Tian'anmen Square and its Surroundings introduction and travel guide China Discount Hotels Reservation Service

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Tian'anmen Square and its Surroundings

Kite in the Tian'anmen SquareAt 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.

Enlarged in 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.

Tian'anmen Square and its SurroundingsThe 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.

In the 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 sunset and lowered at sunrise when PLA soldiers march up and down, drilled to perform at 108 paces per minute!

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