The Central Axis of Beijing: the Legend of a Line and a City

    BEIJING, Aug. 16, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- A news report by on Memory and future about the central axis of Beijing:

    The Central Axis of Beijing, stretching nearly 8 km from Yongding Gate in the south to the Bell Tower in the north, is the core area of the old city of Beijing. It is also the longest urban central axis still existing in the world. With its symbolic importance, the Central Axis of Beijing divides the city into two symmetric wings. Being magnificent and solemn, the Central Axis is the symbol of Beijing's urban spatial pattern.

    The Central Axis of Beijing has its root dated back to the Yuan Dynasty. Hu Bilie, also known as the Shizu Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, jettisoned the old capital city of Zhongdu and built the new capital city of Daduinits northeast. The Central Axis of Beijing was 3.7km in length at that time. With further development in the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was at last extended to 7.86 km.

    What has influenced traditional Chinese capital planning was such a fundamental principle that people should build a country at the center of the world and construct the royal palace at the center of the country. The Forbidden City, built along the Central Axis of Beijing, has a group of royal palaces that are surrounded and protected by the inner court and the outer court. Influenced by the architecture philosophy of "sitting at the center of the world", the Chinese built the most high-ranking royal palaces and city gates in the Forbidden City, including Taihe Palace, Zhonghe Palace, Baohe Palace, Qianqing Palace, Jiaotai Palace, Kunning Palace, and Wumen Gate, etc., along the Central Axis. As a symbol of the supreme authority of the emperor, the Central Axis also links and integrates the different parts of Beijing. The Central Axis of Beijing embodies both an urban planning principle and the political and cultural ideologies of the old Chinese feudal society.

    The Central Axis is also a line that witnesses the development of folk culture in Beijing. According to the old city design of Beijing, there should be a marketplace behind the royal court. So the north end of the Central Axis became an urban business area. Areas like Luoguxiang and Shichahai, which are at the two sides of the Central Axis, were residential and recreation districts in the past. Dashila and Xianyukou, situated at the two sides of the Qianmen Street, were the traditional business districts along the Central Axis in the south.

    The central axis is the backbone of a city. With its preference for precision, symmetry, and orderliness, the Central Axis of Beijing epitomizes the "value of the center" in Chinese culture and highlights the Chinese belief about the harmony between nature and human. It stands as a typical example of traditional Chinese philosophy applied to urban planning and embodies the Chinese way of socialization.

    Most of the essential buildings in the old city of Beijing are along the Central Axis, which witnessed the evolution and changes of this city. Liang Sicheng, a Chinese architect, writes that "Beijing's splendidness and orderliness come from this central axis. It extends to both the north and south, imposing a sense of magnificence on the whole city".

    Today, the Central Axis of Beijing is still in full vigor and of historical significance. In the new urban planning blueprint of Beijing, this spectacular urban landscape will extend further to both the north and south. It will link the Olympic Park in the north with the vast land outside of the Fifth Ring Road in the south. In the future, it will become a new axis that witnesses the conservation of the old city and the development of Beijing.

    Ten years ago, the Central Axis of Beijing joined the race for inclusion in the World Heritage List. Recently, the municipal government of Beijing has put this application on its top agenda. As a landmark of this old city, the Central Axis is set to enjoy its full vitality.

    Feel of China

    The Central Axis of Beijing: the Legend of a Line and a City


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