Famed as the seventh largest city square in the world, Tian’anmen (Tiananmen) Square’s sheer expanse will have you exploring for hours.
With building commencing in 1415 during the Ming Dynasty, destroyed by fighting in the 17th century, then in 1651 another re-design and re-build, Tian’anmen Square saw a further four expansions during the 1950s.
Depending on the dynasty or China’s president, Tian’anmen has been continually reinvented over the centuries.
Tian’anmen Square occupies an enormous area of 440,000 square metres. If you can, visualise more than 1,000,000 people standing in the square at one time, then this gives you a rough idea of how immense the square is and feels.
Main Gate of the Royal Palace (Forbidden City)
Boasting a commanding photo of Chairman Mao Zedong, the compelling Main Gate – Gate of Heavenly Peace – was initially built in 1417 and its platform soars 34.7-metres in height.
You may wonder what the placards on either side of Mao’s portrait say?
Well, the left sign reads “Long Live the People’s Republic of China” while “Long Live the Great Unity of the World’s Peoples” is on the right side.
Remember, Tian’anmen Square is popular with both locals and tourists alike, so crowds are relentless.
The huabiao (ornamental columns), white marble bridges, and intricate stone lions decorate the front, making exploring even more intriguing and interesting.
Buy your ticket and ascend the impressive tower that functioned as the gatehouse of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
If you’re lucky, you may even experience a little quiet time just to relax and enjoy some respite, in a cosy corner of the square.
Monument to the People’s Heroes
An imposing ten-story obelisk – impossible to miss – graces the middle of Tian’anmen Square on the southern side.
Erected during 1952-1958, this Chinese national monument is a shrine to the martyrs of the revolutionary conflicts that took place during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Soldiers raise the National Flag of the People’s Republic of China (also known as the Five-star Red Flag) at dawn and then lower the flag at dusk, at the Flagpole Stage…
…which is accompanied by the vivacious Chinese national anthem “March of the Volunteers”.
Built in 1439, you can climb the monumental Zhengyangmen Gate (also known as Qianmen Gate), which has been guarding the southern entrance into the Imperial City (Old Beijing), since 1419.
Towering at 40 metres in height and enduring an extensive reconstruction in 1914, the gate emits a striking presence.
China’s National Museum
Making your way around the square, established in 2003, China’s National Museum is a comprehensive museum, which serves to educate people about China’s arts and history. The museum contains thousands of cherished cultural relics.
The disparity between the rich and poor is evident in Tian’anmen’s concrete paved square.
Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum
Wandering around Tian’anmen Square, you can’t help but notice the extravagant massive and Communist-looking Mao Zedong’s Mausoleum from afar. It’s astounding that an abundance of money was spent on this memorial hall, while poverty has been and still is so prevalent in mainland China.
Built in 1977 and consisting of two floors, the mausoleum commemorates Chairman Mao, the founder of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) during 1945-1976. Regardless of Mao’s wishes to be cremated, instead, his body was embalmed and housed in this mausoleum; which I didn’t enter even though it was a free entry in 2012.
Tian’anmen’s tragic history
Standing in Tian’anmen’s Square, the Soviet-inspired buildings are a stark Communist reminder of the tragedy witnessed in this square. Made infamous in 1989 by the butchering of hundreds, possibly thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators. The actual number slaughtered will never be known. China is trying very hard to erase this black blight from its history books – forever.
Another distressing video regarding the incident in Tian’anmen’s Square from the might of the Chinese army, but this one is from the BCC,
In 1919, on May 4, the May Fourth Movement was born as an anti-imperialist and political movement, which mainly involved students. Some things never change.
It’s not possible to write about Tian’anmen Square without honouring the thousands that lost their lives while protesting for Democracy.
If you missed my previous posts on the surprise 9-day birthday in Beijing, then you may like to take a quick read of these:
Or, check back next week for another chapter of the birthday surprise!