|The Gate of Supreme Harmony 太和门 (Tàihé Mén) was being renovated in early 2008. It was finished by August, just in time for the Olympic crowds. During the renovations, the safety wall around the construction was made of canvas printed with images of the gate and historical references. The same procedure was used all over Beijing.
It was not the first time that major work had been done on the gate. The Gate of Supreme Harmony was built during the reign of Yongle 永乐 (Yǒnglè, 1360-1424) during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Under Yongle, it was called the "Gate of Venerating Heaven", Fengtianmen 奉天门 (Fèngtiān Mén). The Jiajing Emperor 嘉靖 ( 1507-1566) renamed it Gate of Imperial Supremacy (Huangji men) after extensive remodeling and repairs were made during his reign.
When the Manchu invaded and established the Qing Dynasty, they renamed most of the buildings in the imperial palace. Since 1645, the gate has been known by its present name. The present gate is a replacement built in 1889; a year after the gate was gutted by fire.
In 1918, the Gate of Supreme Harmony was the site of the celebrations at the end of World War I and the victory over Germany. President Xu Shichang 徐世昌 (Xú Shìchāng, 1855-1939), fourth President of the Republic of China, is shown making a speech on the terrace of the Gate of Supreme Harmony on November 18, 1918. The victory was sweet for the Chinese, but it soon became bitter. The German army had been the most vicious and aggressive during the Boxer Rebellion and the defeat of Germany brought some balance. On the other hand, the Treaty of Versailles did not erase the rights of Germany in Shandong, a coastal province, but transferred them to the Japanese instead. The Treaty of Versailles laid the foundation for the rise of both Germany and Japan, each on a path to world domination. The Japanese began to expand their territory and military presence in China even before the war ended. By 1937, they occupied Beijing.
By permission of Sidney D. Gamble Photographs, Archive of Documentary Arts, Duke University
Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009