Tiananmen Square Beijing Reviews
Tiananmen Square Feb 11, 2017
Most people know that Tiananmen Square, named after Tiananmen (the gate), in the heart of Beijing, is large but it is not until you visit it that you can truly appreciate how large it is. At 850m by 550m the ‘rectangular square’ is the largest public square in the world by a long shot.
The square in its current concrete slab form is a 1950s Communist Party creation. In earlier times it was very different.
In picture 2, attached, the red line outlines the square as it is today. The Ming/Qing square referred to below is outlined in blue.
Traditionally every Chinese home had a small courtyard out front and the royal palace was no different. Under the Ming and Qing rulers, the area outside the imperial city was a T-shaped walled courtyard outside of which were found rows of offices belonging to various ministries, the military, and other government agencies. This T-shaped square ran from Tiananmen (the gate) to the ceremonial Great Ming Gate (renamed the Great Qing Gate and then again renamed to Gate of China and today the location of Mao Zedong's Mausoleum) a distance of some 1000 steps, hence references to the square as the "Thousand Step Long Walkway".
When the emperor went to the Temple of Heaven to offer sacrifices to the gods and to pray for a good harvest, he and his entourage left the palace via Tiananmen (the gate) and proceeded south along the ‘Thousand Step Long Walkway’ before exiting the Imperial City by the Great Ming (or Qing) Gate. From there the procession proceeded through Zhengyangmen and on to the Temple of Heaven about another kilometre or so to the south. Picture 3 is an early 1900s image of the route looking back from Zhengyangmen with the then Great Qing Gate in the centre and Tiananmen (the gate) to the rear.
From the Second Opium War in 1860 when British and French troops entered the square and considered burning down the entire Forbidden City (they changed their minds and burned the Emperor’s Old Summer Palace on the outskirts of Beijing instead) Tiananmen Square became a focal point for important political events and protests, the most infamous of which has been the 1989 student pro-democracy protests in which an unknown number (some say thousands) of protesters were killed when the government decided to clear the square. Readers recalling this event will undoubtedly have vivid memories of photographs (picture 5 - source unknown) and television footage of the man standing in front of a moving tank and refusing to move.
Going back to 1949, following the foundation of People's Republic of China, major renovation work began at Tiananmen Square. Via this and three subsequent renovation projects in 1958, 1976 and 1981 the ministry, military and other government buildings and walls I referred to earlier were demolished (the Gate of China was removed in 1954) to create the massive square you see today. Today the square can comfortably accommodate over half a million people, with each person having the best part of 1 metre square. At a pinch it can accommodate one million people.
Today, for security reasons you can only enter the square, the most emotionally and historically charged urban space in China (having gone through a security check), at one of the four corners or half way up the east and west sides of the square. Since the 1989 pro-democracy protests authorities, not wanting a repeat, have been on edge in this part of the city and more recently the fear of protest/violence by separatist or religious fundamentalist groups has lead to even greater overt security and, without doubt, under cover surveillance in the square. Notwithstanding, or perhaps because of, this high security the square is perfectly safe to visit and unless you come with the intent of engaging in protest, or the like, you will have no problems.
While the square lacks any form of vegetation (outside occasional banks of potted plants) or seating, it is a popular place for local people and tourists to ‘hang out’ and, besides sightseeing, a common pastime here is flying kites. On my most recent visit (2014) I noted a significant decline in hawkers and touts, though visitors wishing to avail of the services of sweet young ladies wishing to practice their English over a cup of tea can still do so. Off course the apparent friendliness of these young ladies is a front to rip you off and their services, however appealing, should be declined. Should you forget your camera there are lots of photographers in the square to ensure that you don’t have to go home without that all important photo of you in front of Tiananmen gate with Mao in the background - bargain hard.
While the square is an attraction in itself, it also contains a number of Beijing's most popular attractions and is surrounded by even more of them. I have prepared separate reviews on things I recommend you see within the square and immediately around it:
*Tiananmen - Gate of Heavenly Peace not forgetting the Huabiao (used by the majority of visitors to gain access to the Forbidden City, a short distance through the gate)
*The Flag raising/lowering ceremony
*The rather ghastly and out of place Tiananmen Square LED Screens
*The Monument to the People's Heroes
*The Chairman Mao Memorial Hall which, notwithstanding the queue, I recommend you go inside, in addition to admiring it from the outside
*Zhengyangmen (Zhengyang Gate) – Gatehouse and Watchtower not missing China’s Zero Point by the Gatehouse
and, on the east and west side of the square, respectively:
*The National Museum of China, and
*The Great Hall of the People.
