In today’s Subway Sunday, we travel to Xuānwǔmén (宣武门), one of Beijing’s ancient imperial gates southwest of the Forbidden City. Today, Xuanwumen is a transfer station for both Line 2 (the Second Ring Road loop) and Line 4 (Daxing Line).
Its namesake, Xuānwǔmén or literally the “Gate of Military Proclamation” was informally referred to as the “Death Gate,” because carts carrying prisoners for execution were taken through this gate to an execution ground located in Caishikou, (菜市口 Càishìkǒu, literally food market entrance), which today is also a station on Line 4, just south of Xuanwumen. Also, funeral carts carrying the bodies of commoners would often leave the city through Xuanwumen. The bodies were buried in cemeteries in and around the southwestern suburbs.
Let’s go back to Xuanwumen…
After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, many of the imperial city’s fortifications, including Xuanwumen, were slowly dismantled. The gate was completely demolished in 1965 to give way to the construction of the subway station. The station on Line 2 opened in January 1971, and in 2009 (or 38 years after), Xuanwumen was extended to service passengers on Line 4.
Today, when you take exits A or B of the station, you will see a European-style Catholic church called Xuānwǔmén Tiānzhǔtáng (宣武门天主堂) or the Xuanwumen Church.
Actually, “Xuānwǔmén Church” is a colloquial name used mostly by expats who go there to hear Mass. The church is formally known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and also known as Nántáng (南堂 or “the South Church”). Its original foundation was built in the 1600’s, making it the oldest Catholic church in Beijing.
With more than 400 years of history and still counting, Xuānwǔmén Church has been witness to the many changes Beijing has gone through. It has survived the Ming and Qing Dynasties, fires, conflicts, and wars.
So there you have it! If you know or want to share any story about subway stations or subway travel in general, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving your comments below.
Next on Subway Sunday: Going to the airport by subway? You need to go through this station of the “three gods.”
Photos: ebeijing.gov, Andy Penafuerte