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The oldest Mosaic Mural in Beijing

Do you know where the oldest mosaic in Beijing is? This huge mural is at the platform of  Dongsi Shitiao subway station in Beijing. Made in 1985 at 70 meters long and almost 3 meters tall, it is clearly the largest! It is called Towards the World, and depicts 30 athletes playing 22 different kinds of sports.

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Details of mosaic mural , 1985, Dongsi Shitiao metro station, Beijing

Mosaic Mural, Dongsi Shitiao Metro Station, Beijing

Detail of mosaic mural,1985, Dongsi Shitiao metro station, Beijing

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Mosaic mural, 1985, Dongsi Shitiao Metro Station, Beijing

The Mosaic was designed by Li Huaji and Quan Zhenghuan. The cement tiles were made by Tangshang Arts and Crafts Factory and the mosaic was assembled by Haidian Yongfeng Construction Company in April 1985 . It was the year after Beijing had been awarded the hosting of the 1990 Asian Games. Archery, discus throwing, cycling, fencing, and swimming are all represented in the mural, which consists of thousands  of ceramic blocks, each  of about two centimeters long. The piece delivers the message that ‘Chinese athletes achieve international honor and bring glory to the country’, thereby extending good wishes to the Asian Games

After more than 30 years, the mural had suffered damage due to the constant vibration caused by subway trains. Lots of pieces had been lost . Restoring the mural was considered difficult because the original material and designs are lost. Moreover, the hours during which restoration work could have been done, were limited, as workers can only make repairs when the subway is closed within the  short period of only 3 and half hours at night. Despite all these difficulties, the Beijing Metro Company began to look into the restoration of the mosaic mural in 2017. In order to complete the sophisticated restoration work, the company set up a special working group, which invited experts and scholars from the China Cultural Relics Protection Technology Association and the Department of Ancient Architecture of the Forbidden City to share their expertise. They carried out the work with reference to the restoration methods of the cultural preservation community.

September 2019, on the basis of several  consultations, the repair work of Towards the World was officially launched, and various companies carried out overall investigation of the damages such as the detection of empty spaces behind the mosaic tiles, research for material and color matching of missing parts , cleaning and finally the replacement of the missing tiles.

Details of mosaic mural , 1985, Dongsi Shitiao metro station, Beijing

The 70-meter mosaic has complex colours and different shapes. The biggest problem was the loss of broken gold medals. Zhao Shengliang, the manager of the restoration project, said that at first, they couldn’t recreate the original design due to the pieces of the medals  being broken. The Chinese movie Winning the Championship gave the conservators an interesting idea. After comparing medals from different Olympic Games, they identified the medal as that of Xu Haifeng, the first Chinese gold medal winner at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Finally they found the model to make the replacement.  After an arduous process, the restoration was finally complete in August 2021.

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