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Zhengyangmen to be opened for free

To mark the 60th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army marching into Beijing, formerly known as Peking, on February 3rd 1949, the administration office of one of Beijing's landmarks, the Zhengyangmen Gate, has announced that it will be opened to the public for free from February 3rd until the end of this month. Lu Yinghong, the director of the Zhengyangmen Administration Office, explains:

 

"In the past, only the emperor could freely enter Zhengyangmen Gate. The common people were not allowed to use it. It was only after the People's Liberation Army marched through the gate that we common people could have that privilege too. Now we are inviting people to come here to experience the history and understand how the difficulties of the past have enabled us to live happier lives today."

 

Since its completion, the Zhengyangmen Gate has experienced 600 years of history but it still stands erect in Beijing as a witness to the waxing and waning of the feudal dynasties of the Ming and Qing, the rise and fall of emperors, kings, generals and ministers, as well as many other significant events which influenced the development of Chinese history.

 

Beijing was officially liberated on January 31st, 1949, but the images you will see are from February 3rd, 1949 when the victorious People's Liberation Army paraded through the city streets. They entered the city from both the southern Yongdingmen Gate, heading through the Zhengyang Gate before heading north through the city. Another group of troops entered from the Xizhimen gate and headed south. This was celebrated ever since as the "peaceful liberation of Beijing". 76-year-old Qi Wei was at the scene then. When asked about the situation at that time, he becomes quite excited.

 

"I was studying in a middle school. In order to see the marching army, my classmates and I went to Xizhimen Gate and then followed them to Zhengyangmen Gate. I saw the army wearing straw sandals and cotton-padded clothes, which seem quite old-fashioned today. Some people climbed on their gun carriages and shouted cheerfully."

 

Besides free entrance, people who come to the gate will not only experience that period of history but also see relics including historical photos, charts and graphs as well as some archival material which is displayed at the hall of the gate. Many of them are valuable archives shown for the first time. Since the first day that the Gate was opened to the public for free, it has attracted thousands of visitors, many of whom are in their 60s. Some of them are Beijingers and witnessed this grand event. Mr. Chen is in his 80s. He has been living near Zhengyangmen Gate since his childhood.

 

"I came here to recall what happened at that time. I saw the army marching through the gate. I was very happy to know that we were liberated. People around us all cheered and welcomed the army."

 

Among the multitude of visitors are some foreigners, who focus their attention on these historical photos. 54-year-old Michael Kann is a tourist from America. Though he knows little about this period of history, he says:

 

"I meant to see the old history of the city and I wanted to see the old gate. I think it's very impressive and I enjoy the old historical photographs. I thought they were educational. You saw that they had them destroyed and rebuilt and how they functioned as defense mechanism."

 

As most visitors speak highly of this activity, some suggest that such an activity can be held often in the future to provide younger generations with a patriotic history lesson. The Gate will be opened for free until the end of February. Those interested in taking a look around this historic and ancient gate are all welcome.

 

(CRI February 9, 2009)