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Zhongnanhai - the Political Center of China

Overview:
Zhongnanhai (Central and Southern Seas) located in central Beijing, a royal garden complex since ancient times, is now the headquarters of the State Council of PRC, the Secretariat of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the General Office of CPC.
To the west of the Forbidden City lie three ‘seas’, the Northern Sea, the Central Sea and the Southern Sea. Actually they are not seas, just big lakes. The Northern Sea is now the beautiful lake inside the Beihai Park. The Central and Southern Seas are collectively referred as Zhongnanhai. With an area of 1,500 acres of which 700 acres is lake, Zhongnanhai, although a garden with exceptional scenery, is more popularly known as the symbol of China's central government and the metonym for the Chinese leadership. Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai once resided here. Now, the top leaders of the Chinese state carry out many daily administrative affairs inside Zhongnanhai.

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Some sites in the Southern Sea area, including the Yingtai Island, Yinian Hall, the Chrysanthemum Study (Chairman Mao's former residence), had once been open to the public during important holidays and weekends between 1977 and 1985. At that time, some ordinary people’s long-cherished wish of visiting the garden came true. However, Zhongnanhai is not open to the public at present. Beijing Tourism Bureau has been actively promoting the reopening of the garden for common sightseeing. The garden now is a political synonym for mystery and solemnity. The following introduction provides an insight of this mysterious site in Beijing.

The History of Zhongnanhai
First being built in the Liao (907-1125) and Jin (1115-1234) Dynasties and expanded during the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) Dynasties, Zhongnanhai witnessed the social and political changes in China for over 1,000 years. The major structure of this historic garden was formed in the Ming Dynasty when the Empire made Beijing the capital city and constructed the Forbidden City. Since the Qing Dynasty, the garden has become a political center as well as an imperial resort, where the emperor could do political work and enjoy the quiet site while escaping the summer heat. The last emperor of China, Emperor Puyi had the Regent Palace built in the garden.

Since the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Zhongnanhai had seen a number of historical events and continued to be the political center during the chaos of wartime in China. After the founding of the PRC in 1949, it became the center of CPC. The top leaders including Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De and other senior officials resided and worked in the garden at that time. The First Plenary Session of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was held there, deciding the name of the country, the national flag and the national song.

At present, China’s state leaders still use Zhongnanhai as the place for handling national affairs and holding diplomatic activities such as meetings and state banquets with important foreign political leaders or delegations.

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