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Tiananmen Square

Coordinates: 39°54′12″N 116°23′30″E / 39.90333°N 116.39167°E / 39.90333; 116.39167
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Tiananmen Square
Groups of people wander around Tiananmen Square in the late afternoon. The eponymous Tiananmen, literally "Gate of Heavenly Peace", sits in the background.
Tiananmen Square in 2020
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese天安门广场
Traditional Chinese天安門廣場
Hanyu PinyinTiān'ānmén Guǎngchǎng
Manchu name
Manchu scriptᡝᠯᡥᡝ ᠣᠪᡠᡵᡝ ᡩᡠᡴᠠ
Romanizationelhe obure duka

Tiananmen Square or Tian'anmen Square (/ˈtjɛnənmən/[1]) is a city square in the city center of Beijing, China, named after the eponymous Tiananmen ("Gate of Heavenly Peace") located to its north, which separates it from 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; the anniversary of this event is still observed there.[2] The size of Tiananmen Square is 765 x 282 meters (215,730 m2 or 53.31 acres).[3] It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history.

Outside China, the square is best known for the 1989 protests and massacre that ended with a military crackdown due to international media coverage, internet and global connectivity, its political implications, and other factors.[4][5][6] Within China, little, if anything about the massacre is known by most Chinese due to strict censorship of knowledge of the crackdowns by the Chinese Communist Party.[7]


Early history[edit]

Tiananmen Square during Qing Dynasty, viewed from Zhengyangmen Gate (Qianmen Gate) with the Gate of China, later removed in 1954 to make room for 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.
Tiananmen Square during the May Fourth movement in 1919
(video) Two shots of the namesake gate to the north followed by a shot of inside Tiananmen Square in 2017

The Tiananmen ("Gate of Heavenly Peace"), a gate in the wall of the Imperial City, was built in 1417 during the Ming dynasty. In the 17th century, fighting between Li Zicheng's rebel forces and the forces of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty caused heavy damage to, or even destroyed, the gate. Tiananmen Square was designed and built in 1651 and was enlarged fourfold in the 1950s.[8][9]

The gate historically known as the "Great Ming Gate", the southern gate to the Imperial City stands near the center of the square. It was renamed the "Great Qing Gate" during the Qing dynasty, and the "Gate of China" during the Republican era. Unlike the other gates in Beijing, such as the Tiananmen and the Zhengyang Gate, this was a purely ceremonial gateway, with three arches but no ramparts, similar in style to the ceremonial gateways found in the Ming 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 the square, respectively. Because of this diversion in traffic, a busy marketplace, called "Chess Grid Streets", was developed in the large fenced square to the south of this gate.[citation needed]

19th century[edit]

In 1860, during the Second Opium War, when British and French troops occupied Beijing, they pitched camp near the gate and briefly considered burning down the gate and the Forbidden City. Ultimately, they decided to spare the Forbidden City and instead burn down the Old Summer Palace. The Xianfeng Emperor eventually agreed to let Western powers barrack troops – and later establish diplomatic missions – in the area, hence there was the Legation Quarter immediately to the east of the square. When the forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance besieged Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, they badly damaged the office complexes and burnt down several ministries. After the Boxer Rebellion ended, the area became a space for the Eight-Nation Alliance to assemble their military forces.[citation needed]

20th century[edit]

In Beijing, Tiananmen was re-developed from an insular imperial quarter to a larger public space viewed as consistent socialist political.[10]: 110  Over the 1950s, the square was quadrupled in size.[10]: 110 

In 1954, the Gate of China was demolished to allow 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 were demolished.[11] 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 and 1959 to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Great Hall of the People and the Revolutionary History Museum (now the National Museum of China) were erected on the western and eastern sides of the square.[11]

For the first decade of the PRC, each National Day (October 1) was marked by a large military parade in Tiananmen Square, in conscious emulation of the annual Soviet celebrations of the Bolshevik Revolution. After the disaster of the Great Leap Forward, the CCP decided to cut costs and have only smaller annual National Day celebrations in addition to a large celebration with a military parade every 10 years. However, the chaos of the Cultural Revolution almost prevented such an event from taking place on National Day in 1969 but did take place in 1966 and 1970.[citation needed]

In 1971, large portraits of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Sun Yat-sen, and Mao Zedong were erected in the square, painted by artist Ge Xiaoguang, who is also responsible for producing the famous portrait of Mao that hangs over the Gate of Heavenly Peace. In 1980, with the downgrading of political ideology following Mao's death, the portraits were taken down and thenceforth only brought out on Labor Day (May 1) and National Day.[citation needed]

Ten years later, in 1979, the CCP again decided against a large-scale celebration, coming at a time when Deng Xiaoping was still consolidating power and China had suffered a rebuff in a border war with Vietnam early in the year. By 1984, with the situation much improved and stabilized, the PRC held a military parade for the first time since 1959. The aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre prevented any such activities in October 1989, but military parades have been held in 1999 and 2009, on the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the PRC's founding.[12]

