As one of the largest city squares in the world, Tian An Men Square occupies an area of 440, 000 square meters--spacious enough to accommodate half a million people. Many annual and special celebrations and assemblies are held here.
Tian An Men (Gate of Heavenly Peace) was the main entrance to the Forbidden City during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Built in 1417, it was first named the Cheng Tian Men, meaning that emperors obeyed the order of Heaven in ruling the country. Destroyed by fire twice, it was rebuilt in 1651 during the Qing Dynasty and renamed Tian An Men. It is also honored as the "Gate of the Nation."
During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, grand ceremonies were held at Tian An Men. Composed of the rostrum and gate tower, the building is 34.7 meters high and has five watchtowers. Supported by nine huge columns, the building has a splendid colorful roof of glazed tiles. With painted pillars and carved beams, the hall of Tian An Men Rostrum looks majestic. Sixty huge columns, representing the Earthly Branches designate years, months, days and hours and the Heavenly stems to designate marks of order, stand in perfect harmony to demonstrate the permanent stability of the nation. Tian An Men, a masterpiece of China's ancient architectural art, represents the superb skill and artistic talent of the Chinese people.
Right beside a pair of marble lions in front of the Tian'anmen Gate stand obelisk of marble engraved with entwisting dragons and clouds - an ornamental architecture called Huabiao. Its history can be traced back to the Yao and Shun, legendary kings in remote antiquity. To solicit public criticism, it is said that wooden crosses were erected at marketplaces for people to write down complaints. Later during the Han (206 B.C- 220 A.D.) wooden posts were replaced by stone pillars, which gradually became the sumptuous columns to palace gates. Huabiao can be usually found in imperial gardens and mausoleums.
West of the Square is the Great Hall of the People. This building, erected in 1959, is the site of the China National People's Congress meetings and provides an impressive site for other political and diplomatic activities. Twelve marble posts are in front of the Hall which has three parts--the Central Hall, the Great Auditorium and a Banqueting Hall. The floor of the Central Hall is paved with marble and crystal lamps hang from the ceiling. The Great Auditorium behind the Central Hall seats 10,000. The Banqueting Hall is a huge hall with 5,000 seats.
Mao Zedong Memorial Hall is at the south side of the Square. This Hall is divided into three halls and Chairman Mao's body lies in a crystal coffin in one of the halls surrounded by fresh bouquets of various famous flowers and grasses.
Another important place for the tourist to visit is the China National Museum at the east side of the Square. It just came into existence in 2003 and is a combination of Chinese History Museum and Chinese Revolutionary Museum. This National Museum faces the Great Hall of the People. Inside the Chinese Revolutionary Museum are a lot of material objects, pictures, books and models to present the development of modern China. The Chinese History Museum shows a large number of cultural relics illustrating the long history and glorious culture of China from 1,700,000 years ago to 1921 when the last emperor left the throne.
Five Star Red Flag-the Chinese national flag, flies high in the sky above the Square. To see the guard of honor raise the Flag is a must for the tourist visiting Beijing City. You have to get up very early and arrive at the Square before sunrise. Only by doing so can you see the ceremony clearly as there are crowds of people attending the ceremony every day.
The Monument to the People's Heroes was built in memory of thousands of martyrs who died for the revolutionary cause of the Chinese people. Its construction began on August 1, 1952 and was not completed until 1958. In the form of an obelisk, the Monument as made of more than 17, 000 pieces of marble. The purple piece inlaid in the front of the Monument was brought from Qingdao, Shandong Province. It is 38 meters (124ft 8 in) high, the loftiest of its kind ever seen in the country. Not only is it an historic memorial for immortal heroes, but also it is an artistic work of excellent architectural value. On the front side of the Monument is an engraved inscription in Chinese characters written by Chairman Mao Zedong, which reads" Eternal Glory to the People's Heroes!" On the back of the Monument is an article written by Chairman Mao, but in Chinese calligraphy by the late Premier Zhou Enlai. At the top of the Monument are eight gigantic carved wreathes of such flowers as peony, lotus and chrysanthemum, symbolizing nobility, purity, and fortitude.