Beijing is the capital of the People's Republic of China and the world's most populous capital city. The city's history dates back three millennia. The city, located in northern China, is governed as a direct-controlled municipality under the national government with 16 urban, suburban, and rural districts. The name Beijing, which means "Northern Capital", was applied to the city in 1403 during the Ming Dynasty to distinguish the city from Nanjing (the "Southern Capital").
In 2013, Beijing had a total population of 21.148 million within the municipality, of which 18.251 million resided in urban districts or suburban townships and 2.897 million lived in rural villages. Within China, the city ranked second in urban population after Shanghai and the third in municipal population after Shanghai and Chongqing. Beijing also ranks among the most populous cities in the world, a distinction the city has held for much of the past 800 years.
As the last of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China, Beijing has been the political center of the country for much of the past eight centuries. The city is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, parks, gardens, tombs, walls and gates, and its art treasures and universities have made it a center of culture and art in China. Beijing has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, Zhoukoudian, as well as parts of the Great Wall and the Grand Canal. Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics and was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will make it the first city to ever host both events.