Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square (Pinyin: Tia-n'a-nmén) is the large plaza near the center of Beijing, China, named after the Tiananmen (literally, Gate of Heavenly Peace) which sits to its north, separating it from the Forbidden City. It has great cultural significance as a symbol because it was the site of several key events in Chinese history.

The Forbidden City courtyard
The Forbidden City courtyard (Photo: Wikipedia)

The square is 880 metres south to north and 500 metres east to west, a total area of 440,000 square meters, which makes it the largest open-urban square in the world.


The Tiananmen was built in 1417 in the Ming Dynasty. In 1699 (early Qing Dynasty), the Tiananmen was renovated and renamed to its present form. During the Ming and Qing eras, there was no public square at Tiananmen, and instead the area was filled with offices for imperial ministries. These were badly damaged during the Boxer Rebellion and the area was cleared to produce the beginning of Tiananmen Square.

Near the centre of today's square, close to the site of the Mao Zedong Mausoleum, once stood one of the most important gates of Beijing. This gate was known as the "Great Ming Gate" during the Ming Dynasty, "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 were diverted to two 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 small, fenced square to the south of this gate.

In the early 1950s, the Gate of China (as it was then known) was demolished along with the Chessgrid Streets to the south, completing the expansion of Tiananmen Square to (approximately) its current size.


Enlarged in 1949 to the current size, its flatness is broken only by the 38 metre high Monument to the People's Heroes and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. The square lies between two ancient, massive gates: the Tian'anmen to the north and the Zhengyangmen, better known as Qianmen (pinyin: Qiánmén; literally "Front Gate") 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. 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.


Tiananmen Square has been the site of a number of political events such as the proclamation of the People's Republic of China by Mao Zedong in October 1, 1949, for annual mass military displays on all subsequent National Days until October 1st 1959, plus the 1984 military parade for the 35th anniversary of the People's Republic of China and the 50th anniversary in 1999 plus for mass rallies during the Cultural Revolution.



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