According to Xie Changhe, a retired architect who once took part in the construction design of the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the monument is only partly finished compared to the original design.
Xie says that as a senior architect on the project, the design for the coping, or surface work, of the monument presented some real problems in the construction of the memorial structure. Back then, a traditional coping was proposed, so too the statuary at its top, followed by the red gem five-pointed emblem. In the end, nothing was decided. To come to some agreement about the facing, the Beijing Municipal Party Committee invited historian Fan Wenlan and other experts to have an informal discussion. But that too produced no decision. The then Premier Zhou Enlai decided to settle the matter and suggested that, for the moment, there should be a space where the coping should have been. He said at the time to leave it to the future generation to decide how to fill it. And so it remains.
Nine Years to Completion
The monument was constructed after the First Plenary Session of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in 1949 decided to commemorate the heroes of the War of Liberation (1946-1949), revolutions and democratic activities. At 6 pm on September 30, 1949, Chairman Mao laid the foundation stone in Tian'anmen Square.
After that, designs for the monument’s completion were solicited from all over China. The construction committee of the monument, composed of seventeen organizations and led by Peng Zhen, then mayor of Beijing Municipal Government, enlisted the help of the architect, Liang Sicheng, to manage the construction project design. They received more than 140 drafts of the project. On October1, 1951, three models were displayed in Tian'anmen Square: One of a fifth of the size; two smaller ones with a sloped roof and statuary.
Based on an idea from the many designs submitted, the altered design pattern was displayed for opinion at the Beijing Municipal Political Consultative Conference as well as at the national commemorations. The government of the day decided that construction would begin on Army Day (August 1) of 1952 -- the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Once the monument was under construction, the construction committee continued to receive commission entries from the people as well as from the experts. The committee sent all of the designs on for further consultation to schools of architecture, art and literature centers and places of learning. Added to the already huge size of the commission entry, a further thirty pieces were added with over 100 opinions collected.
After considerable consultation, the original idea was modified. The new pattern was to have a base structure composed of double pedestals with a Buddha’s statue carrying the weight of the main structure, removing originally planned inspection platforms and exhibition rooms in the basement.
In the spring of 1953, the stone stock had been excavated at Qingdao, Shandong Province -- a total of 103 tons. The transport of the material was carried out by Anshan Steel and Iron Group Corp. The northeast electricity administration provided the machinery to lift and load the stock.
The concrete base construction was completed in 1953. The stone stock transported to the building site after that and on May 1, 1958, the Monument to the People’s Heroes was formally unveiled by Mao Zedong.
Chairman Mao wrote two inscriptions for the unveiling. Experts were consulted to decide which should be used. Calligrapher Wei Changqing said that because calligraphy is an art form it can’t be broken up. Therefore, they chose the one people see today.
(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong, March 1, 2003)