The heart of Beijing and therefore China, Tiananmen Square is hugely important to the city. It is simply enormous and has been a meeting point since it’s creation in 1641 and is considered the centre of china. Chairman Mao is preserved here and the national monument and national flag are both situated in the square.
It is probably best known to the world as the site of the 1989 protests when thousands of protesters were shot. The events leading up to the events of 4th JUne 1989 are long and complicated but it started as a peacful demonstration by students and intellectuals to to encourage continued economic reform and liberalization and through a series of events, including the hardline decision by the Premier to declare martial law, ended with the military opening fire on the protesters. This is the Wikipedia entry.
Shockingly people in China are almost totally ignorant of these events, such is the control the government has over the media. This was made apparent when we attended a conversation evening with in Xi’An with local English students from the University. When we asked the student we were talking to – an eloquent, well read, intelligent man – about the “Incident” as it is known in China, he said the students must have done something wrong. He had no idea about what really happened. When we expanded the conversation to the apparently unthinkable topic of change he was shocked that we even consider such a thing.
Getting into the square is a 10 minute affair with various baggage security checks. And once though the Square is not much to look at but it is a hugely important symbol for so many reasons.