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Tiananmen Square LED Screens Feb 11, 2017
In 2009, to display a parade marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949, authorities erected two 40 metres long by 5 metres high, extremely high resolution LED display screens smack bang in the centre of Tiananmen Square – one some metres on either side of the north south axis – an historically important and symbolic line running down the centre of the square and beyond, through the Forbidden City to the North and the Temple of Heaven Complex to the south.
No problem with that whatsoever. The sad thing is that one of the screens is still there and for me is an eyesore and totally out of keeping with the rest of the square and the surrounding area. Its flashing light is also an ugly distraction after dark, though it don't run all night.
The screen is used to broadcast videos of the city's scenic and cultural spots and tourist related videos on other parts of China. Commercial advertising is not shown on the screen.
The only value I see for the screen is that it is useful for hiding police buses and other service vehicles behind (picture 3) though that hardly justifies the reported US$2.5m annual running/maintenance costs for the screen.
Lest you find my report too negative, I should point out that I do find the row of fire extinguishers sitting in front of the screen rather cute!
Now for a digression and a rant if I may?
The screen received totally unwarranted worldwide attention on 17 January 2014 thanks to the scurrilous and gutter reporting of the UK’s Daily Mail.
At the time air pollution in the city had been especially bad, but the Daily Mail, not letting facts get in the way, stooped to new lows by publishing picture 4 attached (credit to ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images), along with the following commentary:
"The smog has become so thick in Beijing that the city's natural light-starved masses have begun flocking to huge digital commercial television screens across the city to observe virtual sunrises. The futuristic screens installed in the Chinese capital usually advertise tourist destinations, but as the season's first wave of extremely dangerous smog hit residents donned air masks and left their homes to watch the only place where the sun would hail over the horizon that morning."
The sad thing is that the report went viral and otherwise quality press including Time, CBS and the Huffington Post picked it up and also ran it.
The truth is that the sunrise shot was taken from a less than 10 seconds segment of a tourist advertisement for China’s Shandong province which, at the time, was showing every day throughout the day irrespective of the level of pollution.
Had it been reported as a joke or a jibe at China I would have found it hilarious.
Interestingly the photo was not taken by the Daily Mail but is rather credited to ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images, the picture on the screen is clearly marked in the bottom right with a Shandong Tourism logo and the articles reporter was based in New York. Need I say more?
Other quality media outlets such as Time quickly published corrections – Time wrote:
”Correction: The original post did not mention that the large screens in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square broadcast panoramic scenes on a daily basis, regardless of atmospheric conditions, nor did it state that the sunrise was part of a tourism commercial.”
Dear reader please be assured that I absolutely accept that China’s dangerous smog is a serious health and environmental danger but sensationalist reporting such as that of the Daily Mail adds noting to reasoned discussion or an alleviation of the well documented and accepted problem.
Tiananmen Square - Lowering the Flag Feb 11, 2017
I hadn’t planned on visiting the flag raising or lowering ceremony held daily in Tiananmen Square. I don’t like hanging around waiting for things to happen and as such don’t do it unless I think it’s going to be worth it.
We had spent a very long and tiring day sightseeing and, as chance would have it, were passing through Tiananmen Square en route to our hotel as sunset approached. As a bit of a crowd was gathering we decided to hang around for the daily flag lowering ceremony, not knowing how long we would have to wait. I didn’t realise until I was later writing this review that the actual flag raising and lowering time is published in advance.
When the action eventually began we were a couple of rows back in a fairly large crowd which had gathered around three sides of the flag pole. Being taller than the average Chinese person (of which the largest part of the crowd was composed), I still had a good view of proceedings. Note that the ceremony attracts very large crowds on days like New Year’s Day (1 Jan) and National Day (1 Oct).
At the appointed hour, a group of around fifty soldiers marched into the square from their barracks behind Tiananmen (the gate), lowered the flag and marched back from whence they came with the flag. The crowd melted into the square and that was it.
What I did find interesting to learn was that the sun takes two minutes and seven seconds to fully rise above the horizon (same to set). As a result, the national flag rises from the ground to the top of the flagpole in exactly two minutes and seven seconds and is lowered in the same time.
The ceremony is with a look if you are in the area but otherwise no big deal if you miss it.
