|The city of Beijing is tremendous in size.|
If you want to make an investigation of it, you will be at a loss to decide where to make the first probe.
Almost all people who have visited Beijing have the common impression that it is very big. All those who have come to Beijing from the provinces, regions or the metropolises on business or errands will tell you this experience or conclusion of theirs. Each of them would tell you, if you should venture to touch upon this topic, how hard each of them had to run about in this gigantic labyrinth in order to arrive at the place he/she was seeking. If you are an outlander, unfamiliar with this city and with only a map to serve as your guide, your work efficiency will be very high if you can succeed in having two errands done in one day. Nevertheless, you are sure to feel pain in your back and waist after running about for a whole day. Your mind will be befuddled, and your thighs and calves will bloat if you are a person not used to physical exercises. The blame for all this should be laid on the fact that the city of Beijing is really too big.
As a matter of fact, Beijing is immense not merely in a physical sense. As the capital of New China, Beijing is an all-round city functionally, serving as the center for the performance of political, economic, military, diplomatic, scientific and technological, cultural and educational, athletic and informational functions. Here are located the biggest party, political and military organizations, the biggest financial and commercial enterprises, the biggest scientific research units, the biggest colleges and universities, the biggest information networks, the biggest stadiums, publishing houses, newspaper offices, broadcasting stations and television stations and the biggest international airfield. The embassies of all foreign countries of the world are assembled here. The elite of every country of the world may be encountered here. Items of important news are received or issued at this place.
What is more, Beijing is not only the capital of New China. It was the capital of Chinese Dynasty in the long history of China. The secondary capital of Chinese dynasty what is called the Liao Dynasty and the central capital of what is calling the Jin Dynasty in the history of Chinese dynasty. It was the capital of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. It is not difficult to imagine how tragic the historical events were that occurred here. The Liao Dynasty was established by an alien people, who occupied a large part of China"s territory on the north side of the Yangtze River and were constantly at war with the Chinese people. The Liao Dynasty was one of Chinese dynasties that lasted more than two hundred years (907---1125). There are many stories about the heroic struggle that the Chinese waged against the Liaos. But it was a new invading power, the Jin people, that completely destroyed the Liaos. The Jins originated in what is now the northeastern part of China. After defeating the Liaos they invaded China and occupied the entire territory on the north side of the Yangtze River. The emperor of China (of the then Soong Dynasty) fled to the south of the Yangtze River. The Jins killed the Liaos and treated the Chinese on the north side of Yangtze as slaves and servants. The Jin Dynasty existed for one hundred and twenty years. Then the Mongols came. They literally annihilated the Jins and later took possession of the entire territory of China. They founded a new Chinese dynasty-the Yuan Dynasty and located their "Big Capital" at Beijing. The Ming and Qing Dynasties that followed Yuan also designated Beijing as their capital city. It is really inconceivable that the filthy and abominable sediments of a history of one thousand years of slaughter and oppression could have been swept off in a few years after the inauguration of the People"s Republic of China. Now let"s ruminate over the past events and contemplate in a spirit of scientific research the relics that meet our observant gaze.
You might do well to begin your investigation from the seemingly trivial things: an alley, a hutong, a shabby old house, or even an old tree. Almost everything here has some story which deserves chewing slowly and meditating over carefully. Those time-worn, dilapidated one-storied houses may have been the residences of famous personages of yore; those desolate, disorderly courtyards may have been the resorts of princes, dukes and ministers. You may go on with your study in this way until you come to the world-famous Imperial Palace, Coal Hill, Temple of Heaven, Lamasery of Harmony and Peace, Summer Palace, and Yuanmingyuan (the old Summer Palace of Qing Dynasty).
This is what Beijing is: ancient but lively, extensive but profound, high and far but intimate, infatuating but inscrutable. It is simple and pure---so simple and so pure that you will know it is Beijing at a glance. It is, at the same time, so colorful and so rich in contents that it will never be possible for you to sum up your description of it by means of a pithy statement. No matter whether it is about the remote and profound history, so many Emperors built their capital here in the long history of Chinese dynasty, the present realities vibrant with life, the all-pervasive atmosphere of grandeur and majesty, or the simple and honest behavior of the common people, they will all come to you in rapid succession and stand face to face with you the moment you enter Beijing so that you will not be able to see them clearly and will be at a loss as to which of them to begin your study from.
It may be said with some degree of assurance that anyone who wants to understand Beijing will feel that he/she does not know by what door or gate he/she can get in. So you must first find the gate which is the entrance to the city.
Of all the gates of Beijing, Tian An Men (the Gate of Heavenly Peace) is of course the most important one. Tian An Men is the emblem of the capital city Beijing.
In fact, even in the feudal era Tian An Men had an extraordinary position.
The Gate of Heavenly Peace was originally called the Gate of Reliance on Heaven. Shun Zhi, the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty after unification of the country, was a child six years of age when he ascended the throne. He took over the reins of government seven years later, when his uncle Duo Er Gun, the prince regent, died unexpectedly at the age of 39.
In the next year, the child emperor decided to change the name of the front gate of his imperial city. Obviously, he did not like the connotation of the name, which taught him to govern the country by the grace of heaven. The monarch might have been seriously disturbed in his mind by the untimely death of his father and his uncle. He might have had some apprehension about his own health and life. He might have wished that heaven would bestow on him peace of mind and safety from illness. As the Chinese word "an" has the dual meaning of "peace" and "safety", it certainly appealed to the young monarch. If this conjecture is correct, this wish of his was not to be granted by heaven. For he was to die, as we have learned from Chinese dynasty history, at the age of 23 (perhaps of appendicitis). Thus his lifespan was to be very short, even a little less than half of his fatherĄŻs.
No matter whether the name means by implication "to govern the country by the grace of heaven" or "to enjoy peace and safety bestowed by heaven", the gate, as the front gate of the imperial city, is where the destiny of the country is linked to, where the prestige of the state is embodied, and where the state power is symbolized. The long history of Chinese dynasty has become story to us. Indeed, for a thousand years Tian An Men was the place where the successive feudal dynasties held their pompous ceremonies.