While much of the world had to get accustomed to wearing a face mask due to the pandemic, people in Beijing have been doing it for years to combat the omnipresent smog. But for a brief period in 2015, a blue sky covered the Chinese capital. It was a manmade miracle done to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's defeat and the end of World War II. Beijing decided to host the biggest military parade in its history, but rather than hold such a celebration with a gray backdrop, officials set out to ensure that the skies would be an azure blue.
To achieve this, hundreds of factories were temporarily shut down and only half of the city's five million cars were allowed on the streets on alternating days. Suddenly, toward the end of August 2015, the smog disappeared, and for the first time in ages, people could look up at clear blue beauty. The parade played to perfection -- and then everything went back to normal. Factories started back up, millions more cars went back on the road, and by early September, the smog returned to its steady stance over the city.
Beautiful and bizarre Beijing:
- Beijing boasts the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, and five other UNESCO World Heritage sites.
- It is estimated that more than a million people live in nuclear bunkers that lie beneath the city's streets.
- To encourage recycling, Beijing subway riders can recycle plastic bottles in exchange for travel tickets.