City Center, Beijing
The historic city center which dates from the Ming dynasty (14th-17th C) has largely preserved its original appearance. Traces of the medieval city which was divided into two parts can still be seen. It joined the four points of the compass and consisted of the northern city formerly known as the Tartar city which was laid out on a regular rectangular pattern. This section was defended by a 20km/12mi long wall with nine gates (two in the east, three in the south, and two in the west and north sides). The south city was surrounded by a 14km/9mi city wall with seven gates.
The two city walls were completely destroyed, but two of the old gates are preserved - the ''Qian Men'' behind Mao's Mausoleum and the ''Desheng Men'' in the north of the forbidden city.
After 1949 a permanent change in the appearance of the city took place. The majority of the city walls were demolished in the 1960s. Only parts of two town gates - the Qianmen south of the Mao Mausoleum and the Desheng Men in the north, a corner tower as well as the northern and southern town moats remain until today. By the end of the 1950s, the Chang'an Jie, east-west axis, and Tian'anmen Square had been built. Many of the old houses, too, had to give way to monumental public buildings such as museums, sport centers and exhibition halls. The 1960s saw the start of construction of the underground network, with part of the circle line following the line of the former town wall. Since the late 1970s an endless succession of unimaginative, monotonous skyscrapers have been built for use as tenement blocks to house the ever growing population, hotels, administrative buildings, etc.
Although building activity still increased from the mid-1980s, the height of new constructions has been limited in the vicinity of the imperial palace, and an old town area near the northern lakes has been designated as a preservation zone. Old monuments have also been restored and made accessible to the public again.