Tienanmen Square (named after the Tienanmen Gate - the Gate of Heavenly Peace) is the third largest public square in the world. It is almost 109 acres large and borders the southern edge of the Forbidden City. The Square has great cultural significance to the Chinese. In addition to being the site of several important events in Chinese history, it also contains the Monument of the Heroes of the Revolution, the Great Hall of the People, the Chinese History Museum, and the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. Mao Zedong announced the formation of the People's Republic in the Square on October 1, 1949, and its anniversary is still observed there.
Outside of China, Tienanmen Square is best known as the site of the pro-democracy protests in the Spring of 1989. In April of that year, Chinese students began a massive demonstration for democratic reform in the Square. The students were later joined by workers, intellectuals and civil servants until over 1 Million people were assembled in the Square. Although the Chinese Government declared martial law near the end of May, the protesters continued to demand that the leadership resign. On the nights of June 3rd and 4th, the government moved tanks and troops into the Square and violently repressed the protests with the massacre of several hundreds (or possibly thousands) of students and civilians in the Square. Before we arrived at the Square, Lisa told us that any and all of her information about the repression of the protests comes from foreigners. Understandably, the event (or at least the truth about it) is not acknowledged or documented anywhere in Chinese history. In fact, Lisa said there are plainclothes policeman all over the Square who walk among the visitors and listen for any conversation about the repression. I think that was a subtle hint for us not to say anything or ask questions about the incident.
The photo below is of the granite Monument to the People's Heroes which is at the center of the Square. The monument was built in 1952 and it is the largest monument in China. Chairman Mao's statement "The People's Heroes are Immortal' is engraved on the monument. Eight relief panels (two on each side of the bottom of the monument) show the development of Chinese modern history (according to them).
I am not sure what the building in the photo below is. The Square was surrounded by many government buildings and museums.
After we reached the northern edge of the square, Lisa took us through an underground tunnel that ran beneath a very busy street and we came up in front of Tienanmen Tower and on the southernmost part of the Forbidden City. On the map below, you can see the layout of this area. Tienanmen Square is south of the Forbidden City and Jingshen Park is located to the very north. Our hotel was to the right of the Forbidden City (on the street that is marked in yellow - Wangfujing Drive).
The Forbidden City was built over 14 years during the reign of Emperor Chengzu in the Ming Dynasty. It was the imperial palace for twenty-four emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties and fourteen emperors of the Ming dynasty and ten emperors of the Qing dynasty reigned there. It was forbidden to enter the palace without special permission of the emperor, hence its name "'The Forbidden City'.
The Forbidden City is the world's largest palace complex. It covers 74 hectares and is surrounded by a 52-meter-wide moat and a 10-meter-high wall. I found this photo (courtesy of minicus) to give you an idea as to exactly how huge this complex is.
View of pagoda-style rooftops.
Guardian lions were placed in many areas around the complex.
One of several thrones that we saw.
Detail on the metalwork on the window frame.
This inscription was on a piece of furniture in a room where one of the royal couples spent their wedding night together. It says something about wishes for a long and happy life together.
Lisa giving some history of the City to Shiv.
In the courtyard prior to the exit.
The exit of the Forbidden City.
We still had about an hour before dinner so, after we left the Forbidden City, we asked Lisa to take us to do a little souvenir shopping. We went to what she called a "department store" but I would characterize it more like a market with a lot of stalls & vendors selling anything and everything that you could ever want or imagine. It was crowded and chaotic - very similar to the markets here in Bangkok - and I felt right at home. Lisa gave us some hints about bargaining and let us loose among the stalls. I was looking for two of the Chinese lanterns for Christopher's room back in Virginia and was successful.
Turns out these are a dime a dozen in Beijing so I was able to buy a couple for a great price.
Our plan for dinner that night was for us to go to a well-known "hot pot" restaurant that was very close to our hotel. Kevin and I were still full from lunch and decided to stay and have a drink in the hotel bar while everyone else went hot potting. They had a great time - I think the photos from that dinner are on Shiv's phone so I will need to see if I can track them down to post.
Next Up - Xi'An and the Terracotta Warriors.
Have a great Saturday.