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Most people know that Tiananmen Square, named after Tiananmen (the gate), in the heart of Beijing, is large but it is not until you visit it that you can truly appreciate how large it is. At 850m by 550m the ‘rectangular square’ is the largest public square in the world by a long shot.
The square in its current concrete slab form is a 1950s Communist Party creation. In earlier times it was very different.
In picture 2, attached, the red line outlines the square as it is today. The Ming/Qing square referred to below is outlined in blue.
Traditionally every Chinese home had a small courtyard out front and the royal palace was no different. Under the Ming and Qing rulers, the area outside the imperial city was a T-shaped walled courtyard outside of which were found rows of offices belonging to various ministries, the military, and other government agencies. This T-shaped square ran from Tiananmen (the gate) to the ceremonial Great Ming Gate (renamed the Great Qing Gate and then again renamed to Gate of China and today the location of Mao Zedong's Mausoleum) a distance of some 1000 steps, hence references to the square as the "Thousand Step Long Walkway".
When the emperor went to the Temple of Heaven to offer sacrifices to the gods and to pray for a good harvest, he and his entourage left the palace via Tiananmen (the gate) and proceeded south along the ‘Thousand Step Long Walkway’ before exiting the Imperial City by the Great Ming (or Qing) Gate. From there the procession proceeded through Zhengyangmen and on to the Temple of Heaven about another kilometre or so to the south. Picture 3 is an early 1900s image of the route looking back from Zhengyangmen with the then Great Qing Gate in the centre and Tiananmen (the gate) to the rear.
From the Second Opium War in 1860 when British and French troops entered the square and considered burning down the entire Forbidden City (they changed their minds and burned the Emperor’s Old Summer Palace on the outskirts of Beijing instead) Tiananmen Square became a focal point for important political events and protests, the most infamous of which has been the 1989 student pro-democracy protests in which an unknown number (some say thousands) of protesters were killed when the government decided to clear the square. Readers recalling this event we undoubtedly have vivid memories of photographs (picture 5 - source unknown) and television footage of the man standing in front of a moving tank and refusing to move.
Going back to 1949, following the foundation of People's Republic of China, major renovation work began at Tiananmen Square. Via this and three subsequent renovation projects in 1958, 1976 and 1981 the ministry, military and other government buildings and walls I referred to earlier were demolished (the Gate of China was removed in 1954) to create the massive square you see today. Today the square can comfortably accommodate over half a million people, with each person having the best part of 1 metre square. At a pinch it can accommodate one million people.
Today, for security reasons you can only enter this, the most emotionally and historically charged urban space in China (having gone through a security check) at one of the four corners or half way up the east and west sides of the square. Since the 1989 pro-democracy protests authorities, not wanting a repeat, have been on edge in this part of the city and more recently the fear of protest/violence by separatist or religious fundamentalist groups has lead to even greater overt security and, without doubt, under cover surveillance in the square. Notwithstanding, or perhaps because of, this high security the square is perfectly safe to visit and unless you come with the intent of engaging in protest, or the like, you will have no problems.
While the square lacks any form of vegetation (outside occasional banks of potted plants) or seating, it is a popular place for local people and tourists to ‘hang out’ and, besides sightseeing, a common pastime here is flying kites. On my most recent visit (2014) I noted a significant decline in hawkers and touts, though visitors wishing to avail of the services of sweet young ladies wishing to practice their English over a cup of tea can still do so. Off course the apparent friendliness of these young ladies is a front to rip you off and their services, however appealing, should be declined. Should you forget your camera there are lots of photographers in the square to ensure that you don’t have to go home without that all important photo of you in front of Tiananmen gate with Mao in the background - bargain hard.
While the square is an attraction in itself, it also contains a number of Beijing's most important attractions and is surrounded by even more of them. I have prepared separate reviews on things I recommend you see within the square and immediately around it.
