The picture above is a Chinese student killed
during the 1989 student movement at Tiananmen Square. The quote
superimposed on the graphic, is from The Monument to the People's Heroes. The use of the quote in this content
is ironic since Mao meant those words to celebrate the communist take-over. The student here are demonstrating
for democratic liberties. The graphic is set against the test to represent the "new" heroes of the people of china. The
Monument to the People's Heroes was dedicated tot he people who lost their lives for the revolution. These students
lost their lives for communist China and a democratic cause. To me, the students are the new heroes who remade the
original meaning of the monument. The text has 3d look to it, and just as you get to live on forever, the text gets bigger
and fades away. The text represents a time line with the beginning representing the past and as you move to the right
then are brought into the future.
"Only our blood
could provoke the Chinese people and inspire further
Monuments in the past were created having a predetermined meaning. Yet, today a good monument allows the viewer to reflect and think not about what the creator wants you to think and feel , but what could happen when the people take the monument and re-interpret its meaning. Is it possible for a monuments main purpose to be changed and recreated into something else?
The students redefined the meaning of a monument by creating a monument that looks towards the future not the past. They associated The Monument to the People's Heroes with their movement; however, the students wanted to create a new monument that stressed freedom not glorifying bloodsheds that previous movements have seen, a contrast to The Monument to the People's Heroes. By them creating the statue of The Goddess of Democracy they created a symbol of freedom not a symbol of victory, that gives hope for a better future.
Maya Lin's ancestors were the creator of The Monument to the People's Heroes. Lin knew the controversy and struggles that this monument brought forth. She wanted to get away from the controversy and create a monument that stressed the environment and stay away from the political view of it. The students and Maya Lin can be compared as wanting to create a monument that does not glorify victory and but to inspire an individual. Now this is the future!!!
People always struggle for changes, in his article, Hung Wu clearly explains
how the people of china struggled for change when he summarizes the history of Tiananmen square
stressing that Tiananmen square has been the center of much controversy in china.
Throughout the years the Square has seen many demonstration, on May 4 1919
there was a protest against the Treaty of Versailles, handing over Chinese lands to
Japan; the patriotic march on March 18 1926; the demonstration on December
9 1935, which started the resistance movement against the Japanese
invasion; the anti-autocratic movement during the Civil War on May 20
1947; the mass memorial to the former prime minister Zhou Enlai on April 5
1976; and, finally, the 1989 student uprising. As well, authorities
used the square to show their power like in the Victory March in 1900 by
the Allied Army celebrating their occupation of Beijing; Gen. Zhang Xun's
grand ritual on June 1917 to commemorate his restoration of the imperial
order; the establishment of the puppet regime under Japanese patronage ; the
parade celebrating the recapture of Beijing by Republican troops; the
founding of Communist China on October 1 1949 ; and finally, the elaborate
National Day parade shortly after the People's Liberation Army blood-washed
the Square in 1989(Wu 84).
When Mao ascended into power he redesigned the square and The People's Republic of China was born. In traditional China the square was dominated by gates and walls. After Mao gained power he wanted to demolish the walls that reminded China of its traditional context. The labyrinthine walls were meant to keep the people away from eh Emperor. The cleared square allowed the people to confront a large portrait of Mao directly. Yet, after Maos death, the people of China wanted to express their thoughts and opinions at Tiananmen but, instead, the Gang of four, which took power, ordered the police to beat anybody who spoke out. Ironically the beating brought Tiananmen back to its roots. The Monument to the People's Heroes completed in 1958 was built to dedicate those who fought in the revolution against the old ruler. Now the people were being silenced (Wu 87-113).
Although the monument was created to remind the people of Mao's victory the people re-interpreted its meaning into a new meaning. When in 1974 Zhou Enlai died, a member of the gang of four, 100 days after his death the monument was associated with the intimate memory of an Zhou Enlai and decorated with ribbons and a single wreath of white paper the traditional symbol of mourning. This act was forbidden and further dedications was not allowed which led to the protest on April 4 where the people gathered, attracted to the monument where they can leave further dedications to Zhou. The next day armed officers rushed into the square beating everybody in sight (Wu 87-113).
The struggle to create an image that represented the people and a vision of freedom all came about when in 1989 a student movement similar to the 1976 movement took place after the death of Hu Yaobang who was believed to be an open-minded leader and a supporter of the people like Zhou. The past was brought back to life. This movement was more about the people voicing their ideas with the catchwords being "Democracy" and "freedom.". As the movement became an organized political protest about democracy and freedom the government ordered everyone to clear the square on May 20. On the May 23 three young men defaced the portrait of Mao on the Gate. On May 30 the students of the Central Academy of fine Arts brought forward the statue they had made of the Goddess of Democracy to the square facing Mao's portrait. The statue was so huge that only tanks could knock down the statue. The tanks did knock down the statue and killed anybody who was near. The student did not retreat saying "only our blood could provoke the Chinese people and inspire further struggle" (Wu 87-113).
Images were retrieved from a Google search of "Images" and "Tiananmen Square"
Wu Hung, "Tiananmen Square: A Political History of Monuments," in Representations 35, summer 1991