of bare soil in the key sandstorm source regions by Yongding River, Chaobai River, Dasha River, Kangzhuang in Yanqing and Nankou in Changping were afforested. The coverage of trees in the whole city reached 47.5 percent, and 41 percent of the urban and suburban areas have become green. The per capita share of public green areas has topped 10 square meters.