When most people think of ancient history they think in terms of thousands of years ago. Not so in China where the National Museum of China has decreed that Ancient China ended in 1840 with the onset of the First Opium War. Thankfully, otherwise I and, I suspect, many of my readers would be deemed products of the dark ages or, at best, the middle ages, China moves directly from Ancient China to the Modern Age.
The First Opium War signalled the start of the decline of imperial and feudal China and the peoples’ 109 year struggle for liberation and freedom, attained on 1 October 1949 when Mao Zedong announced the creation of the People’s Republic of China and the Central People’s Government, with himself as its head, from the balcony of Tiananmen (the gate), ironically the spot from which imperial edicts had been delivered for hundreds of years.
Whether or not Mao, in his speech of that day, proclaimed that “the Chinese people have stood up” is a matter of some debate. If he didn’t say it then he certainly said it on various other occasions. The now liberated people, under the guidance of the Chinese Communist Party, had stood up to Japanese invaders, meddling western influences and the ‘Kuomintang’, the anti-communist, capitalist ‘Chinese Nationalist Party.
The National Museum on China has on display three very important exhibits (pictures 1 -3 attached) related to that momentous day, momentous not only for China but also for the rest of the world.
Picture 1 – Renowned revolutionary artist and Party member, Dong Xiwen’s, 1953 painting – ‘The Founding Ceremony’ – which depicts, in a joyous ‘new year’ style with red carpet, lanterns and flags, Mao Zedong, watched by close Party members, announcing the creation of the People’s Republic of China four years earlier.
My mentioning of the Party faithful watching on is deliberate because in 1964 Dong Xiwen released an updated version of the picture – identical to the initial release except that now (picture 4 below) Gao Gang was removed and the second potted pink chrysanthemum enlarged. Gao Gang, head of the State Planning Commission of China, a senior politburo position, had been purged from the party records after committing suicide in 1954 following a failed leadership challenge against Liu Shaoqi and Zhou Enlai which, to his surprise, Mao did not support. In actual fact, over the years, three new versions of the painting were released, two to remove certain persons and, once the Cultural Revolution had ended, a final version which basically restored the original.
Also of note in my attached picture 1 is the actual microphone used by Mao Zedong during his speech.
Picture 2 – The five starred flag raised by Mao Zedong, at the press of a button, during the Proclamation of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949 while 54 guns, representing the 54 ethnic groups in China, volleyed 28 times each to mark the culmination of 28 years of ‘brave struggle’ since the formation of the Communist Party of China in 1921. Three hundred thousand soldiers and civilians had assembled in Tiananmen Square to witness this momentous event which was celebrated well into the night not only here in Beijing but right across China.
Today visitors can view the flag being raised in Tiananmen Square at sunrise every day of the year.
The flag, selected from over 3000 designs, was designed by Zeng Liangsong. The red colour stands for the revolution while the gold colour of the stars signify the dawn of a new era over the land. The five stars grouped together symbolise the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.
Picture 3 – The Seal of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China. This original 9 cm square seal is cut with characters in Song script reading ‘Seal of the Central People’s Government of The People’s Republic of China’ while its metal surround is engraved with the lines, ‘Seal No. 1, 1 November 1949, The Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China’.
Picture 4 – Spot the difference between this and Picture 1 – see comment above.
Picture 5 – Photograph of Mao proclaiming the foundation of the People’s Republic of China on 1 October 1949. Photo credit – Chinese Government – Hong Kong.
As indicated above the painting, flag and seal can be seen in the National Museum of China. Please visit my separate review – National Museum of China – for practical details such as opening hours, etc.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on a number of trips to Beijing. I suggest you continue with my next entry – The Great Hall of the People – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my Beijing Introduction.