Deciphering city codes: the Central Axis of Beijing

Tian’anmen Square: From imperial square to people’s square

Updated: Jun 7, 2022 Print
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Festive decorations on Tian’anmen Square [Photo/VCG]

In the Ming and Qing dynasties, there was a closed imperial square in front of the Tian’an Men gate. Inaccessible to ordinary people, it was an important place where significant ceremonies were held and decrees were issued to the whole country during the two dynasties, representing the stateliness of the imperial power.

Major government departments were installed on both sides of the square.

In May of 1914, the Beiyang government initiated the transformation of Tian’anmen Square. The original enclosed imperial square became an open space where people could freely pass and stay. The imperialism was eliminated. Tian’anmen Square was thus formed in a modern sense.

Evening scene of Tian’anmen Square [Photo/VCG]

On October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was established and the founding ceremony was held at Tian’anmen Square.

In 1958, the Monument to the People’s Heroes was built at the center of the square. Located on the central axis, the monument was built to commemorate revolutionary martyrs in China’s modern history.

In 1959, the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of Chinese Revolution (later amalgamated into the National Museum of China) and the Great Hall of the People were completed successively. Their locations abide by the traditional principle of the layout pattern for state architecture.

On September 9, 1977, Chairman Mao’s Memorial Hall was built to the south of the Monument to the People’s Heroes and opened to the public. Located at the site of the Zhonghua Gate on the central axis, it was built as a memorial hall for the entire generation of proletarian revolutionary leaders captained by Mao.

Tian’an Men Square is 880 meters long from north to south and 500 meters wide from east to west, and covers an area of 440,000 square meters. It can hold grand gatherings of one million people.

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