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The Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) is located to the north of Beijing's Tiananmen Square, from which it is divided by the wide Chang'an Avenue. To approach the gate from Tiananmen Square, you will have to walk through a tunnel underneath Chang'an Avenue. Directly in front of the gate are seven white marble bridges of which the central one was reserved for the emperor in times past. The Gate of Heavenly Peace was used as the gatehouse of the Forbidden City during the time of the Ming dynasty and Qing dynasty. While the Ming and Qing emperors used the central arched gateway to enter the Forbidden City back then, ministers and officials had to pass through the smaller side gateways. In post-imperial times, the Gate of Heavenly Peace increasingly became associated with political events such as the May 4th demonstration during the time of the Republic of China and especially the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Most approaching visitors will already recognize Tiananmen Gate from afar by the contemporary decoration of its southern facade that fronts Tiananmen Square. A huge portrait of Mao Zedong is mounted above the central arched gateway while two placards that proclaim "Long Live the People's Republic of China" and "Long Live the Great Unity of the World's Peoples" can be seen above the side gateways. Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China on the balcony of the Tiananmen Gate on the 1st of October 1949. A portrait of Mao has been on display at the gate since that year. As a symbol of modern China, an artistic rendering of the gate can also be found within the National Emblem of the People's Republic of China.
The Gate of Heavenly Peace was originally constructed in 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor. It was called Chengtianmen (Gate of Accepting Heavenly Mandate) during those early years. As an edifice that was completely built out of wood, the gate looked very different back then. It was completely destroyed twice by fire and rebuilt each time with major changes to its design. The current external appearance of the Tiananmen Gate is essentially the same as it was after its second rebuilding was completed in 1651. That was also when the gate was given its present name.
The Tiananmen Gate can be visited by the public since November 1987. Besides providing a magnificent view over Tiananmen Square from its balcony, you will find a selection of historical artifacts and photographs (mainly from the founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China) displayed inside.