China Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment: A Mile­stone in Devel­op­ment

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Zhang Hong­peng Edited by Mary Frances Cap­piello Photo by Bey­han Özdemir ( Tur­key)

The China Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment was built dur­ing the tran­si­tion be­tween two cen­turies and is de­signed so that the process of walk­ing through al­lows visitors to re­call and re­flect on the 5,000-year devel­op­ment of Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion.

The China Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment, lo­cated be­tween the old China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion (CCTV) build­ing and the Mil­i­tary Mu­seum of the Chi­nese Peo­ple’s Rev­o­lu­tion on the west ex­ten­sion of Chang’an Av­enue, faces south and cov­ers an area of 4.5 hectares (ha), which in­cludes a total con­struc­tion area of 42,000 square me­tres (sq.m). It does not have a large size, but has great sig­nif­i­cance as it was built to mark the be­gin­ning of a new mil­len­nium. Adopt­ing tra­di­tional and mod­ern de­sign ideas, the mon­u­ment is a com­bi­na­tion of var­i­ous artis­tic forms such as ar­chi­tec­ture, land­scap­ing, sculp­ture and mu­ral paint­ing.

The mon­u­ment is built in a sym­met­ri­cal lay­out with all parts stretch­ing south­ward and north­ward. It con­sists of three ma­jor parts: the Flame Square, the Bronze Path and the Mon­u­ment of Heaven and Earth. Walk­ing through the sunken Flame Square and the Bronze Path from south to north, one comes in front of the 27-me­tre (m)-high mon­u­ment which looks like a gi­ant sun­dial. The mon­u­ment was built dur­ing the tran­si­tion be­tween two cen­turies and is de­signed so that the process of walk­ing through al­lows visitors to re­call and re­flect on the 5,000-year devel­op­ment of Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion.

A Sym­bol of Heaven and Earth

Over more than 5,000 years of study of the uni­verse, an­cient Chi­nese de­vel­oped the­o­ries about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween hu­mans and na­ture and be­tween heaven and earth. Ac­cord­ing to these ideas, hu­mans should be in har­mony with na­ture and the mo­tion of heaven and earth should be the model for peo­ple’s code of con­duct. These ideas still pre­vail in China to­day.

There­fore, the mon­u­ment’s main parts are a large, ro­tat­ing round struc­ture 47 m in di­am­e­ter which is

de­signed to sym­bol­ise heaven and the struc­ture’s sup­port­ing base used to rep­re­sent earth. The ro­tat­ing round struc­ture sym­bol­ises the con­tin­u­ous mo­tion and changes of the uni­verse. This is sym­bolic of the Chi­nese be­lief that hu­mans should con­tinue to progress and keep mov­ing for­ward, just like heaven, and be in­clu­sive of all things, the same as the earth.

The China Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment is an im­por­tant com­mem­o­ra­tive struc­ture that uses ar­chi­tec­tural lan­guage to mark the start of a new mil­len­nium and im­press visitors. De­sign­ers max­imised the size of ar­chi­tec­tural com­po­nents. For in­stance, the 270 m length of the path and the 85 m di­am­e­ter of the sup­port­ing base are the largest sizes pos­si­ble un­der real-life con­di­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Yu Li, ar­chi­tect of the mon­u­ment, the an­gle be­tween the ro­tat­ing round struc­ture and its sup­port­ing base can in­crease the struc­ture’s im­pres­sion on the viewer. As a slope’s ro­ta­tion is usu­ally more im­pres­sive than a hor­i­zon­tal plane’s, the ro­tat­ing struc­ture was de­signed to have an an­gle of 19 de­grees from the sup­port­ing base. A round flat stage on the ro­tat­ing struc­ture serves as an arena for per­for­mances, singing and danc­ing and also a ref­er­ence point for iden­ti­fy­ing the cen­tre of the ro­tat­ing round struc­ture. The mon­u­ment’s 20-m-long rod was de­signed to en­hance the vis­ual ef­fect and was not placed at the cen­tre of the round struc­ture. As a re­sult, when the round struc­ture ro­tates, the rod can high­light the ro­ta­tion with the change of its lo­ca­tion. Such a lay­out makes the mon­u­ment look like a sun­dial.

The ro­tat­ing struc­ture has a large mass and size, and weighs about 3,200 tonnes, mak­ing it the first ro­tat­ing struc­ture of this size in the world. The large ro­tat­ing struc­ture is a prod­uct of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy. It is driven by 96 elec­tric ve­hi­cles that run on a cir­cu­lar rail­way and en­able its ro­ta­tion. The struc­ture can ro­tate one cy­cle ev­ery four to 12 hours.

