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Line 2 – Jianguomen (建国门)

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 designer of the mural "History of Chinese Astronomy" was Yuan Yunfu who created and copied the large-scale artistic tapestry "The Motherland " for the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall.

The mural is composed of 3,000 colourful tiles, telling stories about Nuwa repairing the sky, Houyi shooting the sun, and so on, echoing the oldest landmark just outside the station - the Beijing Ancient Observatory, which was built in the Zhengtong years of the Ming Dynasty (1436-1450).

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 was missing 23 tiles, including the upper part of the compass and the bottom of the ship...

while the ancient book about papermaking had lost more than 10 characters.

 The Beijing Metro Operating Company started looking for restoration solutions in September 2018, and after nearly six months of intense work during 2019, Jianguomen's two murals were fully restored. A new modern lighting system has been added to enhance the viewing experience, using screen door lampposts to lighten the murals from below.

When the construction progressed to the movable type printing part of the four major inventions, there was a major problem with knowing how to fill in the missing words. Qu Xin, a professor at the Tsinghua Academy of Fine Arts who worked on the original mural creation team, helped in the search for text and image data to determine the missing mural content. Finally it was found that the article came from an article in the "Book of Filial Piety" in Chinese historical literature and the missing text was finally realised.

The Four Major Inventions:

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.


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