Jianguomen, which means ‘Gate for Nation Building’, was never one of the 16 original gates in Beijing’s 15th century Ming-era city wall. Rather, it was created in 1939 during the Japanese occupation of the city to enable access to the eastern suburbs. The gate was formally named in November 1945 after Beiping, as the city was then known, returned to Chinese rule.
In a fine example of forward planning, the interchange passageways at Jianguomen station were planned and built early on so that the eventual Line 1 extension further east could link up with Line 2 without too much difficulty.
Jianquomen’s murals were installed in 1985, a year after Xizhimen had its platform walls upgraded.
The oldest landmark at Jianguomen is the Beijing Ancient Observatory, which was built in the Zhengtong years of the Ming Dynasty (1436-1450), and is the theme of one of the tiled walls on the station.
The Ancient Observatory is located in the south-west corner of Jianguomen, and is one of the oldest observatories in the world. It was called the ‘Star Observation Platform’ in the Ming Dynasty, and was equipped with abridged armillas, armillary spheres, and celestial globes together with a gnomon and clepsydra.
Here are some close-up details from the previous mural:
On the opposite side are the ‘Four Great Inventions’ by Yan Dong. (These were papermaking, the compass, gunpowder, and printing.)
The mural is missing 23 tiles, including the upper part of the compass and the bottom of the ship, while the ancient book about papermaking has lost more than 10 characters.
The Han Dynasty court eunuch Cai Lun (50 – 121 AD) invented the pulp papermaking process and established the use of new materials used in making paper. By the 3rd century, paper as a writing medium was in widespread use.
With the aid of the 11th century compass, Chinese sailors travelled as far as East Africa.
Evidence of gunpowder’s first use in China comes from the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD), with the earliest known recorded recipes for gunpowder written by Zeng Gongliang, Ding Du and Yang Weide in the Wujing Zongyao, a military manuscript compiled in 1044 during the Song Dynasty.
The earliest specimen of woodblock printing is a single-sheet dharani sutra in Sanskrit that was printed on hemp paper between 650 and 670 AD; it was unearthed in 1974 from a Tang tomb near Xi’an.