The Tiananmen Gate is a well-known landmark in Beijing. Built in 1465 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), it is the front entrance to the Forbidden City in the center of the capital city and has become the place where state ceremonies take place.
However, few people know that the gate as it is today was secretly rebuilt more than 40 years ago.
Consisting of a red base and a tower on the top, the gate had badly deteriorated during years of war, disrepair and excessive extraction of groundwater under the building. It was almost destroyed in 1969's mag-7.5 earthquake in the adjacent Hebei Province.
At the end of the year, the State Council ordered a refitting with modern construction materials, leaving its external appearance unchanged while adding air-raid defense facilities in its red base for the safety of state leaders.
The project was kept secret for political reasons. The gate, 66m long, 37m wide and 32m high, was covered in scaffolding before the reconstruction. It took eight days to hide the huge building from public sight.
A total of 500 craftsmen were involved in the project and nearly 200 soldiers were sent to guard the gate. They were required not to disclose the project to anybody, not even their own family members.
As a result, the people of Beijing, including the staff of the nearby Zhongshan Park and the Cultural Palace of Nationalities, barely knew what was happening behind the covered gate.
Before dismantling the gate, technicians took pictures of all of its parts and numbered them, so that it could be put back together.
An important part of the project was to hang the national emblem in line with the central axis of the city, allowing no deviation. At that time, the emblem was 1.3m wide, and it took eight people to carry it. The whole job took half a day.
The project was completed before May 1st 1970. It took a total of 110 days.