This evening I and a friend braved the crowds and headed down to Tiananmen Square, the closest thing that a communist country can have to a sacred space. On the north side of the square is the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian-an Men). To the south sits Qianmen Gate, and since 1979, the Mosoleum of Chairman Mao. Smack dab in the middle is the Monument to the Martyrs of the Revolution. On the Occasion of National Day, the square gets all decked out with flags, fountains, sculptures, giant photos and billboards with the political slogan of the year.
The Gate overlooking the Square has a world-famous portrait of Chairman Mao, the founder of the People’s Republic of China. But what most people don’t know or realize is that since 1999, during the National Day holiday, another giant portrait stands in the square, directly facing the Chairman, a portrait of Sun Yast Sen, also known as the founder of modern China. When the Qing Dynasty fell in 1911, he was the leader of the Nationalist Party that assumed political power, and thus became the first "president" of what was then known as The Republic of China.
For many years after the founding of this nation, Sun Yat-sen was neither recognized nor honored, due to his affiliation with the Nationalist Party, that eventually fled to Taiwan. However, in 1999, historic interpretations shifted, and Dr. Sun was "rehabilitated" and honored for his part in the development and modernization of China. So, for a couple of weeks in October, the two men face each other down in the square.