Chang’an (Eternal Peace) Boulevard is the central section of a 38–kilometer–long road which forms the east–west axis of Beijing, linking downtown with the suburbs. Centered at Tian’anmen Square, the road stretches from Eight–Li Village (Balizhuang) in Tongzhou District in the east to Stone View Hill (Shijingshan) in the west.
Chang’an Boulevard today is both wide and magnificent, but in the past it was a mere dirt road. Over 500 years ago, when Emperor Yongle began to rebuild Beijing, he put a road in front of Chengtianmen Gate (Gate That Bears Heaven) on the site of Yuan Dynasty southern city wall. At that time, because the road passed directly in front of the Imperial Palace and the walls of the Imperial City further south on line with Zhengyangmen Gate. On either side of the Gate That Bears Heaven, he put up the Left Gate of Eternal Peace (to the east) and the Right Gate of Eternal Peace (to the west). That section east of the Left Gate to Dongdan was called East Chang’an Boulevard, that to the west of the Right Gate, West Chang’an Boulevard. But, being that the square in front of the Gate That Bears Heaven was off limits to commoners, it was prohibited to traverse these boulevard. Only the top three scholars in the triennial imperial examinations, after receiving their titles in the Jindian (Golden) Hall, could rife out of Tian’anmen Gate and along this length of road.
During the Qing Dynasty, the Left Gate of Eternal Peace became the East Gate of Eternal Peace (Dongchang’ anmen) and the Right Gate of Eternal Peace became the West Gate of Eternal Peace (Xichang’ anmen). With the establishment of the Republic in 1912, Chang’an Boulevard was opened to the public, but at that time, the flagstone road was merely seven meters wide. During the Northern Warlord period, the flagstones were replaced with asphalt, its widest section was only 25 meters. Trolley cars then ran this stretch for the first time.
In 1952, the East and West Gates of Eternal Peace were pulled down to make way for traffic flow. In 1954, the memorial archways were moved to Taoranting Park. After 1959, with the rapid development of the city, an increasing number of high – rise buildings were erected and the boulevard was widened to its present dimensions.