Tian'anmen, The Gate of Heavenly Peace

Tian'anmen, The Gate of Heavenly Peace

Tian'anmen Square

The Tiananmen or Tian'anmen , literally the "Gate of Heavenly Peace", is a famous monument in Beijing, the capital of the People's Republic of China. It is widely used as a national symbol. First built during the Ming Dynasty in 1420, Tian'anmen is often referred to as the front entrance to the Forbidden City. However, the Meridian Gate is the first entrance to the Forbidden City proper, while Tiananmen was the entrance to the Imperial City, within which the Forbidden City was located. Tian'anmen is located along the northern edge of Tiananmen Square.

Huabiao (Stone Column) at Tiananmen

Huabiao (Stone Column) at Tiananmen

Meaning of name

The Chinese name of the gate, Tiananmen, is made up of the Chinese characters for "heaven," "peace" and "gate" respectively, which is why the name is conventionally translated as "The Gate of Heavenly Peace". However, this translation is somewhat misleading, since the Chinese name is derived from the much longer phrase "receiving the mandate from heaven, and stabilizing the dynasty." The Manchu name of the gate, Abkai elhe obure duka, lies closer to the original meaning of the gate and can be literally translated as the "Gate of Heavenly Peacemaking." The gate has a counterpart in the northern end of the imperial city, Dianmen , which may be roughly translated as the "Gate of Earthly Peacemaking".

Description

The building is 66 meters long, 37 meters wide and 32 meters high. Like other official buildings of the empire, the gate has unique imperial roof decorations.

Soliders at Tiananmen Square

Soliders at Tiananmen Square

In front of the gate are two lions standing in front of the gate and two more guarding the bridges. In Chinese culture, lions are believed to protect humans from evil spirits.

Two stone columns, called huabiao-each with an animal (hou) on top of it - also stand in front of the gate. Originally, these installations were designed for commoners to address their grievances by writing or sticking up petitions on the columns. However, the examples in front of the Imperial City were purely decorative and instead connoted the majesty of the imperial government.

Because of the gate's position at the front of the Imperial City, and historical events that have taken place on Tian'anmen Square, the gate has great political significance. In the 20th Century this means the gate has frequently been decorated with portraits of objects of veneration. In the early years of the People's Republic, on special occasions the gate was hung with portraits of Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong, Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin, with pride of place reserved for Sun Yat-sen.

Monument to People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square

Monument to People's Heroes at Tiananmen Square

Since PRC was founded in 1949, the central gate has had a portrait of Mao Zedong positioned over it. The portrait weighs 1.5 tonnes and is replaced by a spare when it is vandalised.The western and eastern walls have giant placards; the left one reads "Long Live the People's Republic of China" , while the right one reads "Long Live the Great Unity of the World's Peoples" . The right placard used to read "Long Live the Central People's Government" on the founding ceremony of PRC, but right after the ceremony it has been changed. Both placards are written in simplified Chinese instead of traditional Chinese characters in 1964. The phrasing has significant symbolic meaning, as the phrase used for long live, like the palace itself, was traditionally reserved for Emperors of China, but is now available to the common people.

The reviewing stands in the foreground are used on International Workers Day (May Day) and on the National Day (October 1) of the People's Republic of China.

In front of the stands is the palace moat, still filled with water but now containing decorative illuminated fountains.

In ancient times, the Tian'anmen was among the most important gates encountered when entering Beijing's Imperial City along with the Qianmen, the Gate of China. Proceeding further inward, the next gate is the 'Upright Gate', identical in design to the Tian'anmen; behind it is the southern entrance of the Forbidden City itself, known as the Meridian Gate.

The Tian'anmen is featured on the emblem of the People's Republic of China.