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Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square as seen from the Monument to the People's Heroes in 1988
Traditional Chinese 天安門廣場
Simplified Chinese 天安门广场
Manchu name
Romanization 'abkai elhe obure duka

Tiananmen Square is a large city square in the centre of Beijing, China, named after the Tiananmen gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) located to its North, separating it from the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the fourth largest city square in the world (440,000 m2 – 880×500 m or 109 acres – 960×550 yd). It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history.

Outside China, the square is best known in recent memory as the focal point of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, a pro-democracy movement which ended on 4 June 1989 with the declaration of martial law in Beijing by the government and the shooting of several hundred, or possibly thousands, of civilians by soldiers.[1][2]


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 137-009043, Peking, Blick vom Chienmen auf die Kaiserstadt.jpg
Tiananmen Square in the early 20th century, viewed from Zhengyangmen Gate (Qianmen Gate) with the Gate of China, later removed in 1954, in the place of the present-day Mao Zedong Mausoleum. The "corridor of a thousand steps" is visible behind the Gate of China, and Tiananmen Gate is in the distance.

The Tiananmen Gate, a gate in the wall of the Imperial City, was built in 1415 during the Ming Dynasty. Towards the demise of the Ming Dynasty, heavy fighting between Li Zicheng and the early Qing emperors damaged (or perhaps destroyed) the gate. The Tiananmen square was designed and built in 1651, and has since enlarged four times its original size in the 1950s.[3][4]

Near the center of today's square, stood the "Great Ming Gate", the southern gate to the Imperial City, renamed "Great Qing Gate" during the Qing Dynasty, and "Gate of China" during the Republic of China era. Unlike the other gates in Beijing, such as the Tiananmen and the Qianmen, this was a purely ceremonial gateway, with three arches but no ramparts, similar in style to the ceremonial gateways found in the Ming Dynasty Tombs. This gate had a special status as the "Gate of the Nation", as can be seen from its successive names. It normally remained closed, except when the Emperor passed through. Commoner traffic was diverted to side gates at the western and eastern ends of today's square, respectively. Because of this diversion in traffic, a busy marketplace, called Chessgrid Streets developed in the big, fenced square to the south of this gate.

British and French troops who invaded Beijing in 1860 pitched camp near the gate and briefly considered burning down the gate and the entire Forbidden City. They decided ultimately to spare the palace and to burn instead the emperor's Old Summer Palace. The Qing emperor eventually agreed to let the foreign powers barrack troops – and later establish diplomatic missions – in the area, resulting in the Legation Quarter immediately to the east of the modern square. During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 the siege badly damaged the office complexes and several ministries were burnt down. In the conflict's denouement, the area became a space for foreign troops to assemble their armies and horses.

In 1954, the Gate of China was demolished, allowing for the enlargement of the square. In November 1958 a major expansion of Tiananmen Square started, which was completed after only 11 months, in August 1959. This followed the vision of Mao Zedong to make the square the largest and most spectacular in the world, and intended to hold over 500,000 people. In that process, a large number of residential buildings and other structures have been demolished.[5] On its southern edge, the Monument to the People's Heroes has been erected. Concomitantly, as part of the Ten Great Buildings constructed between 1958–59 to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the People's Republic of China, the Great Hall of the People and the Revolutionary History Museum (now National Museum of China) were erected on the western and eastern sides of the square.[5]

The year after Mao's death in 1976, a Mausoleum was built near the site of the former Gate of China, on the main north-south axis of the square. In connection with this project, the square was further increased in size to become fully rectangular and being able to accommodate 600,000 persons.[5]

The urban context of the square was altered in the 1990s with the construction of National Grand Theatre in its vicinity and the expansion of the National Museum.[5]


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File:Tiananmen Square.JPG
The Tian'anmen Square in Beijing

Used as a massive meeting place since its creation, its flatness is contrasted by the 38-meter (125 ft) high Monument to the People's Heroes, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.[3] The square lies between two ancient, massive gates: the Tian'anmen to the north and the Zhengyangmen, better known as Qianmen to the south. Along the west side of the Square is the Great Hall of the People. Along the east side is the National Museum of China (dedicated to Chinese history predating 1919). Chang'an Avenue, which is used for parades, lies between the Tian'anmen and the Square. Trees line the east and west edges of the Square, but the square itself is open, with neither trees nor benches. The Square is lit with large lampposts which are fitted with video cameras. It is heavily monitored by uniformed and plain clothes policemen.


Tiananmen Square has been the site of a number of political events and student protests.

Perhaps the most notable events are protests during the May Fourth Movement in 1919, the proclamation of the People's Republic of China by Mao Zedong on October 1, 1949, the Tiananmen Square protests in 1976 after the death of Premier Zhou Enlai, and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, which resulted in military suppression and the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of civilian protestors.[6] One of the most famous images that appears during these protests was when a man stood in front of a line of moving tanks and refused to move, which was captured on Chang'an Avenue near the square.

File:Eyes in the sky.jpg
Security cameras at Tiananmen Square

Other notable events include annual mass military displays on each anniversary of the 1949 proclamation until 1 October 1959; the 1984 military parade for the 35th anniversary of the People's Republic of China which coincided with the ascendancy of Deng Xiaoping; military displays and parades on the 50th anniversary of the People's Republic in 1999; the Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident in 2001; military displays and parades on the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic in 2009, and an incident in 2013 involving a vehicle that plowed into pedestrians.


The Square, located in the center of the city, is readily accessible by public transportation. Line 1 of the Beijing Subway has stops at Tiananmen West and Tiananmen East, respectively, to the northwest and northeast of the Square on Chang'an Avenue. Line 2's Qianmen Station is directly south of the Square.

City bus routes 1, 5, 10, 22, 52, 59, 82, 90, 99, 120, 126, 203, 205, 210 and 728 stop north of the Square. Buses 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 17, 20, 22, 44, 48, 53, 54, 59, 66, 67, 72, 82, 110, 120, 126, 301, 337, 608, 673, 726, 729, 901, 特2, 特4 and 特7 stop to the south of the Square.

The Square is normally open to the public, but remains under heavy security. Before entry, visitors and their belongings are searched, a common practice at many Chinese tourist sites. Police, both plainclothes and uniformed, are common. There are numerous fire extinguishers placed in the area to put out flames should a protester attempt Self-immolation.



  1. ^ Miles, James (2 June 2009). "Tiananmen killings: Were the media right?". BBC News. Retrieved 3 November 2010. 
  2. ^ Wong, Jan (1997) Red China Blues, Random House, p. 278, ISBN 0385482329.
  3. ^ a b Safra, J. (Ed.). (2003). Tiananmen Square. In New Encyclopædia Britannica, The (15th ed., Chicago: Vol. 11). Encyclopædia Britannica INC. p. 752. Britannica Online version
  4. ^ "Tiananmen Square". Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  5. ^ a b c d Li, M. Lilliam; Dray-Novey, Alison J.; Kong, Haili (2007) Beijing: From Imperial Capital to Olympic City, Palgrave, ISBN 978-1-4039-6473-1
  6. ^ Wong, Jan (1997). Red China Blues. Random House. p. 278. 

External links

Coordinates: 39°54′12″N 116°23′30″E / 39.90333°N 116.39167°E / 39.90333; 116.39167{{#coordinates:39|54|12|N|116|23|30|E|type:landmark |primary |name= }}