Tiananmen - Gate of Heavenly Peace not forgetting the Huabiao (used by the majority of visitors to gain access to the Forbidden City, a short distance through the gate)
The Flag raising/lowering ceremony
The rather ghastly and out of place Tiananmen Square LED Screens
The Monument to the People's Heroes
TheChairman Mao Memorial Hall which, notwithstanding the queue, I recommend you go inside, in addition to admiring it from the outside
Zhengyangmen (Zhengyang Gate) – Gatehouse and Watchtower not missing China’s Zero Point by the Gatehouse
and, on the east and west side of the square, respectively:
theThe National Museum of China and
the The Great Hall of the People.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Tiananmen Square LED Screens
In 2009, to display a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949, authorities erected two 40 metres long by 5 metres high, extremely high resolution LED display screens smack bang in the centre of Tiananmen Square – one some metres on either side of the north south axis – an historically important and symbolic line running down the centre of the square and beyond, through the Forbidden City to the North and the Temple of Heaven Complex to the south.
No problem with that whatsoever. The sad thing is that the screens are still there and for me are an eyesore and totally out of keeping with the rest of the square and the surrounding area. Their flashing light is also an ugly distraction after dark, though they don't run all night.
The screens are used to broadcast videos of the city's scenic and cultural spots and tourist related videos on other parts of China. Commercial advertising is not shown on the screens.
The only value I see for the screens is that they are useful for hiding police buses and other service vehicles behind (picture 3) though that hardly justifies the reported US$2.5m annual running/maintenance costs for the screens.
Lest you find my report too negative, I should point out that I do find the row of fire extinguishers sitting in front of the screens rather cute!
Now for a digression and a rant if I may?
The screens received totally unwarranted worldwide attention on 17 January 2014 thanks to the scurrilous and gutter reporting of the UK’s Daily Mail.
At the time air pollution in the city had been especially bad, but the Daily Mail, not letting facts get in the way, stooped to new lows by publishing picture 4 attached (credit to ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images), along with the following commentary:
"The smog has become so thick in Beijing that the city's natural light-starved masses have begun flocking to huge digital commercial television screens across the city to observe virtual sunrises. The futuristic screens installed in the Chinese capital usually advertise tourist destinations, but as the season's first wave of extremely dangerous smog hit residents donned air masks and left their homes to watch the only place where the sun would hail over the horizon that morning."
The sad thing is that the report went viral and otherwise quality press including Time, CBS and the Huffington Post picked it up and also ran it.
The truth is that the sunrise shot was taken from a less than 10 seconds segment of a tourist advertisement for China’s Shandong province which, at the time, was showing every day throughout the day irrespective of the level of pollution.
Had it been reported as a joke or a jibe at China I would have found it hilarious.
Interestingly the photo was not taken by the Daily Mail but is rather credited to ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images, the picture on the screen is clearly marked in the bottom right with a Shandong Tourism logo and the articles reporter was based in New York. Need I say more?
Other quality media outlets such as Time quickly published corrections – Time wrote:
”Correction: The original post did not mention that the large screens in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square broadcast panoramic scenes on a daily basis, regardless of atmospheric conditions, nor did it state that the sunrise was part of a tourism commercial.”&i
Dear reader please be assured that I absolutely accept that China’s dangerous smog is a serious health and environmental danger but sensationalist reporting such as that of the Daily Mail adds noting to reasoned discussion or an alleviation of the well documented and accepted problem.
- Arts and Culture
- Budget Travel
the main square of the People's Republic where the Major Edifices of China is around it. This Square became infamous in 1989 due to the Tiananmen Protest and since then, there are many plain clothes and regular policemen patrolling the square and looking for signs of unwanted activity from locals and tourists. Around the square sits visit Tiananmen Tower, Monument to the People's Heroes, Great Hall of the People, National Museum of China, Mao Zedong Memorial Hall and see the national flag raising ceremony. This square is the fourth largest in the world in terms of Size at 440 hectares (440,000 square meters) and was built in 1415 AD during the Ming Dynasty as an adjunct to the Tiananmen Gate of the Forbidden City and was enlerged in 1651 AD. the Square was the front door of the Forbidden City. The most important use of it in the past was to declare in a big ceremony to the common people who became the emperor and who became the empress. Until 1911 when the last feudal kingdom was over, no one could enter the Tower except for the royal family and aristocrats.
you can go to tiananmen Square from the Tiananmen Gate and Towere via an underground walkway and subway stop to the other side of the street (tight security and x-ray scanners).
