Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square (天安门广场), is the geographical center of Beijing and largest city square in the world, occupying an area of 440,000 square meters (about 109 acres), and able to accommodate 1,000,000 people at one time.  Named after the Tiananmen (“Gate of Heavenly Peace”) located to its north, separating it from the Forbidden City. It lies on the historical central (north south) axis going through the Forbidden City.  The square contains the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China in the square on October 1, 1949.  It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history.  Outside China, the square is ‘extremely well known’.

Most people visit Tiananmen Square on their way to the Forbidden City, both can be done together in a morning or afternoon. Chinese citizens from  descend on Tiananmen to take their photos in front of the portrait of Chairman Mao at the north end of the square.

A vast desert of paving stones, the square can hold over one million people. Expect to go through airport level security when going onto the square, with metal detectors and x-ray machines. There is also a high level of police presence. Nonetheless people are very friendly and its on most Beijing itineraries.

Major Sights

Map Forbidden City to Tiananmen SquareWith the Monument to the People’s Heroesat the center, which commemorates the martyrs who devoted their lives to the Chinese people. It reaches 37.94 meters (124 feet) which makes it the biggest monument in Chinese history. The body is made of granite. Engraved is an epigraph written by Mao Zedong. Eight reliefs depict the crucial events which took place in modern times, showing a part of the centuries-old history of China.

Tiananmen Towerin the south was built in 1417 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). During this dynasty and the following Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) it was where proclamations were issued to the whole nation. The people were prohibited from entering the tower, but now tourists are permitted to climb it. It has 5 arched gates and 9 principle hall columns.  Under the tower flows the Jinshui River, with 7 bridges crossing the river, named the Golden Water Bridges.  Admission Fee: RMB 15

National Flag Ceremony A guard of honor of soldiers come through the gate of Tiananmen Tower, south of the Forbidden City. The whole ceremony lasts only 3 minutes. They time the flag raising at the exact moment of sunrise (see the timetable at the bottom of this page).   Normally, you shoud stand on the west side of the square for better views of the colorful eastern side.

China’s national flag was adopted in September 1949 and first flown in Tiananmen Square on October 1, 1949, the day the People’s Republic of China was formed. The red in the flag symbolizes revolution. The large star symbolizes communism and the little stars represent the Chinese people. The position of the stars represents the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party.

In the south of the Square is the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. The hall was built in 1977. It is divided into three halls: the main hall, the north hall and the south hall. The embalmed remains of Mao Zedong are laid in a crystal coffin in the main hall which is raised and lowered daily. From the exhibit in the north hall, you can learn something about Chairman Mao, Zhou Enlai and other founders of the state. While visiting the main hall, it is necessary to observe silence.  Admission Fee: Free, but LONG lines starting around 6:30am.  No bags and cameras are allowed inside the hall. You have to deposit any bags and cameras in a storage place next to the National Museum of China (to the east of the square) – charge between RMB 2 and 10 per camera and per bag.  You need to show your passport for entry (although sometimes your passport is not checked).

In the west of the Square is the Great Hall of the People (人民大会堂) which was built in 1959 and occupies an area of 170,000 square meters (42 acres). The National People’s Congress is held in this hall. When entering the building you will see the central hall which is decorated with white marble columns and crystal lights. At the back of the hall is the great hall which can hold 10,000 people. The banqueting hall in the north has 5,000 seats and grand banquets are conducted on important occasions. In the south are the offices of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.  Admission Fee: RMB 30

In the east of the Square is the National Museum of China. This museum was officially opened in 2003 with an emphasis on Chinese art and history. The National Museum of Chinese History has more than 3,000,000 artifacts. In the National Museum of the Chinese Revolution there are displays of over 4,500 articles, including literature, pictures, drawings and sculptures. These depict the people’s revolutions and movements to save China, which happened after the Opium War in 1840.

Tiananmen (天安门) or Gate of Heavenly Peaceis likely the most famous building in China. It is widely used as a national symbol. First built during the Ming dynasty in 1420, Tiananmen is often referred to as the front entrance to the Forbidden City. However, the Meridian Gate (午门) is the first entrance to the Forbidden City proper, while Tiananmen was the entrance to the Imperial City, within which the Forbidden City was located. Tiananmen is located to the north of Tiananmen Square, separated from the plaza by Chang’an Avenue. In front of the gate are two lions standing in front of the gate and two more guarding the bridges — lions are believed to protect humans from evil spirits. Two stone columns, called huabiao, each with an animal (hou) on top of it, also stand in front of the gate. The western and eastern walls have giant placards; the left one reads “Long Live the People’s Republic of China” (中华人民共和国万岁), while the right one reads “Long Live the Great Unity of the World’s Peoples” (世界人民大团结万岁). The reviewing stands in the foreground are used on International Workers Day (May Day) and on the National Day (October 1) of the People’s Republic of China. In ancient times, the Tiananmen was among the most important gates encountered when entering Beijing’s Imperial City along with the Qianmen, the Gate of China. Proceeding further inward, the next gate is the ‘Upright Gate’, identical in design to the Tian’anmen; behind it is the southern entrance of the Forbidden City itself, known as the Meridian Gate.

Special Notes

Your bags need to be scanned before entering this huge square. The security forces are huge, and the number of them is comparable with the visitors.  As many as 100 million surveillance cameras are installed in China, the vast majority in public spaces.  The government placed cameras along streets, on public buses, in taxis and trains, homes of dissidents, mosques, temples, parks and squares.  Look closely up at the light posts (and inside the light posts also) throughout Tiananmen Square.  You get the idea.

Toilets on the Square
There are 2 toilets adjoining the National Museum of China on the east of Tiananmen Square. So you just go out of the east exit and move on directly to the toilets in the annex to the museum.

Drinks and Food
There are portable food and beverage carts in the square. Don’t litter.

May 22nd, 2018|

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