Beijing has been one of the most important cities in the world for more than three thousand years--it first was named a capital city in 1057 B.C. This image of Beijing was taken from the Space Shuttle five years ago (in late April-early May 1998), and is one of the best photographs of the city taken from orbit. The image has been scanned from film and reduced in resolution for display over the Internet, but still shows the city's distinctive historical features such as the Forbidden City and Summer Palace.
Modern Beijing is home to over 12 million people, and covers nearly 17,000 square kilometers (6400 square miles). Beijing has been a focus of international concern since the outbreak of the SARS virus in November 2002. Beijing was hit hard by the outbreak, with large portions of the cases worldwide and deaths reported there.