As we all know, Beijing and Nanjing are two of China’s modern metropolises. Well, do you know the reason that whey they both use the character jing in their names? In fact, jing means capital city, and accordingly Nanjing and Beijing were both once imperial capitals. Also, Xi’an and Luoyang were also both known respectively as the West Capital and East Capital for the same reason.
To get a clear view of how jing and the meaning of capital relate, it’s best to turn to the character’s construction. A redesigned version of jing was used as the 2008 Beijing Olympics logo and quickly became recognizable all around the world as China’s logo. The character was made to look like a person runing about with his arms spread out. Nevertheless, the image is totally independent of jing’s true origins. Initially, a pictograph representing structures built on tall platforms. The oracle bone inscriptions of jing reveal that the upper part of the character is a large roof and the bottom is the foundation for a tall platform made of stamped earth. In imperial times such platforms were topped with awesome structures that only the imperial court would have had the power to build. Therefore most cities with such edifices were capitals and jing was used to denote them. Also, because of the tall platform component of the character, it was used tin ancient Chinese to represent stateliness or refer to a tall mound. Oracle bone inscriptions additionally used another pictograph gao (high), whose shape was similar to jing’s and shared interrelated connotations. Representing tall platform structures, gao borrowed the familiar shape of the towering buildings to illustrate the more abstract concept of height. Throughout three thousand years of evolution it has totally blurred the original liaison between jing and gao. The affinity between them is now only apparent to use through Oracle bone inscriptions.