At the very heart of Beijing, sits Tian'anmen
Square, the largest urban square in the world. This vast space, measuring 40 hectares, has
a historical significance to rival its size.
the 1960s, Tian'anmen Square now measures 880 meters from north to south, 500 meters from
east to west and can accommodate up to one million people. Classical Beijing planning
however, didn't permit public squares. They were seen largely as dangerous places where
crowds could gather and diverted attention and focus away from the Emperor. Tian'anmen
Square is therefore, one of Beijing's most modern sites and largely Mao's concoction.
The May 4th
demonstrations in 1919 against the Treaty of Versailles took place here. So too did
anti-Japanese protests in 1935. Mao inspected his troops here during the Cultural
revolution and in 1976, one million people gathered in the square to pay tribute to the
Chairman. Today, visitors remember the square mostly for the images of the 1989 student
demonstrations in this concrete mass which were relayed throughout the world.
The incredible size of the
square, the gray colour of the surrounding buildings, the historical memories and the
various monuments dotted about, leave some Western visitors unmoved by Tian'anmen. But the
sheer wealth of historical sites and the political importance of the area make it a
must-see for travelers to Beijing. This is not only the physical centre of China, but also
the centre of power and politics. For Chinese visitors, the site is of utmost importance.
Today, it's filled with tourists visiting Chairman Mao's Mausoleum, or paying their
respects at the monument to the heroes of the Revolution.
evenings, after the ceremonial lowering of the flag, courting couples and families parade
the heart of the city. The easiest approach to the square is from the south, where there's
a bus terminus and a subway stop. The Chinese flag is raised at
sunrise and lowered at sunset when PLA soldiers march up and down, drilled to perform at 108 paces per minute!