Beijing's Subway (Metro) Art




Line 1 is the oldest and one of the busiest lines of Beijing’s subway rail network, running underneath Chang’an Avenue, the city’s principal east–west thoroughfare, and passing through Xidan, Wangfujing and Dongdan, among other important commercial centres, as well as the Central Business District near the China World Trade Centre.

The line has 23 stations along its total operational length of 30.44 km. All except for Sihui and Sihui East are underground.

According to Wikipedia, beyond the western terminus of Line 1 – Pingguoyuan – there are three more stations, two of which – Gaojing Station (高井站) and Heishitou Station (黑石头站) – are located in the Beijing Military Region, and one – Fushouling Station (福寿岭站) – is near the Metro Drivers’ Vocational School. All three are closed to the general public.

There are two main types of train currently used on Line 1. The older type DKZ4 trains are based and maintained at Sihui, while the newer SFM04 trains are based at Gucheng.

There had been a plan to introduce seven-car trains instead of the current six-car trains, in order to relieve the severe overcrowding; but in order to achieve this, the oldest section between Pingguoyuan and Nanlishilu, would have had to have its platforms lengthened. Due to budget constraints, that plan has been put on hold indefinitely.

But if you have a desire to see even older trains, a BD2 trainset is on display in the Subway Culture Park near Xihongmen station, together with two separate carriages of the same vintage.

It is clear that artwork on the subway was not on anyone’s agenda when the first line was mooted in the 1960s. It was designed, after all, as a war preparation project and originally there were no plans to open it to the public.

Even when it was, Deng Xiaoping determined that the entire line should be utilitarian... simple, but elegant; but not luxurious. The result was a line with little to commend it visually.

Occasionally you see advertising-decorated trains on Line 1, but this is still the exception rather than the rule.

However an effort – of sorts – has been made to cheer up some of the stations with lighting that is hardly what you might call subtle, but is a welcome change, none-the-less.

At Muxidi, for instance, the fluorescent lights have been placed in squares – not that this is going to win any prizes for originality.

Guomao goes for hexagons...

while Wangfujing prefers its lighting in rectangles.

Tiananmen West, meanwhile, has gone for the octagonal approach...

while the designers of Fuxingmen station experimented with circular lighting.

Tiananmen East station has tried placing lighting at the top of the ceiling support columns to brighten the place up...

while Jianguomen station, too, is brightened up by its lit-up columns.

Yonganli takes the prize for the most originality of Line 1’s lighting efforts.