Beijing's Subway (Metro) Art

LINE 2 – Xizhimen (西直门)



Xizhimen was a gate in the Beijing city wall whose importance was second only to Zhengyangmen. Originally, it was named Heyimen in the Yuan Dynasty, becoming Xizhimen in the Ming Dynasty.

Xizhimen literally translates as West Straight Gate. Together with Dongzhimen (East Straight Gate) these two gates led straight to the Imperial palace in the Forbidden City.

This inner city gate was also known as the Water Gate, since mineral water for emperors was fetched from a spring outside Beijing and sent to the palaces through this gate before sunrise. It was demolished in 1969.

Xizhimen is one of the most crowded stations on the entire Beijing metro, with well over 170,000 transfers made every day between lines 2, 4 and 13.

One of Xizhimen station’s murals, ‘Yanshan and the Great Wall’, was made by Zhang Ding in December 1984. It is 140 metres long. Four pieces have become lost from the image, and two of the remaining tiles are damaged. The Yanshan or Yan Mountains (燕山) make up a major mountain range north of Hebei Province. Beijing itself is located at the northern tip of the North China Plain, near the meeting point of the Xishan and Yanshan mountain ranges.

The eastern stretch of the Great Wall of China, including Badaling in northern Beijing and the Mutianyu Great Wall in Huairou county, can both be found on the Yanshan.

After over three decades, the murals which line the walls of the three stations are slowly falling apart. The colours in them have darkened with age, but worse, a number of the tiles are either broken or missing. As the original moulds for the murals have been lost, it is now impossible to bake new tiles to replace the missing pieces. It apears that the murals were never maintained after they were installed, and the shockwaves, caused by faster trains, have caused most of the damage.

(This photo was taken before the installation of platform gates on Line 2 in 2018.)

‘Da Jiang Dong Qu’ on the opposite side of the station is missing five of its tiles.

Da Jiang Dong Qu (大江东去) by Su Shi is a famous example of Ci Poetry from the North Song Dynasty. ‘Charm of a maiden singer’ was made into a TV drama in 2003.
“West of the ancient fortress appears Red Cliff, where General Zhou won his early fame When the Three Kingdoms were in flame.”