Five quirky facts about Beijing we bet you don't know but should

Brush up on your local know-how with these lesser-known Beijing facts

As a city so full of wonders and intrigue, Beijing is as fascinating as it is enigmatic. Do you know the once capital of six dynasties has been renamed 16 times and over in the course of its history? From juicy city secrets to behind-the-scene facts, we reveal five lesser-known things about Beijing that you probably don’t know but should:

It holds the record for the world’s longest traffic jam in 2010

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Photo: Wikipedia Commons

With regularly congested traffic, it perhaps shouldn’t come as a shock that the capital earned the title for being the mother of all traffic jams. According to Wikipedia, the world’s longest traffic jam was in fact recorded here. In August of 2010, the Beijing-Tibet expressways were clogged by too many cars and the traffic had escalated into an intense choke-up that eventually lasted for a whopping 12 days and stretched for about 100 km (62 miles). Yikes.

Beijing Time (UTC+8:00) is not the real time in Beijing

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ever wonder why sunrise can be as late as 9 am in winter, and sunset can be as late as 9 pm in summer in other Chinese regions? Well, China actually spans five different time zones. But to make it easier, it uses Beijing Time (UTC+8:00) and applies the same standard for everywhere. So how accurate is the aptly-named time zone compared to the real local time here?

As we found out, it’s really quite not the same thing. In fact, Beijing Time has little to do with Beijing. It's observed and transmitted in a scientific institution named National Time Service Centre based in Xi’an, central China’s Shaanxi Province. Located over 1,000 km away from the capital, you should know there’s a significant time difference in reality, with some real delay in time for Beijing – roughly 14 minutes and 30 seconds behind the official time zone.

Chinese street signs can be actually helpful

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Sure, translation woes on Chinese street signs can leave us lost for words. But if you look beyond the nuance, there’s a universal clue hiding in plain sight on the street which can be your handy dandy cheatsheet if you’re trying to find your bearings. Beijing’s street nameplates are typically colour-coded, which correspond to the directions they’re pointed to. So if you spot signs in green, it means it’s positioned north-south, and for signs in white, it means it’s facing west-east. Next time, if you’re tongue-tied trying to pin-point your location to your didi driver, look around and try to use that as your compass.

Getting a Beijing license plate is a gnarly process

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

While it may already seem like a long shot to get a Chinese drivers license and own a car, to get a stamp of approval for driving on Beijing’s roads is something else entirely. Since 2011, the city’s government has implemented a lottery system to cap the number of cars on its roads – in hopes to ease traffic congestion and curb air pollution. Drawn once every two months, it issues a disproportionally limited number of local license plates compared to the actual number of applicants.

The result? Odds can be as low as 1 in 2,031, with waiting time taking as long as eight years for new applicants, according to Six Tone. Compared to getting a local license plate, maybe you’re more likely to succeed in dating a millionaire in Beijing (There are 213,000 millionaires in Beijing. That's one millionaire for every 101 people is all we're sayin’). So perhaps it’s best to get back on that shared-bike.

Beijing boasts seven ring roads

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Need more excuses to get out of the Third Ring Road? Well, Beijing has seven ring roads for you to stomp on. The seventh ring, which opened to traffic last year, is said to connect urban zones twice the size of New York and to be used to improve the capital’s air quality.


Officially named the Circling Capital Highway, the latest beltway connects the capital to neighbouring cities of Tianjin and Hebei. And it’s said to reduce traffic congestion by offering cargo trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles an alternative route to these cities without passing the capital. Cheeky. Authorities also hope that it will inconspicuously lure some diesel pollution away from Beijing, and in return, improve the air quality. (We know, not the most sustainable way forward).

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