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Tian'anmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) is a symbol of China, located in the center of Beijing. It is also honored as the “Gate of the Nation”.
It was built in 1417, originally called Cheng Tian Men (Gate of Heavenly Succession), meaning that emperors obeyed the order of Heaven in ruling the country. At the end of the Ming Dynasty, it was seriously damaged by war. When it was rebuilt under the Qing Dynasty in 1651, it was renamed Tian'anmen, and served as the main entrance to the Imperial City, the administrative and residential quarters for court officials and retainers. The southern sections of the Imperial City wall still stand on both sides of the Gate. The tower at the top of the gate is nine-room wide and five-room deep.
On October 1, 1949, chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed on Tian'anmen Rostrum the founding of the People's Republic of China. Since then Tian'anmen has been the symbol of New China. Chairman Mao's portrait is hung above the central entrance, flanked by two slogans, which are “Long Live of the People's Republic of China” and “ Long Live the Great Unity of the Peoples of the World”. Today, the splendour of Tian'anmen attracts million of visitors from all over the world. The Rostrum on its top was opened in 1988 to the public for the first time in its history. It offers a panoramic view of the Square and the city proper.
The stream in front of Tian'anmen is called Waijinshuihe (Outer Golden River), with seven marble bridges spanning over it. Of these seven bridges, historical records say the middle one was for the exclusive use of the emperor and was accordingly called Yuluqiao (Imperial Bridge). The bridges flanking it on either side were meant for the members of the royal family and were therefore called Wanggongqiao (Royal's Bridges). Farther away on each side of the two were bridges for officials ranking above the third order and were named Pinjiqiao (ministerial Bridges). The remaining two bridges were for the use by the retinue below the third order and wre called Gongshengqiao (common Bridges). They anr the one in front of the Supreme Ancestral Temple to the east and the one in front of the Altar of land and Grain to the west.
The two stone lions by the Gate of Tian'anmen, one on each side were meant as sentries. They gaze toward the middle axis, guarding the emperor's walkway. In front of the gate stands a pair of marble columns called Huabiao. They are elaborately cut in bas-relief following the pattern of a legendary dragon. Behind the gate stands another pair of similar columns. The story of Huabiao may be traced to a couple of sources. One of the versions accredits its invention to one of the Chinese sage kings named Yao, who was said to have set up a wooden pillar in order to allow the ordinary people to expose evil-doers, hence it was originally called a slander pillar. Later it ws reduced to a signpost, and now it serves as an ornament.
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