Please Get Ready For Your Arrival
Welcome to our capital — Beijing: a confusingly huge capital. 5 ring roads. 16 freeways (with just a few more under planning). 4 major train hubs. This is not your average Chinese village. This is it. Shanghai, be very afraid of your northern rival.
And add to this — 8 Subway lines by the time the Games are here. The latest bit of news comes as three new lines — Lines 8, Line 10 and the Airport Express — are slated to open in mid-July 2008, just weeks before the Olympics.
And, taxis are expensive. So where does that leave us today? A trajectory underground into the Beijing Subway. As the station announcements so proclaim: The next station is Beijing Subway. Please get ready for your arrival.
Click the image for a bigger map (Beijing Subway Network)
A Little History Behind the Underground World in the Nation’s Capital
The Beijing Subway wasn’t there when the PRC was created in 1949. When Londoners first went underground in 1863, Beijing was still Emperor City, and people in “The Jing” (as it’s otherwise known) were still more interested in building things such as the Summer Palace and Yuanmingyuan — things that stood above ground, not hidden somewhere in the underground. Even when Mao came to power, the Subway was in “no-rush, no-hurry” mode; people thought of getting from A to B in buses or in corporate cars (which were a rarity back in the day). Going underground was virtually unheard-of.
Then, in the 1960s, something awful started to happen to China’s ties with the former Soviet Union. With tension between Beijing and Moscow nosediving with every passing day, Mao and Co thought of digging things underground so that the Soviets wouldn’t wipe out the capital in one fell swoop. The city went underground 1965, with Line 1 and part of Line 2 built — a quick, one-liner service linking the city’s railway station with the western suburbs.
At first, Line 1 went bit by bit to Gongzhufen (where the western 3rd Ring Road is right now) further west, before the whole line went straight west into Pingguoyuan, which to many a visiting foreigner is a never-heard-of place in far far away western Beijing. By 1969, the deep deed was done: Beijing’s first Subway line became reality.
When Deng replaced Mao, Subway fever continued with the reforms. A second line, the loop line, became reality, running underneath the Inner City Walls just inside of the 2nd Ring Road. By 1992, the Subway even went commercial, linking Xidan, a major shopping area in western central Beijing with the rest of the network.
When the People’s Republic turned 50, the entire Chang’an Avenue got Subway service from the western terminus to Sihui East, the point where the avenue turned into a city expressway headed for the eastern suburbs in Tongzhou. Tian’anmen and Wangfujing got Subway service, too. Things were looking good.
Beijing’s successful Olympic bid added Lines 5, 8, 10, 13, as well as the Airport Express and the Batong Line, into the whole mix. Pre-Games, Beijing now has just under 200 km of the underground world to offer to the incoming visitor.
The Subway Lines, Blow By Blow
Want a real detailed look at each line? We figured that this might be the bit you enjoy the most — a Subway line with a pic per line. Just to make sure you’re on the right line to the right place…
Line 1: The West-East Express (Color: Red)
Beijing’s very first Subway line, indeed, Line 1 is a straight, almost-no-curves link from western suburban Beijing right into the city center. It zips right along Chang’an Avenue from the western suburbs in Pingguoyuan through Gucheng, all in relatively industrialized Shijingshan District, and then rushes east, bypassing the Military Museum, all the way to Xidan, before zipping through Tian’anmen Square. Post-Square, the line heads further east to Wangfujing before diving nose first into the CBD and the eastern suburbs.
Batong Line: Extending East into the Suburbs (Color: Red)
The Batong Line, despite it being colored red (like its bro, Line 1), is probably of less importance to the incoming visitor than Line 1. Unless you’re after a bit of the new suburban Beijing, you might find yourself away from this line to the extent that it remains a subterranean (OK, actually above-ground) mystery.
Stations of interest to the incoming visitor: Sihui and SIhui East (to head back city-wards after a long day out east), Baliqiao (the Baliqiao old bridge), and Tongzhou Beiyuan (for a look at the eastern suburbs — a bit of real modernized Beijing).
Line 2: Running Circles Around the City (Color: Blue)
Line 2 is probably one of those lines you’ll have a hard time keeping away from. The Subway Gods hear you. Fully aware that you, O Picky Incoming Visitor (as seen in the eyes of many a local — the way we hear it in the capital), don’t like travelling with clackety old trains with service gaps the length of the Great Wall, end-to-end, Beijing Subway now has all-new rolling stock on the rails (indeed, about 90% of the whole line now has new trains), and has shortened Them Gaps down to 2 minutes 30 secs during rush hour. Getting you from A to B faster — and in more comfy style.
Line 5: North To South, Mozart Included (Color: Purple)
An October 2007 addition, the Mozart Line as we know it (so called because for the first few months, Mozart — and only Mozart — was played in the whole system) does the whole thing north-south, creating a real Subway network (lines hitherto were either all-circles or all west-east).
Stations of interest to the incoming visitor: Datunlu East (this is where your Olympic shuttle bus might take you), and Tiantandongmen (for the Temple of Heaven).
Line 8: The Olympic Express (Color: Green)
Coming mid-July 2008…
Line 8, also known as the Olympic Branch Line, connects the rest of the capital with the Olympic Green. Phase 1 is 4 stations — rather short — but by around 2011 or 2012, the whole line will be built, extending further north and south into the city. Most of the venues in the Green are served by this Subway line.