Flag raising and lowering times can be ascertained from this site, among other places - http://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/beijing/tiananmen/flag-raising.htm. Just bear in mind, if you want to see the flag raising ceremony, that for much of the year it starts prior to the subway opening and to when most buses start operating so you will probably need to take a taxi or night bus 205 or 210 to get to the Square.
Tiananmen Square + Mao Zedong Mausoleum May 19, 2015
This is a large & famous city square in Beijing as it is located in the heart of the Chinese Govt important buildings, facing the Forbidden City and houses Mao Zedong’s final resting place. It is also known as Gate of Heavenly Peace. Standing in the middle of the square is the People’s Movement Monument with 2 guards standing on guard. There are also super huge LCD screens put on display at the square. It was my first time seeing such a huge LCD screen.
1. This square is quite busy with many tourist bus and tourists (mainly Chinese tourists) taking pictures.
2. There are a lot of touts, offering to take your picture and then selling it you for RNB100 or 200. Be mindful of your belongings when walking around here as it can be very crowded
3. Watch your steps as you will never know whether the puddle of water on the floor is really water or some Chinese kid’s urine as I had learned when I was there. I was just walking around, I spotted that the Chinese toddlers are wearing an “open-concept” pants, meaning, there is a big whole/ gap at the butt. This was Autumn mind you. The Chinese mum suddenly pulled up her son’s jacket and ask the kid to kneel so he can pee right in the heart of Tianemen Square. He does not even go the bushes! Now we know why the pants are designed that way! For Chinese kids to pee or poo without having to remove the pants. And thereafter, they just continue walking, no baby wipes or water or wiping. Chinese style!
4. You are not allowed to carry a bag into the Mao Zedong Mausoleum (no lockers here either). Since we are a big group, we split ourselves into 2 so that half of us went in first while the other half stayed in the square & guard the bags. The queue to the entrance can be pretty long since they are very strict. You can buy flowers as offerings (if you really really really want to?) that are sold once you passed the entrance. No photography or talking is allowed once you are inside. Mao Zedong’s dead body was in a glass encase & heavily guarded by Chinese guards. You are expected to look solemn, no laughing or joking and you must make the round and out you go, no loitering allowed.
5. When I was here in end Oct – early Nov 2013, it was just 5 days prior to a fire that broke out which resulted in fatality. Therefore even before we could enter the underpass from across the street (Tianemen Square is located in a roundabout so you can only get here by going through the underpass), we already had to undergo security screening and security was very tight on that day. This cause such a delay as there were so many tourists (mainly Chinese tourists who don’t seem to understand the concept of queuing). We were just being pushed around.
KIv for my pics
Tiananmen Square Nov 18, 2012
It was a lot of fun visiting Tiananmen Square for the first time. I was shocked at the enormous size of it. I kind of walked around and took it all in.
The weirdest thing happened to me after being there for about 20 minutes: Chinese people wanted to have their picture taken with me. Initially I was gratified. The second day I visited the square I was done with it. By the time the week was over, I was really tired of it. In fact, at the Great Wall, I simply ignored people who asked, because it was completely annoying. In a sense, I should not have been annoyed. The only reason people wanted a picture with me is because I was not Han. In contrast, not a single Japanese person asked to take a picture with me when I was in Tokyo, Osaka, or Sapporo. But I digres…….
The second day I visited the square I brought my tripod and shot video of myself talking trash about communism. I remember saying something like, “Why are they celebrating communism when it does not work?” “Can someone please explain to them that they have been embracing a controlled form of capitalism for some time now?” Then I went on to extole the greatness of capitalism. I just could not pass up the opportunity to talk trash on their turf (by the way, I normally do not do that kind of thing in other countries; however, China is special).
After my third visit I figured I had enough pictures so I stopped going there (plus, I was tired of people asking me to take a picture with me. I know I am not that attractive).
The buildings that they built are interesting. However, they are the only impressive buildings in Beijing. There is no continuity beyond the communist party buildings.
Another funny fact is that when I started filming some military guy came over to me to see what I was doing, because of course, since I am not Han, everybody wanted to see what the non-Han guy was doing.
If you want to read about girls who speak English in Tiananmen Square, see my other review on Tiananmen Square.
Huge Square Aug 10, 2010
It us a really huge square before the main entrance of forbidden city .
You must walk many miles just to make a round .
I thing so everybody know the historical side from this square and I don't like to write something about it . You can see the link from wikipedia for more . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989 .
