With a total area of 440,000 square meters, Tiananmen Square (Gate of Heavenly Peace) can hold one million people, making it the largest city center square in the world and the spiritual heart of China, where the national flag is raised exactly at sunrise and lowered at sunset every day by the PLA soldiers. To see the flag-raising ceremony, 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.
Tiananmen Square is a must-visit place in your Beijing tours because of the wealth of surrounding historical sites and the political importance of the area. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Tiananmen was the place where state ceremonies took place. The most important one was the issuing of imperial edicts. The present Tiananmen Square has become a relaxing place for the common people to fly kites and walk. On holidays, the square is always beautifully decorated with flowers, plants, trees, and fountains.
Standing at the Tiananmen Gate, you will get a nice view of the splendid and magnificent square. Tiananmen Gate hangs a portrait of Chairman Mao and two placards. The left one reads Long Live the People's Republic of China, while the right placard reads Long Live the Great Unity of the World's Peoples. It was the main entrance to the Forbidden City during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
The Monument to the People's Heroes
The Monument to the People's Heroes, erected in the center of the square, is a ten-story obelisk. The Monument was built in memory of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the revolutionary struggle of the Chinese people during the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a national monument of the People's Republic of China. "The People's Heroes are Immortal" written by Chairman Mao is engraved on the monument. Eight unusually large relief sculptures show to the people the development of Chinese modern history. Two rows of white marble railings enclose the monument, simple and beautiful.
The Great Hall of the People
The Great Hall of the People, located on the east side of the Square, is the site of the China National Congress meetings and provides an impressive site for other political and diplomatic activities.
It can be divided into three main sections: a 10,000-seat auditorium in the middle, a banquet hall on the north side where 5,000 people can dine at one time (as was done on the occasion of Richard Nixon's visit to China in 1972), and the offices of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on the south side. The Great Hall of the People is now open to both domestic and foreign visitors.
Opening hours: The visiting hours greatly depend on the meetings scheduled in the hall. If some important national or international meetings are going on in the hall, visitors are usually asked to wait until the meeting ends.
Note: No bags are allowed inside the building, but a bag depository is located outside the East Gate of the Great Hall. The East Gate is the only place for visitors' entrance. Guides are available in the hall, but the tour is only in Chinese.
Chairman Mao Memorial Hall
Built and completed by May 1977 after Mao's death, the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall is situated at the south end of the square just behind the Monument to the People's Heroes. Since the hall opened to the public on Sept. 9, 1977, it has received 158 million visitors, who have come to pay respects to the late Chinese leader.
The Memorial Hall is divided into three parts. In the Northern, Hall is the white marble statue of Chairman Mao and an immense tapestry of China's landscape is behind the statue. In the Mourning Hall, the heart of the building lies Chairman Mao (1893-1976) in his usual gray suit, draped with the red flag of the Communist Party, in a crystal coffin. Chairmen Mao's poems in his own handwriting are preserved in the Southern Hall.
Opening hours: 8:30-11: 30 am from Tuesday to Sunday, 14:00-16:00 from Tuesday to Thursday. Note though, that it is only opened in the morning during July and August.
Note: You need to leave all bags at the checkroom before entering the hall. You'd better do this before joining the queue outside the Memorial Hall. It is necessary to keep solemn and quiet when paying your respects to the remains of Chairman Mao.
The National Museum of China
Built in 1959, the National Museum of China consists of the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of Chinese Revolution, which shares a single building complex on the eastern side of Tiananmen Square, facing the Great Hall of the People.
The Museum of Chinese History 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. The Museum of the Chinese Revolution contains a large collection of precious material objects, pictures, books, and models to present the development of modern China.