Stations of interest to the incoming visitor: Beitucheng (transfer to Line 10 and the rest of the system), and all stops in the Olympic Green (Olympic Sports Center, Olympic Green, and South Gate of Forest Park).
Line 10: The Zhongguancun-CBD Express (Color: Aqua)
Coming mid-July 2008…
Relief to the guys up north in Zhongguancun or east in the CBD, Line 10 finally links the two together in a semicircle. The arc line is mainly a massive connector with just about every line of Beijing’s 8-line Subway system except for Line 2 and the Batong Line. You’ll be on this one quite a bit, too.
Line 13: For Those Up North (Color: Yellow)
This line, which opened up in two phases — one in late 2002 and the other in early 2003 — is, like its Batong counterpart, of less use to incoming guests. However, Line 13 runs dangerously close to Wudaokou and Wangjing, where there are probably more Koreans than Chinese (as the whole thing might so appear). If you hail from Seoul and places beyond, this line is for you.
Airport Express: City To Airport In A Quarter Hour (Color: Light Purple)
Coming mid-July 2008…
The Airport Express is probably only of interest if you’re headed to, or have arrived from, of course, Beijing’s airport. This is also the only line which is not in Beijing’s CNY 2-anywhere Subway fare network; a ride on this baby saps away CNY 25, over twelve times the standard fare. (Just you try fare evasion on this thingamajig: fines go up to CNY 250. Owch.)
Quick Guide to Super-Famous Spots Near Major Subway Stations
- Tian’anmen (天安门) and Forbidden City (紫禁城): Tian’anmen East station (地铁天安门东站)
- Wangfujing (王府井): Wangfujing station (地铁王府井站)
- National Center for the Performing Arts (国家大剧院): Tian’anmen West station (地铁天安门西站)
- Xidan shopping area (西单): Xidan station (地铁西单站)
- Headquarters of Apple Beijing (苹果中国北京办事处): Yonganli station (地铁永安里站)
- China World Trade Center (中国国际贸易中心): Guomao station (地铁国贸站)
- CBD stops: Yong’anli, Guomao and Dawanglu stations (地铁永安里、国贸、大望路站)
- Beijing West Railway Station (北京西客站): Military Museum station (地铁军事博物馆站)
- Wukesong Indoor Stadium: Wukesong station (地铁五棵松站)
- Laoshan Velodrome: Bajiao Amusement Park station (地铁八角游乐园站)
- Beijing Zoo (北京动物园): Xizhimen station (地铁西直门站)
- Deshengmen Arrow Tower (remains of Ming and Qing City Walls) (德胜门箭楼): Jishuitan station (地铁积水潭站)
- Bell and Drum Towers (钟鼓楼): Guloudajie station (地铁鼓楼大街站)
- Yonghe Lamasery (雍和宫), Guozijian Street (国子监街), and Beijing Confucius Temple (北京孔庙): Yonghegong Lama Temple station (地铁雍和宫站)
- Workers’ Stadium (工人体育场) and Gymnasium (工人体育馆): Dongsi Shitiao station (地铁东四十条站)
- Chaowai area (朝外): Chaoyangmen station (地铁朝阳门站)
- Beijing Ancient Observatory (北京古观象台): Jianguomen station (地铁建国门站)
- Beijing City Wall relics (Ming and Qing Walls) (清明城墙遗址公园): Chongwenmen station (地铁崇文门站)
- Tian’anmen Square, Qianmen Avenue (前门大街) and Zhengyangmen Gate (正阳门): Qianmen station (地铁前门站)
- Finance Street (金融街): Fuchengmen station (地铁阜成门站)
- Olympic Green (奥林匹克公园): Datunlu East station (地铁大屯路东站)
- Temple of Heaven (天坛): Tiantandongmen station (地铁天坛东门站)
- Bird’s Nest and Water Cube (鸟巢、水立方): Olympic Sports Center station (地铁奥体中心站)
- National Stadium (国家体育馆): Olympic Green station (地铁奥林匹克公园站)
- Forest Park (森林公园): South Gate of Forest Park station (地铁森林公园南门站)
- Zhongguancun (中关村) and Zhongguancun West (中关村西区): Suzhoujie and Haidian Huangzhuang stations (地铁苏州街、海淀黄庄站)
- Yuan Dynasty City Wall Relics Park (元大都城墙遗址公园): Xitucheng station (地铁西土城站)
- Women’s Street (Nurenjie) (女人街): Liangmaqiao station (地铁亮马桥站)
- CBD stops: Hujialou, Jintaixizhao and Guomao stations (地铁呼家楼、金台夕照、国贸站)
- CCTV Tower (The Pants): Jintaixizhao station (地铁金台夕照站)
- Great Bell Temple (大钟寺): Dazhongsi station (地铁大钟寺站)
- Wangjing community (Koreatown in Beijing): Wangjing West station (地铁望京西站)
- Baliqiao Bridge (old bridge) (八里桥): Baliqiao station (地铁八里桥站)
- Tongzhou (new suburban center) (通州城区): Tongzhou Beiyuan station (地铁通州北苑站)
• Beijing Airport (PEK, 北京首都国际机场): T2 or T3 stations