Beijing Travel Guide

Tian'anmen Square

Chairman Mao
Chairman Mao

Tian'an Men Guangchang - the Square of the Gate of Heavenly Peace – is a vast open concrete expanse at the heart of modern Beijing. With Mao's Mausoleum at its focal point, and bordered by 1950s Communist-style buildings and ancient gates from Beijing's now leveled city walls, the square is usually filled with visitors strolling about as kites flit overhead. The square has also traditionally served as a stage for popular demonstrations and is most indelibly associated with the student protests of 1989 and their gory climax.

Tian'anmen square
Tian'anmen China National Museum Greta Hall of the People
Mao proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949 from this Ming dynasty gate, where his huge portrait still remains. Built in 1959, this building was originally home to the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Revolution, now merged. The same exhibits are on display (and the same propagandist lens). The halls also host exhibitions from other world class museums. Seat of the Chinese legislature, the vast auditorium and banqueting halls are open for part of the day except when the National People's Congress is in session.

Mao's Mausoleum Monument to the people's heroes Qian Men
Flanked by revolutionary statues, the building contains the embalmed body of Chairman Mao. His casket, raised from its refrigerated chamber, is on view mornings and afternoons. Erected in 1958, the granite monument is decorated with bas-reliefs of episodes from China's revolutionary history and calligraphy from Communist veterans Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Along with the Arrow Tower this tower formed a double gate known as the Qian Men. It now houses a museum on the history of Beijing.

Qian Men
Qian Men or the Front Gate consists of two towers, the Zhengyang Men, on the southern edge of Tian'an Men Square, and the Jian Lou (Arrow Tower) just to the south. Zhengyang Men (Facing the Sun Gate) was the most imposing of the nine gates of the inner city wall that divided Beijing's imperial quarters in the Forbidden City from the "Chinese City," where, during the Manchu Qing dynasty, the Chinese inhabitants lived.

Rising 131 ft (40 m), the gate stands on the north-south axis that runs through the Tian'an Men and the Forbidden City. Its museum has dioramas of the old city walls, and photographs of Beijing's old streets.

The 125-ft (38-m) high Jian Lou (Arrow Tower), originally built in 1439, has 94 windows that were used for shooting arrows. Both towers were badly dam-aged by fire during the Boxer Rebellion. In 1916, the enceinte, a semi-circular wall that connected the two towers, was demolished. Jian Lou is now closed to the public. Across the road to the east, the Old Railway Station was built by the British and has been turned into the Beijing Railway Museum. The surrounding area comprises the city's old shopping district, which was renovated after the Olympics. Numerous silk and cloth shops, food stalls, cinemas, Hutong houses, and upmarket developments make it a lively area worth exploring.

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