TIANANMEN SQUARE IS THE FOURTH LARGEST CITY SQUARE IN THE WORLD:
Tiananmen Square, Beijing’s main city square is where all important parades and events take place. We arrive at the square a week after the National Day Golden Week celebrations to find it still decked out in thousands of floral arrangements and celebratory colours of red and gold.
Tiananmen Square takes its name from the Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace), located at the north of the square. This Ming Dynasty gate was part of the wall of the Imperial City.
The Chairman’s Vision Lives On
When Tiananmen Square was first designed and built in 1651, it was a quarter of the present-day size. It was Mao Zedong’s vision to make the square the largest and most impressive in the world and capable of holding 500,000 people. In November 1958 a major expansion began.
It seems that Mao’s vision didn’t die with the death of the Chairman. In 1976, a year after Mao’s death, a mausoleum was built near the site of the former Gate of China. The mausoleum project also further increased the size of the square making it capable of accommodating 600,000 persons.
Further alterations took place in the 1990s with the building of the National Grand Theatre and the expansion of the National Museum. Today Tiananmen Square is the fourth largest city square in the world measuring 440,000 sq. meters.
Important Historical Events
Since its construction in the 17th century, Tiananmen Square has witnessed many significant political events in the history of China.
To many people in the outside world, Tiananmen Square’s more recent history brings with it memories of the June 1989 pro-democracy protests that took place here and which culminated in the declaration of martial law in Beijing. The death of hundreds of civilians and the famous images of the “tank man” are hard to forget and there continues to be tension on the square on the anniversaries of the event. Fortunately for us, the people seem happy today and are out for a good time.
Visiting Beijing’s Largest City Square
Tiananmen Square lies between two gates, the Tiananmen in the north and the Qianmen in the south. You do have to go through security check but in spite of the large numbers of people, the lines go through quite quickly.
We arrive at the southern Qianmen gate and Mao Zedong’s Memorial Hall is the first building we come across on the square. There is a huge line of people queuing to visit.
In the middle of the square is the Monument to the People’s Heroes, a very tall structure. To the left of the Monument is the Great Hall of the People and on the right is the National Museum of China.
At the northern end of the square, a very tall flagpole flies the National flag. The northern section of the square is where most people gather as across Chang’an Avenue is the Tiananmen Gate with a portrait of Chairman Mao on the wall.
This is where many of the locals come to do their “selfies”, with Chairman Mao in the background. Here I meet a Miao family and the women are all dressed up in their traditional clothing for their souvenir photo and I get in the action as well.
Although Tiananmen is a huge open square, the is area is under heavy monitoring and there are plain clothes and uniformed police about. Just in case you’re thinking of misbehaving on Tiananmen Square, take a look at the very tall light posts on the square with the many video cameras attached.