A Flash of In­spi­ra­tion for the Mon­u­ment

Peo­ple might won­der how the idea of build­ing the mon­u­ment emerged.

It is nec­es­sary to go back to 1993, when China lost its bid to host the 2000 Olympic Games. On the night of Septem­ber 23, 1993, in a tele­phone in­ter­view with Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Daily, Bei­jing CPPCC vice chair­man Zhu Xiangyuan in­di­cated that China could deal with and over­come frus­tra­tion, and that Chi­nese would con­tinue to work hard for devel­op­ment to cre­ate more op­por­tu­ni­ties.

How­ever, China’s fail­ure in the bid dis­ap­pointed Zhu and left him sleep­less that night. He thought some land­mark events or projects should be car­ried out to in­spire peo­ple. He sud­denly re­alised year 2000 was the start of a new mil­len­nium and also the Year of the Dragon in the Chi­nese lu­nar cal­en­dar, which he thought sym­bol­ised China’s rise and re­ju­ve­na­tion in the new cen­tury. Af­ter this, Zhu col­lected var­i­ous doc­u­ments to com­pare the evo­lu­tion of Eastern and West­ern civil­i­sa­tions and to study causes of the de­cline of Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion which started in the 15th cen­tury. Ad­di­tion­ally, he no­ticed sev­eral grand cel­e­bra­tions would take place in 1999, in­clud­ing the 50th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, Ma­cao’s re­turn to China and the tran­si­tion to a new mil­len­nium. To mark the cel­e­bra­tions, an event was planned to so­licit ideas and de­signs for build­ing com­mem­o­ra­tive struc­tures.

In April 1994, the Mil­len­nium Cre­ativ­ity—a One Hun­dred Day Cel­e­bra­tion event was of­fi­cially launched to the pub­lic. At first, Zhu pro­posed the con­cep­tion of build­ing the “China Mil­len­nium Wall.” Af­ter care­fully re­view­ing his pro­posal, Zhu re­con­sid­ered and de­cided a mon­u­ment would be prefer­able. He no­ticed walls were usu­ally used to com­mem­o­rate sor­row­ful mem­o­ries, for ex­am­ple, the Com­mu­nards’ Wall and the Wail­ing Wall. In his view, the mon­u­ment should also func­tion as a sym­bol of the unity of 56 eth­nic groups in China. Con­se­quently, Zhu wrote a doc­u­ment sug­gest­ing the cre­ation of a China Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment and ex­plain­ing the mon­u­ment’s ar­chi­tec­tural and cul­tural con­no­ta­tions.

Chi­nese Cul­ture in the Mon­u­ment

The China Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment epit­o­mises the quin­tes­sence of 5,000-year- old Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion and the re­ju­ve­na­tion of Chi­nese cul­ture. Both the ma­te­ri­als and lay­out are meant to re­flect the grandeur of Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion. All of the struc­tures are made of stone, which sym­bol­ises Chi­nese tenac­ity, sim­plic­ity, hu­mil­ity and tol­er­a­tion. Fur­ther­more, stone also rep­re­sents eter­nity and can en­dure for a long time.

Some num­bers found within the mon­u­ment have spe­cial sym­bolic mean­ings. For in­stance, the Flame Square is paved with 960 square stone tiles, sym­bol­is­ing China’s total area of 9,600,000 square kilo­me­tres ( On the west­ern and eastern sides of the square are two foun­tains, which con­tain 56 spouts in total, sym­bol­is­ing 56 eth­nic groups nour­ished by two mother rivers—yellow River and Yangtze River.

The 270-m-long and 3-m-wide Bronze Path at the cen­tre of north Flame Square con­tains 5,000 hor­i­zon­tal lines mark­ing sig­nif­i­cant events from 3000 BC to AD 2000. The de­scrip­tion of these events in­cludes more than 180,000 Chi­nese char­ac­ters and touches many ar­eas such as sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion, Heav­enly Stems and Earthly Branches and zo­diac an­i­mals. More­over, in the cir­cu­lar gallery of the sup­port­ing base there are 40 bronze stat­ues of an­cient and mod­ern Chi­nese lu­mi­nar­ies in cul­ture and sci­ence.

The China Mil­len­nium Mon­u­ment is an im­por­tant land­mark for China’s ush­er­ing in the 21st cen­tury, in­cor­po­rat­ing tra­di­tional cul­ture and mod­ern de­signs. It is not only a cel­e­bra­tion of China’s mag­nif­i­cent civil­i­sa­tion but also a sign of great Chi­nese re­ju­ve­na­tion.

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