Tian’an Men Guangchang (the Square of the Gate of Heavenly Peace) is not one of the world’s most attractive public plazas. It also has unfortunate associations with death, in the physical form of Mao’s Mausoleum and in the memories of the bloody climax of 1989’s pro-democracy demonstrations. But it has witnessed triumphant events too, including the founding of the People’s Republic of China, and it remains central to modern life in Beijing, surrounded by important national institutions and filled daily with visitors and kite flyers.

Tian’an Men Square

  • Subway: Tian’an Men West, Tian’an Men East, or Qian Men

China National Museum

  • 6512 8901

  • Closed for renovation. Due to reopen in 2010

Mao’s Mausoleum

  • .

  • 6513 2277

  • Open 8am–noon Tue–Sun.

  • Free with valid ID

  • Handbags, backpacks, cameras, food, and drinks are strictly prohibited

Qian Men

  • 6522 9384

  • Open 8:30am–4pm daily.

  • Admission: ¥20

Tian’an Men (Gate of Heavenly Peace):

  • 6524 3322

  • Open 8:30am–4:30pm daily.

  • Admission: ¥15

City Walls

There were earlier defenses but it was during the Ming era (1368–1644) that the walls took on their recognizable shape of an outer wall with seven gates, and an inner wall with nine gates. Tragically, almost all was demolished in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for roads. The gates are remembered only in the names of the subway stations on the Second Ring Road.

Cafés and restaurants ring the square, but there are better places a short walk south of Qian Men.

Tian’an Men Square is a heavily symbolic place, so your bags may be inspected.

Come to Tian’an Men Square at sunrise or sunset to watch the flag-raising ceremony

Top 10 Features
  1. Tian’an Men

    Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 from this massive Ming-dynasty gate, where his huge portrait still hangs. The way to the Forbidden City is through here.

    Mao’s portrait still hangs from Tian’an Men

  2. China National Museum

    This brutal 1959 building on the eastern side of the square combines the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Revolution. The China National Museum is currently closed for renovation and expansion; it is due to reopen in 2010.

  3. Mao’s Mausoleum

    In an imposing hall at the center of the square lies the embalmed body of Mao, who died in 1976. Encased in a crystal casket and draped in a red flag, he is raised from his refrigerated chamber for daily public viewings.

  4. Great Hall of the People

    A monolithic structure dominating the western side of the square, the Great Hall is the seat of the Chinese legislature. The vast auditorium and banqueting halls are open for part of every day except when the People’s Congress is in session.

  5. Monument to the Heroes

    Erected in 1958, the granite monument is decorated with bas-reliefs of episodes from the nation’s revolutionary history and calligraphy from Communist veterans Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.

  6. Qian Men

    The “Front Gate”, also known as Zhengyang Men (“Sun-facing Gate”), was constructed during the Ming dynasty and was the largest of the nine gates of the inner city wall. It now houses a city history museum.

  7. Arrow Tower

    With the Qian Men, the Arrow Gate formed part of a great double gate. The walls that once flanked the gate were demolished in the 20th century.

  8. National Flag

    At the northern end of the square is a towering pole, from which flies the Chinese flag; a troop of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers raises the flag each day at dawn and lowers it again at sunset.

  9. Qian Men Old Railway Station

    The stripy building on the square’s southeast corner is a British-built railway station. It now houses shops, an internet café, a branch of McDonald’s, and a theater where performances of Beijing Opera take place.

  10. Bicycles

    The bicycle remains the quintessentially Chinese way of getting around. While 10 million bikes are registered in Beijing, every day as many as 1,300 new cars are added to the city’s congested roads. Smog is a serious problem.

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