Personally get twice at daylight and at the night , walk and saw many statues , buildings and etc . Thousand of peoples around the square at the daylight but after the evening was very quiet .
Also the rainy day doesn't help me for a bigger walk .
I recommended for you just for historical reasons and because are free :)
I will upload some photos to have a look .
Part of the China 2010 travel blog
Beijing Getting Ready for the Olympics Jun 16, 2008
After our long flight with my fellow students from the U.S. to Beijing we finally arrived to the brand new Beijing airport! It is beautifully designed and I believe it's only about 3 years old or perhaps less than that. We started off our first night there the way every foreigner should by having the popular "Peking Duck" for dinner :) I must say that I actually enjoyed the duck. There were several other dishes that I tried that were a little too odd for me such as chicken which is normal however I wasn't ready for the bones to still be in it. I almost chipped a tooth! Moving on though. Obviously, we saw the Great Wall. It really is an amazing sight to see. We went to a part of the wall where it was very popular for tourists so there were a lot of people climbing the wall at the time we went.. but for the most part that really didn't bother me. There are also lots of vendors on the wall selling random souvenirs like "i climbed the great wall" t-shirts and what not.. You can definitely haggle here!! Don't be afraid to stick with your price because they will laugh at you and act like your price is way too low and sometimes it makes you feel stupid. BUT that's just one of their tactics to get you to raise your price. Remember that ANYWHERE in China that you haggle. They go on and on about the quality and if you just walk away many times they chase you and they will keep lowering their price until you agree! So have fun with that! Next we went to Tian A Men Square and the Forbidden City! I loved the Forbidden City, the architecture is beautiful and so much cooler to see in person than in pictures. One thing that Beijing is trying to help before the Olympics arrive is the air pollution. OMG if you are standing in Tian A Men Square you can just see how thick the smog is that covers the sky. I'm not kidding I had a horrible raspy voice when I got back from China that has finally cleared up but I seriously think it was from all the pollution in the air... Now as for shopping!! We went to Pearl Market and Silk Market, both are great places for haggling for all sorts of things such as fake purses, designer jeans, pearls, make-up, North Face jackets, its all there! So if you like bargain shopping..I suggest you go there! There are some other really cool malls in Beijing that I wish I could remember the name of. But I do know they had a Zara there (my favorite store) and Guess and places like that!
Finally, we did go to one nightclub while we were there, called Vic's! We had a group of us and we had a great time they were good about getting us drinks and a place to lounge and the night we were there they played a lot of kind of pop music. Generally, I prefer house and electro..but it was a fun atmosphere and if you are drunk..it'll be fun haha. Well, I think thats all I have to say about Beijing..It's a great city, there's lots to do. The Olympic stadiums are awesome looking from the outside, lots of people ride bikes. Oh and one more thing! Go sometime at night to the outdoor food market. Lots of vendors sell weird foods like scorpian, sea urchin, snakes, lamb balls. If you are too nervous to try those sort of things (i know I was) it's at least fun to see others eat them and take pictures! The Chinese vendors are funny too!
May 27, 2007
This square is South of the Forbidden City and is a vast expanse at the heart of modern Beijing. It is the biggest square in the world: Here you will find:
Ming Dynasty Gate and Mao’s Picture – Mao proclaimed the founding of the Peoples Republic of China on 1st October 1949 from this Ming Dynasty Gate where his huge portrait remains. (Rumours are that the picture is changed every year to make him look younger).
National Flag – This is raised at dawn and lowered at dusk everyday.
China National Museum – Built in 1959, this building was originally home to the Museum of the Revolution and the Museum of Chinese History, now merged. Outside is the countdown board in days, hours, minutes and seconds until the 2008 Olympic Games.
Monument of People’s Heroes – This granite monument was erected in 1958 and is decorated with bas-reliefs of episodes from China’s Revolutionary history and calligraphy from Mao Zedong and Zhou Elai. It is dedicated to all those who struggled in the revolution.
Mao’s Mausoleum – This building contains Mao’s embalmed body. His casket is raised from its refridgerated chamber and is on view morning and afternoon.
Revolutionary Statues – These flank either side of the Mausoleum.
Great Hall of People – Seat of people’s legislature, the vast auditorium and banqueting halls are open for part of the day. Margaret Thatcher tripped on the steps when she visited in 1982 and in 1989 President Gorbochev’s entrance to the hall was blocked.
