|Qianmen Dajie or Qianmen Avenue or Qianmen Street, depending on the map you consult, was the main south artery of Beijing. It leads from Zhengyangmen gate, the south gate of the Inner City of the imperial palace. It is the road that emperors took to go to the Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan) to make sacrifices and pray for good harvests and freedom from disaster. The Emperor and a huge entourage of ministers and military guards would progress through the streets of Beijing in a visible demonstration of the Mandate of Heaven. The emperors sat on their thrones as gods who were chosen by the heavens to rule China. The prayers they offered connected the people, not only with the gods, but with all of the previous generations of dynasties back to the Yellow Emperor, the first mythic ruler of China.
The above photo was taken in 2004 and the one below sometime in the late 1920s or early 1930s. In the 1930s Qianmen Dajie was called Zhengyangmen Dajie or Zhengyangmen Street after the gate. The street was renamed Qianmen after common usage - that's what people called it, so they changed the name. Qianmen in Chinese means "front gate" and was used to describe the neighborhood. The southern gate is the front gate because, in China, south takes precedence over all other directions.
Last update: August 2009
© Marilyn Shea, 2009