One year after Mao's death, a mausoleum was built near the site of the former Gate of China along 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 people.[11]

1989 protests and massacre[edit]

In 1989, Tiananmen Square was the site of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that culminated in violence and a crackdown by the People's Liberation Army.[13][14] Following the crackdown, many of the student leaders escaped to the United States with the help of foreign intelligence agencies and other parties through Operation Yellowbird. [15]

The urban context of the square was altered in the 1990s with the construction of National Grand Theater in its vicinity and the expansion of the National Museum.[11]


1967 satellite image of Tiananmen Square with the Tian'anmen gate to the north. Further work on the square was carried out in the 1970s to extend the open plaza by demolishing the buildings immediately to the south of the square.

Used as a venue for mass gatherings since its creation, its flatness is contrasted by both the 38-meter (125 ft)-high "Monument to the People's Heroes" and the "Mausoleum of Mao Zedong".[8] The square lies between two ancient, massive gates: the Tiananmen to the north and the Zhengyangmen, 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.

Erected in 1989, Liberty, a statue representing the western icon previously held her torch over the square.[16]


Since Dec 15, 2021, visitors must make a reservation before entering the square area.[17]


Security cameras at Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square has been the site of a number of notable political events, student protests, and armed conflict.

Among the most notable events that have occurred on Tiananmen Square were 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 Zhou Enlai, and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre after the death of Hu Yaobang, which was suppressed in a military crackdown.[18] Shortly after the crackdown, a man, dubbed Tank Man, was photographed obstructing a column of tanks on Chang'an Avenue near the square.

Other notable events included annual mass military displays on each anniversary of the 1949 proclamation until October 1, 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 of China in 1999; the Tiananmen Square self-immolation incident in 2001; military displays and parades on the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China in 2009, and a terror attack in 2013 involving a vehicle that plowed into pedestrians. In 2023, police detained over 20 people, including Activist Alexandra Wong, on the 34th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown for "breaching the peace".[19]


National Museum of ChinaChang'an AvenueMonument to the People's HeroesWest Chang'an AvenueEast Chang'an AvenueMausoleum of Mao ZedongGreat Hall of the PeopleNational Center for the Performing ArtsTiananmen SquareHuabiaoHuabiaoTiananmen (Gate Tower)
Panorama image map of Tiananmen Square from the north atop Tiananmen's gate tower, showing the square beyond Chang'an Avenue, the Monument to the People's Heroes and Chairman Mao Memorial Hall (background center), the National Museum of China (on the left), and Great Hall of the People (on the right) (mouse over for labels)



  1. ^ "Tiananmen Square". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on May 18, 2021.
  2. ^ The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed
  3. ^ "Tiananmen Square incident". Britannica. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  4. ^ Miles, James (2 June 2009). "Tiananmen killings: Were the media right?". BBC News. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  5. ^ "Tiananmen Square protest death toll 'was 10,000'". BBC News. 23 December 2017. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  6. ^ "The Truth Behind The Tiananmen Square Massacre - CBS News". www.cbsnews.com. 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2023-06-30.
  7. ^ Pu, Bao (2015-06-03). "Tiananmen and the Chinese Way of Censorship". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2023-07-31.
  8. ^ 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
  9. ^ "Tiananmen Square". Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
  10. ^ a b Curtis, Simon; Klaus, Ian (2024). The Belt and Road City: Geopolitics, Urbanization, and China's Search for a New International Order. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. doi:10.2307/jj.11589102. ISBN 9780300266900. JSTOR jj.11589102.
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ "1999 Tiananmen Square".
  13. ^ "Tiananmen Square: What happened in the protests of 1989", BBC, 23 December 2021
  14. ^ "Tiananmen killings: Were the media right?". BBC. 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2023-06-29.
  15. ^ "The lives of Tiananmen's most wanted, 30 years on". Quartz. 2019-05-31. Retrieved 2023-06-29.
  16. ^ Roberts, John Morris (1993). "The Chinese Enigma". History of the world. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 912. ISBN 0-19-521043-3. OCLC 28378422.
  17. ^ "Visit to Tiananmen Square Will be by Reservation Only from December 15". english.beijing.gov.cn. 2021-11-24. Retrieved 2023-08-08.
  18. ^ Wong, Jan (1997). Red China Blues. Random House. p. 278.
  19. ^ "Hong Kong police arrest pro-democracy figures on Tiananmen Square anniversary". The Guardian. 2023-06-04. Retrieved 2023-06-07.

External links[edit]

  • Photo of young people at May Day Parade, 1957 [1]
  • Photo of May Day Parade, 1957 [2]
  • Photo of May Day Parade, 1957 [3]

39°54′12″N 116°23′30″E / 39.90333°N 116.39167°E / 39.90333; 116.39167