Student protests of 1989 – More commonly known as The Tian’an men Square Massacre. Demonstrations were led by students, intellectuals and labour activists. The participants were critical of the Chinese Communist party. Soldiers were ordered to fire on the demonstrators. According to the Chinese government 200-300 people died. Chinese students and the Chinese Red Cross said that between 2,000 and 3,000 died. No guide will stand in Tian’an men Square and tell you about the massacre. It is forbidden.
Part of the Our Trip to China travel blog
Aug 03, 2006
at the center of Beijing City is Tiananmen Square, where you can
visit Tiananmen Tower, Monument to the People's Heroes, Great Hall
of the People, Mao Zedong Memorial Hall and see the national flag
raising ceremony. Thousands of people come to the Square every day.
It is the must place to visit in Beijing City.
Part of the China 2006 travel blog
Sep 18, 2006
The place has an unique flair...it's fantastic
But don't go there on a 9th September - it's Mao's day of death and pretty crowded then.
Sep 26, 2005
You could spend two days just going through this palace. 800 buildings and 9000 rooms covering 250 acres. Its mind boggling and blowing. The buildings stand as they did more than 500 years ago. Its just awe inspiring to see this, words don’t do it justice, therefore..
Tian anamen Square
Located just outside the heavenly gate of the Forbidden City. This square is huge and it is filled with people. People strolling, selling kites, flying kites, selling knick-knacks, and taking pictures.
On the opposite side of the square is the mausoleum of Chairman Mao. In the middle of the square are statues commemorating the revolution.
Part of the Japan and China travel blog
Very interesting - make sure you get the audio described tour! Aug 16, 2004
The Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square are must dos in Beijing. Purely for their historical importance, but the aesthetic side is fascinating as well.
Most people start out seeing Tian'anmen Square. Although it bustles with the day to day business of city centre Beijing, there was - for me at least - a real sense of history from the protests in 1989. It was such a momentous event there's no doubt it's left an imprint on the area. Known in Chinese at the June 4th Incident, I don't remember seeing any memorials to the event on the Square - the only one I did see was in Qingdao.
Mao's Mausoleum is on Tian'anmen Square but we didn't go to it. Known formally as the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall, it's only open for a few hours each day, you sometimes have to hand over your passport to gain entry, you can't take cameras or bags in (you've to pay to store them, althogh entry is free) and by all accounts, the old man of China is getting a bit worse for wear. I believe his left ear fell off and had to be either stitched or sewn back on. He's reportedly taking on an increasingly waxy appearance, prompting rumours the embalming, which was carried out with the help of the Vietnamese, wasn't quite up to scratch. Mao's remains are on show for only a short time each day, shorter in summer than in winter. Guests are ushered through the mausoleum rather quickly (less than a minute I've heard), leading to suggestions the corpse is decomposing. It's also been suggested the figure is not Mao himself, rather a waxwork. When the glass coffin is not on display, it's lowered into a freezer under the hall of the Mausoleum.
So we didn't fancy going, either the viewing of a dead person or queueing in the heat on the Square. But maybe I'll pop in the next time I'm there.
Tian'anmen Square is bounded by the Forbidden City, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China and there's lots of inspirational type statues on it too. There are usually people selling kites and ennjoying themselves, alongside the state police, who march through in formation.
We got lots of amused looks - three white girls, one very tall and blonde - wandering around, a few people asked to get pictures taken, but I imagine that's getting less common as more Westerners visit.
Inside the Forbidden City, we rented audio units. The descriptive tour was narrated by none other than 007, James Bond himself - Roger Moore! It was a very interesting narrative, and I'm glad we had it.
The Palace was the home of the Emperor from Mid-Ming to late Qing times. You enter through the Meridien Gate which faces onto Tian'anmen Square. Entry was around £1 GBP when I went, it may have changed by now, that and fluctuating exchange rates!
It takes about an hour and a half to come right through the complex. We passed the Starbucks which has since been forced out by traditionalists. We handed our audio sets back in and moseyed around the outside.
The complex of palaces, gates, halls and courtyards is immense - each means different things, some were areas for concubines, some for the eunuchs who were their body guards (eunuchs so they couldn't threaten the Emperor's standing as Alpha Male), and areas just for the Emperor. I'd love to go back when it's not under renovations - lots of the halls were covered in scaffolding.
The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are essentials on any itinerary to Beijing, and I hope to go back some day.
Part of the Teaching & Travelling in China, 2004 travel blog
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