The Zhongnanhai (zh-cp|c=|p=Zhōngnánhǎi) is a complex of buildings in
Beijing, Chinaadjacent to the Forbidden Citywhich serves as the central headquarters for the Communist Party of Chinaand the government of the People's Republic of China. The term "Zhongnanhai" is synonymous with the leadership and government administration of the nation, and is often used as a metonymfor the Chinese leadership at large (in the same sense that the term White Housefrequently refers to the President of the United Statesand his associates). Chinese Presidents, including Hu Jintao, and other top PRC leadership figures carry out many of their day-to-day administrative activities inside the compound, such as meetings with foreign dignitaries. However, the complex is shrouded in some mystery as it is closed to the general public, with photography additionally being strictly curtailed at several prominent locations such as the main gate. However, China Central Televisionfrequently shows footage of meetings "inside" the compound, but limits its coverage largely to views of the interior of buildings.
The name of the Zhongnanhai complex, located west of the
Forbidden City, means "central and southern seas" or "lakes" ["Hai", or "Haizi", means lake in Mongolian language, thus there are many lakes in northern China named "Hai". "Hai" also means sea in Chinese language. ] , referring to two lakes (the "Central Sea" and "Southern Sea") located within the compound; it is sometimes translated as "Sea Palaces". These two lakes are part of a series of irrigation projects carried out during the construction of the nearby Forbidden City. Also part of the same system is the "Northern Sea", or "Beihai", now a public park. And the "Ten Temple Sea", or " Shichahai", is connected to Beihai at the north.
These three lakes (Southern, Central, and Northern Seas) were originally an imperial leisure garden, with parklands on the shores of each lake, enclosed by a wall. Most of the pavilions, shrines, and temples survive from this period. Whereas the Northern lake had a religious focus, the shores of Central and Southern lakes were dotted with a number of palaces.
During the Jin Dynasty, the northern section of Zhongnanhai was the Taiye Lake (literally "Lake of Grand Liquid"), with an attached palace called the Daning Gong (literally "Palace of Great Peace"). During the
Yuan Dynasty, Taiye Lake was included in the Imperial City. It was also expanded, covering approximately the area occupied by the Northern and Central Seas today. Three palaces were built around the lake.
Ming Dynastymoved its capital to Beijing, construction on the existing Imperial Palace began in 1406. The Ming palace was to the south of the Yuan palace. As a result, a new Southern Sea was dug to the south of the old lake. The excavated soil, together with that from construction of the moat, was piled up to form Jingshan, a hill to the north of the Forbidden City. At this time, the three lakes were connected and were collectively called the Taiye Lake. The three lakes were divided by bridges. The lakes were part of an extensive royal park to the west of the Imperial Palace.
Qing Dynastyestablished its capital in Beijing, the government reduced the size of the royal park to within a small walled area around the three lakes. Several successive emperors built pavilions and houses along the lake shores, where they would carry out government duties in the summer. During the reign of the Empress Dowager Cixi, the Empress Dowager and the Emperor would often live in the Zhongnanhai compound, travelling to the Forbidden Cityonly for ceremonial duties.
Boxer Rebellionof 1900, the Russian army occupied Zhongnanhai. Almost all artifacts and decorations in the compound were looted. Later, the Eight-Nation Alliancecommander also lived in Zhongnanhai. When Puyiwas crowned Emperor, his father as the Prince Regent lived for a short time in the compound.
Zhongnanhai attained political significance during the
Republic of Chinaera, when the Beiyang Governmentunder Yuan Shikaiplaced its headquarters in the Zhongnanhai compound from 1911. This decision was made because the regime wished to house its government very close to the historical centre of power, the Forbidden City, but could not use the Forbidden Cityitself because the abdicated Emperor Puyistill lived there. The current main gate, Xinhua Gate or "Gate of New China", was created by Yuan Shikai. The present "gatehouse" was previously a pavilion located on the southern shore the Southern Sea, close to the southern wall. Entry to the compound was instead directly from the Forbidden City. Yuan wished to create a new entrance from Chang'an Avenue, independent of the Forbidden City. Thus the pavilion was modified to become a gatehouse, with nearby walls cut back, resulting in the angled walls near the entrance today.
Republic of Chinagovernment moved its capital to Nanjing, the Zhongnanhai compound was opened to the public as a park.
Zhongnanhai served as a government centre again since the early days of the
People's Republic of China, founded in 1949, which built many of the structures in the compound. The compound housed the Communist Party of ChinaCentral Committee, as well as the State Council. Early leaders, such as Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaopinglived in the compound. Chinese maps of Beijing show Zhongnanhai as an insignificant green area with a water body; in contrast, the municipal government, however, is shown significantly with a red star.
Since Zhongnanhai became the central government compound, it has been mostly inaccessible to the general public in the same way the
Forbidden Citywas during the imperial era. The exception to this was during the years of relative freedom following the end of the Cultural Revolution, from 1977 to 1985, when the compound was open to members of the public, who could obtain tickets to visit the compound from relevant government authorities. Following the political turmoil that culminated in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, security was greatly increased. Access has now been closed to the general public, with numerous plain clothed military personnel patrolling the area on foot. Cars, moreover, are now prohibited from stopping on stretches of adjacent roadway for any reason.
The most important entrance to the compound is the southern one at Xinhuamen (
XinhuaGate, or "Gate of New China"), surrounded by two slogans: "long live the great Communist Party of China" and "long live the invincible Mao Zedong Thought." The view behind the entrance is shielded by a traditional screen wall with the slogan " Serve the People", written in the handwriting of Mao Zedong. The Xinhuamen entrance lies on the north side of West Chang'an Avenue.
On April 18, 1989, several pro-democracy students began a
sit-inoutside the Zhongnanhai compound. They were highly visible to passers-by on Chang'an Avenue. The students held signs reading "Down with Dictatorship" and "Long Live Democracy". Many of the students would later be involved in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. On April 20, Zhongnanhai guards attacked the protesting students with belts and clubs. The attack brought renewed determination to the student protesters and as news of the beating spread, pro-democracy students in tertiary campuses across China rallied to "Support Beijing", eventually escalating into the Tiananmen Square protests.
Zhongnanhai was also the site of demonstrations by the
Falun Gongon April 25, 1999.Jay Nordlinger, [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_1999_Sept_27/ai_55820850 Crackdown Time :Why Beijing fears the Falun Gong] , National Review, Vol. 51 Issue 18, p. 26, September 27, 1999 ]
* [http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/99/0927/zhongnanhai.html "TIME": Walled Heart of China's Kremlin]
* [http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=beijing&ll=39.909292,116.380599&spn=0.011538,0.021694&t=k&om=1 Google Satellite picture]
* [http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/beijing/31015.htm China.org.cn - Introduction to Zhongnanhai]
*zh icon [http://www.china.com.cn/chinese/zhuanti/gdyl/559995.htm China.com.cn - Zhongnanhai] with images of Zhongnanhai today.
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