Opens 24/7 and admission is free
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
The security all around the huge square is naturally fairly tight which ensures everyone has to go through check points and have baggage scanned with airport type x ray type machines. There is no problems taking cameras into the square but they, or cell phones, are not permitted into the Chairmans Mausoleum where they have to be checked in. We were approached at the entrance of the Mausoleum by some guy who looked official, who told us cameras were forbidden inside and that we should follow him to a building across the road to check the cameras in. Although I was somewhat suspicious of all this, we went along with him as he brushed aside the locals to get us to the counter who gave us tickets to enable collection of the cameras later. All was fine until we got back to the line up for the mausoleum when we found him still with us and quietly but aggressively was asking for 49 RMB for his services. I didn't totally disapprove of him as at least he speeded up how and where we should deposit our cameras but told him he could have 20 RMB. This did not please him at all, but I could see he was getting nervous arguing about his fee as we approached the guards, and at that stage very reluctantly took the 20 RMB and disappeared waiting for the next unsuspecting tourist.
- Historical Travel
Access to Forbidden City
Entering the forbidden city is a sensation of "dèjá vu".
The long wall with Meridian door, and Mao's picture is in everybody's memories. People flows inside as a river, only the immensity of Tiananmen square allowing the spreading of the crowds that, once inside, will fill all the staircases, doors and windows of the palace.
Tickets will cost 30 yuan, and if you have no guide, you may get an audio guide buy 40 yuan.
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
This huge square in the centre of Beijing is sombre, gray, filled with soldiers and stark Soviet Communist style buildings, and huge Communist style sculptures. It was teeming with life; people out for a stroll; flying kites; posing for photos; dragging us into their photos. At the Forbidden City end there is a huge picture of Chairman Mao. I loved this atmospheric square. We visited several times. I could never tire of it.
Tiananmen Square is named after the Tiananmen Gate (The Gate of Heavenly Peace - the one with the Mao picture). This gate separates the square from the Forbidden Palace. Tiananmen Square is the third largest city square in the world.
- Historical Travel
Everybody comes to Tian'anmen Square when visiting Beijing. This square is huge. The main attraction is the Tian'anmen Gate with the Mao's picture hanging on the outer wall. Then, it comes down with The Monument of the People's Heroes, Dr Sun Yat Sen 's picture is displayed there too. It follows by Chairman Mao Zedong's Memorial Hall facing the Zhengyang Gate. On west side of the square is The Great Hall of the People, and the east side is the National Museum of China.
This should be the first place to visit in Beijing. You can spend the whole day here visiting from one museum to another, including the forbidden city.
* 1919, May Fourth Movement.
* Oct 1, 1949, Mao Zedong declared the founding of the People's Republic of China.
* 1976, Tian'anmen Square Protest.
* 1989, Tian'anmen Square Protest.
* Sept 18, 1979, Memorial Service of Mao Zedong.
I was here during Chinese National Day 2010. It was very crowded, but I could feel the National Day Celebration here with the Chinese visitors. It looks like they are very proud of their country with success through communism.
In Chinese: 天安门广场 (Tian An Men Guang Chang)
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Finally Free of Blood since 1989!!!
My initial impression of Tiananmen Square was how clean it was...remarkably free of blood which is always a good thing. But I guess I should of figured there wouldn't be any lingering blood stains, after all they have had 23 years to clean up since the last massacre. My second impression was just how large and open the square is, it really shouldn't of been a surprise as it ranks as the third largest square in the world. It serves as a great starting point as the museum and Forbidden City are just across the street. Its a great place to visit on sunny day and although there really isn't anywhere to sit, other than on the ground, its a great place to get a tan! Just make sure to avoid it all together if you see alot of angry students filling the square.
Worlds largest public square
Tiannamon Square is the largest public square on earth. It is bordered by the National Museum, several Government Buildings including the Mausoleum of Chairman Mao and the southern most gate of the Forbidden City to the north.
Also here is one of the remaining gates from the Ming Dynasty (14th-17th Century).
A VISIT TO TIANANMEN SQUARE
Once again allow yourself a lot of time to walk round and view this amazing place also make sure that you are wearing comfortable shoes as you will walk great distances here while you are "out and about."
