From the rostrum, there have one of the best views of Tiananmen Square, the largest city center square in the world. Until January l, 1988, when the rostrum was opened to the public, this was a view reserved only for emperors and important heads of state. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the emperors lowered imperial edicts from here to officials kneeling below.
Once the edicts were removed from their gilded, phoenix-shaped box, they were copied and announced all over the country. Another important political event took place here on October 1, 1949. On that day, Chairman Mao stood here on the rostrum and proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China. Probably that is why, even today, the portrait of Chairman Mao is still seen on the outside of the rostrum.
The original gate was built on this site in 1417, as an entrance to the imperial palace. It was called Chentianmen, which translates as the "Gate of Heavenly Succession". After it was destroyed by fire, the present gate was built in 1651 and it was given its present name, Tiananmen, the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Renovations have been carried out several times since then. It is 34.7 meters high, with 9 intercolumniations, or spaces between the columns, from east to west and 5 intercoluminiations from north to south. According to the traditional Yin Yang Theory, the numbers 9 and 5, when put together, was a way to indicate supremacy. This architectural style was used exclusively for imperial palaces.
East of Tiananmen is the Working People's Cultural Palace. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, it served as the Ancestral Temple where emperors paid tribute to their forefathers. To the west is Zhongshan Park, a park named after Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who led the great Chinese Democratic Revolution. Originally, in the Ming and Qing dynasties, the area functioned as the Altar of Land and Grain.
Down below it in front of the rostrum, you can see seven marble bridges. They are called the Golden Water Bridges. The central bridge, the one that we used to come into the complex, was reserved only for the use of the Ming and Qing emperors. Moving out from the center, the other bridges also had specified uses. The Wanggong Bridge was for the royal family, the Pinji Bridge was for civil and military officials and the Gongshen Bridge was for minor officials. Those two ornamental stone pillars are called Huabiao in Chinese.
Looking further out to the south, you can see our national flag fluttering in the wind. The big golden star on the left upper corner represents the Communist Party of China and the four stars flanking on its right side represent the 56 nationalities under the leadership of the Party. They together stand for the great union of the Chinese people. The first national flag was hoisted by Chairman Mao on October 1, 1949. The raising and lowering of the flag, a process which lasts exactly 2 minutes and 7 seconds (about the same time it takes for the sun to rise and set), have become one of the capital's tourist attractions.
Tiananmen Square covers a total area of 440,000 square meters, big enough to hold more than half a million people at a grand gathering. Every day, thousands of people from all over the country come to visit the square. The layout of this whole area is very symmetrical. You have to imagine an 7.5-km-long axis running from the North to the South right through the city. This gate stands right on that axis. The Monument to the Heroes of the People, right over there in the middle of the square, is also on the same line. The monument is 38 meters high and is decorated with a calligraphy by Chairman Mao and ten bas-relief carvings.
The building south of the Monument is Chairman Mao's Mausoleum where the remains of Chairman Mao are kept. Chairman Mao was born in 1893 and he died in 1976.
Further south, behind the mausoleum, is a gate called Qianmen, or the Front Gate. It was built in 1420 in the early Ming Dynasty. It's 42 meters high which made it one of the tallest buildings in ancient China. It is the only best preserved ancient tower still standing.
The building behind Qianmen is the Archery Tower. It was built in 1439 as part of the city's double-gate defense works.
On the west side of the square is the Great Hall of the People. It has three parts, a 10,000-seat auditorium, a banquet hall and the offices of the Standing Committee of the National People s Congress. Its construction took less than 10 months.
To the east of the square are two museums, the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Revolution. They were both built in 1959, in time for the 10 year anniversary of the founding of the People s Republic.
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