This is a very interesting monument, covering not just the heroes of the communist struggles in China, but all 19th and 20th century resistance to outside influence and Imperial repression.
That is a lot to commemorate.
The monument is patterned like an Egyptian obelisk, except thicker. Some 10 stories high, it is centered between the previous location of the Gate of China and the Chinese flagpole on the north end of Tiananmen Square. Mao’s Mausoleum now sits on that site of the previous gate. The monument was started in 1953, and was completed for the Tenth Anniversary of the Peoples Republic of China.
There is plenty to see at the base of the monument. It has reliefs to show eight events that furthered the Chinese struggle to be free. All of these are events where the Chinese people resisted the foreign powers, the Emperor, or the Japanese.
Events Commemorated in the Base Relief Panels
These eight panels are at the base of the monument. They are in order, with the first panels being on the eastern side. Here they are with brief explanations.
- The Opium “Tea Party” in Humen in 1939
The Chinese staged their own “tea party” (aka “Boston” style) and dumped the opium that the British were attempting to force China to buy. The opium trade was hated by most Chinese, but was later forced on them. Great Britain declared war and defeated the Chinese in the first of the Opium Wars, sealing their right to import this poison into China.
- Jintian Revolt of 1851
A Christian sect called ‘The Heaven and Earth Society” was able to successfully start a revolt at the village of Jintian against the Qing Dynasty. The grievance was unfair treatment during a famine. This later evolved into the Taiping Revolt, lasting for 14 years.
- Wuchang Uprising of 1911
A revolt against the Qing Dynasty started over the nationalization of private railroads. This led to an army revolt that culminated with the establishment of the Republic of China and the abdication of Puyi, the Last Emperor of China.
- May Fourth Movement of 1919
This started as a series of protests by Beijing students over the mistreatment of China in the treaty signing at Versailles. Japan was allowed by Versailles to occupy the Shandong Peninsula, even though it was a German concession on Chinese ground. This betrayal of China is believed to have led to the eventual foundation of the Chinese Communist Party.
- May Thirteenth Movement of 1925
Anti-foreigner feelings, especially against the Japanese, came to a head when a Japanese foreman shot a Communist protester in Shanghai. This lead to a series of protests and additional shootings. After all that turmoil, the number of foreign troops in Shanghai increased dramatically.
- Nanchang Uprising of 1927
The previous alliance of the Nationalists and the Communists broke apart when the army at Nanchang rebelled and effectively became the People’s Liberation Army. This was the start of the great Chinese Civil War. That only paused so they could collectively fight the Japanese invasion.
- War of Resistance Against Japan (1931 and 1945)
The terrible 13 year war of aggression against China by Japan, and the fight of the Chinese people to continue to resist at all costs. It was only 4 years for America, with fighting mainly on foreign soil; it was 13 years for the Chinese, with fighting on their ground, and large parts of China occupied.
- Successful Crossing of the Yangtze River (1949)
The success of the Communist forces in crossing the mighty and heavily defended Yangtze River. The war between the Communists and Nationalists resumed quickly after Japan’s defeat. This breech of the river line by the Communist forces broke the back of the Nationalist forces, leading to them flee to Taiwan.
Plain or Fancy, National Monuments Create Focal Points of Remembrances
As you can see, this monument would be as special to the people of China as our own national monuments to us. It does not matter if fancy or plain, recent or ancient… It is not the appearance or materials, but the remembrances that are triggered by standing in front of these markers.
We in the US would hold a special feeling for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, even though it is not an architectural wonder for foreign visitors to look at. This Chinese monument is actually dwarfed by the tourist sites around it, and most foreign tourists would scurry past it. However, it would hold the same kind of meaning for the Chinese as our monuments do for us.
What is this Monument Saying?
What do these events on this monument collectively represent?
The struggle to be free from the old Imperialists and foreign outside forces, from injustice and warlords, and from endless poverty and servitude.
Regardless of the current ruling body in today’s China, this is what a Chinese citizen feels when he stands in front of this monument. That stirs his patriotic feeling, and reinforces his need to do his duty to China.
So, bear that in mind as you walk past it. Take a spin around it and look at the reliefs that speak volumes to the Chinese people.
Note: The monument may be inaccessible. It was fenced off when I was there. I am not sure if that was a special occasion, or if it is normally restricted all the time. You may not be able to ascend the platform to see the reliefs in close detail. If not, look at them through your camera’s zoom.
Share your thoughts on the Monument to the Heroes of the People.
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