To finally arrive in The Tiananmen Square I was not only taken by its hugeness in area but also by the amount of Police and Military that appeared to be everywhere ,and later was also told of the vast amounts of plain clothes secret police milling around in with the crowds..Westerners are still very much looked upon with great suspicion specially talking with Chinese locals. This is the biggest Square in the world and has on occassion seen over a million people gathered here in the Square!!!
I of course took many photos but after asking a Policemen if I could have a photo with him he declined and then had his photo taken with a local..so much for public relations ..!!
I must say that I was taken with the vastness of this place even though ,really expecting it to be as I had seen it on TV with vivid images of the student struggle and ruthless militaryaction that followed..Although it is said to be The Square for the people it can be closed at any time seen fit when there are meetings being held in the "Great Hall of the People, but like most cities now..security cameras abound along with the many eyes of the secret police.
This entire area was a scene of great battles during the Boxer Rebellion of 1899 to 1901..
and recently in 1989 when Pro Democracy demonstrators were put down by military force.
- Historical Travel
Visit Tianamen Square
Visiting Tianamen Square is a good starting point to visit the Forbidden City. You can enter the Square from the south and walk your way towards the Forbidden City. Tianamen square is just like one big parking lot. There's Mao's mauseleum in the centre with the National Muzeum on the East side the the national Assembly building on the west surrounding the Square.
You have to pass through security to get onto the square. To view mao there's no bags or backpacks allowed,and no photography.Everywhere else is fine.
- Family Travel
It's big... big... big!!!! When we visited Tianamen Square there was a lot of security, so be patient as there appears to be thousands of people all wanting to visit this amazing place and all bags, backpacks etc had to be put through the security checkpoints and some of the visitors had to be frisqued this appeared to be random selections. Best part of this visit - it's FREE !!!!
Allow1 hour – flag raising ceremony – every morning around 6am in front of Gate and at sunset.
Subway Line 1 - get off at Tiananmen East or Tiananmen West Station
Subway Line 2 - get off at Qianmen Station and walk north
Tian`an Men Guangchang
Tian`an Men Guangchang, or Tiananmen Square, or Square door of heavenly peace. It is a venue in the heart of modern Beijing. In the distance is easy to observe a spacious, open, with many people. In terms of beauty it isn´t fascinating, but it has a political and historical history. It was here in 1989, there were the tragic student protests, whose images went around the world. On the other hand, has the mausoleum of Mao and is surrounded by Communist-style buildings of the 50s. In the background was the symbol of communism, but also represents the opposition and the massacre of students by communism.
Tiananmen Square is located in the centre of Beijing and is 880m from south to north and 500m from east to west. The square is surrounded by the Great Hall of the People, Chairman Mao Mausoleum, the National Museum and the Forbidden City.
The Great Hall of the People is located on the western side of the Tiananmen Square, and was built in 1959. It is the home of the “The Standing Committee of People’s Congress of China” (SCPCC). The National Museum was established in 2003, when the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the National Museum of Chinese History was merged into the National Museum of China. In front of the building was a display with a countdown to the Beijing Olympics 2008. Read my other tips about Chairman Mao Mausoleum and the Forbidden City.
Tiananmen Square has been the site of a number of political events such as the student movement in 1989 (maybe you remember the historic photo of a man standing alone trying to block a line of tanks).
I enjoyed just watching all the local people on the square with their umbrellas and kites. There were many souvenir salesmen on Tiananmen Square, and they sold anything from postcards to ‘The Little Red Book’ by Chairman Mao.
- Historical Travel
Center of Beijing
Tiananmen Square is located just opposite Forbidden City and it is the most central point in Beijing. Every sunrise and sunset, there is a spectacular flag ceremony not to be missed. As the morning ceremony is too early, I suggest you catch the flag lowering ceremony just before sunset. You will see a big crowd waiting for the ceremony so it's better to arrive a bit earlier to find a good spot. In most hotels, you will be informed about the ceremony times in the reception. After flag lowering ceremony, the square will be evacuated and no access will be allowed. After visiting Forbidden City, you can hang around in the area to watch the ceremony. I will also put a video about the ceremony.
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