Beijing's bulwarks

Updated: 2013-01-15 10:57

By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)

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Beijing's bulwarks

Top and above: For more than a year, 120 designers, ancient architecture experts and craftsmen worked on the first model of Yongding Gate, with more to follow.[Photo/China Daily]

Beijing's bulwarks

Beijing is the capital of five dynasties - Liao (916-1125), Jin (1115-1234), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911). It consequently developed a comprehensive fortification system built as early as the 15th century. The city consists of the Forbidden City, the imperial city, the inner city and the outer city.

The inner city has nine gates, including Chaoyang and Chongwen, which are now on the second ring road or the Subway Line 2. The Outer City has seven gates, including Yongding.

In the 1950s, there were debates about whether Beijing's city walls should be demolished to give way to modernization.

However, the "father of modern Chinese architecture" Liang Sicheng said the city wall is "the necklace" of Beijing - and even of China.

"China's city walls have to an extent become a cultural background of its people," ancient architecture expert Liu Dake says.

"Beijing's walls have witnessed the joy and tears of the people it surrounds, and the ups and downs of their history."

It's impossible for Beijing to reconstruct its city walls considering its current layout and transportation system, says the 80-year-old Wang Zhongjie, who has worked as an ancient architecture craftsman for 50 years and as a senior Palace Museum engineer.

"Only by producing a scale model of all the 16 city gates can we see the original appearance of ancient Beijing," he says.

At the project's financial helm is Chan, who was voted among Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2012.

Chan says they plan to finish all 16 city walls in six years. Her museum's free space is too small, so she's considering opening a new museum dedicated to the city wall miniatures.

"We're producing a sandalwood and ebony necklace for Beijing, " Liu says.

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