A must see in Beijing… ‘Tian’anmen Square’
So…every visitor to Beijing really must visit Tian’anmen Square. It’s definitely up there as the top five ‘must see’ with the Great Wall of China and The Forbidden City. I think from a history point of view, the square is probably best known for the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, which was a pro-democracy movement by Chinese students which ended on 4 June 1989 with the declaration of martial law by the government and the shooting of, it is said, several thousands, of civilians by soldiers. These numbers are, of course, unconfirmed by the Chinese who have said that there were only a few hundred deaths. There are many really interesting books to read on the square and the massacre of 1989 and I have read many which have been incredibly sad and I still find it amazing to read that the student demonstration was peaceful and they were demonstrating about freedom of speech and press and I think from memory the demonstrations [and hunger strikes] started from the death of a particularly loved senior Communist Party member and some incorrect reporting in the Chinese newspapers.
I, like many millions of people around the world will always remember the lone protestor in front of a line of tanks along Chang An Jie (Chang An Street). However the square does have many other memorable events and one is the day in 1949 when Mao Zedong announced the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Reproductions of the photograph of Mao announcing the republic is still sold around China.
(photo from http://www.huckmagazine.com)
(photo from http://www.wikispaces.com)
It’s an easy place to get to; it’s by subway [or taxi] and you have to go through security checks to get onto the square and taxi cabs cannot stop along Chang An Jie so you must stop a little further away and walk. There are always Chinese plain clothes officers walking around the square and I have been told many times ‘when you are on the square, don’t talk about 1989 or mention anything to defame the Chinese Government’ or you will be arrested. I mean I think the bit about defaming the Chinese Government might be true for anywhere in China but in relation to the square, I have seen some of the plain clothes officers but was not sure if it was true about being arrested until I read in 2014 about a UK BBC journalist arrested after attempting to broadcast on 4 July, the anniversary of 4 July 1989. Off into a police van he went and the entire process was filmed and of course put onto the net.
But all those things aside it really is an amazing place to step foot on. The huge square is flanked to the east by the National Museum of China…which is truly beautiful inside with sensational exhibitions…photo identification is required to enter (get there early the lines are long in the summer heat) and …
the Great Hall of the People to the west.
I was fortunate enough whilst working in Beijing to visit the Great Hall of the People during a visit by the Australian Governor General who was met at the Hall by Chinese President XI Jinping. This for me was a truly memorable afternoon and whilst I did not personally meet the Chinese president (I have been fortunate to meet and share a glass of champagne with the Aussie GG), I was very close to him and snuck a few photos.
Chinese children were lined up outside the Great Hall and were shouting and waving flags for both the GG and President.
I was also fortunate enough to go into the Great Hall on two occasions, once whilst the Australian Prime Minister was visiting (and had lunch there).
So my second time to see the inside of the Great Hall was during the visit by the Australian GG – it is a beautiful building and I also got to see the Chinese President’s wife – also beautiful.
But back to the square, there is also Qianmen (Front Gate) to the south…
and Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) located to its North, separating it from the Forbidden City.
The square also contains the monument to the people’s heroes of the revolution
and the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall (with Mao’s embalmed body..well I am still a little unsure of this as I have been there after lining up for over forty-minutes at 7.30 in the morning…the body is ‘very’ wax like, but who knows!!!
The square is especially wonderful to visit at sunset for the lowering of the flag and after that access is forbidden; with police guarding to ensure no access.
I recall taking some visitors to the square in 2011 which was the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party where there were temporary monuments marking the occasion and of course thousands and thousands of people.
It’s an amazing experience stepping foot on Tian’anmen Square and in particular on 1 November which is the Chinese National Day where you will bump into literally hundreds of thousands of Chinese and foreigners [but mainly Chinese] all there to celebrate National Day…on this day, I will only ever go there once – way too many people!! But wonderful to see people out celebrating their national day!