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.
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.
On October 1st, 1949, Chairman Mao Ze Dong declared the founding of the People's Republic of China on the Tian An Men Rostrum, thus opening a new chapter in the history of China. In the new period of reforms and opening, Tian An Men, with its long history and rich culture, attracts people from all over the world.
The tower at the top of the gate is nine-room wide and five –room deep. According to the Book of Changes, the two numbers nine and five, when combined, symbolize the supreme status of a sovereign. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Tian'anmen was the place where state ceremonies took place. The most important one of them was the issuing of imperial edicts, which followed these steps:
1) The Minister of Rites would receive the edict in Taihedian (Hall of Supreme Harmony), where the Emperor was holding his court. The minister would then carry the decree on a yunpan (tray of cloud), and withdraw from the hall via Taihemen (Gate of supreme Harmony)
2) The Minister would put the tray in a miniature longting (dragon pavilion). Beneath a yellow umbrella and carry it via Wumen (Meridian Gate), to Tian'anmen Gate tower. 3) A courtier would be invested to proclaim the edict. The civil and military officials lining both sides of the gateway beneath the tower would prostrate themselves in the direction of the emperor in waiting for the decree to the proclaimed.
4) The courtier would then put the edict in a phoenix-shaped wooden box and lower it from the tower by means of a silk cord. The document would finally be carried in a similar tray of cloud under a yellow umbrella to the Ministry of Rites.
5) The edict, copied on yellow paper, would be made known to the whole country. Such a process was historically recorded as " Imperial Edict Issued by Golden Phoenix". During the Ming and Qing dynasties Tian'anmen was the most important passage. It was this gate that the Emperor and his retinue would go through on their way to the altars for ritual and religious activities.
On the Westside of Tian'anmen stands ZhongshanPark (Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Park), and on the east side, the Working People's Cultural Palace. The Park was formerly called Shejitan (Altar of Land and Grain), built in 1420 for offering sacrificial items to the God of Land. It was opened to the public as a park in 1914 and its name was changed in 1928 to the present one in memory of the great pioneer of the Chinese Democratic Revolution. The Working People's Cultural Palace used to be Taimiao (the Supreme Ancestral Temple), where tablets of the deceased dynastic rulers were kept.
The stream in front of Tian'anmen is called Waijinshuihe (Outer Golden River), with seven marble bridges spanning over it . Of these seven bridges, historical records say the middle one was for the exclusive use of the emperor and was accordingly called Yuluqiao (Imperial Bridge). The bridges flanking it on either side were meant for the members of the royal family and were therefore called Wanggongqiao (Royal's Bridges). Farther away on each side of the two were bridges for officials ranking above the third order and were named Pinjiqiao (ministerial Bridges). The remaining two bridges were for the use by the retinue below the third order and were called Gongshengqiao (common Bridges). They are the one in front of the Supreme Ancestral Temple to the east and the one in front of the Altar of land and Grain to the west.
The two stone lions by the Gate of Tian'anmen, one on each side were meant as sentries. They gaze toward the middle axis, guarding the emperor's walkway. In front of the gate stands a pair of marble columns called Huabiao. They are elaborately cut in bas-relief following the pattern of a legendary dragon. Behind the gate stands another pair of similar columns. The story of Huabiao may be traced to a couple of sources. One of the versions accredits its invention to one of the Chinese sage kings named Yao, who was said to have set up a wooden pillar in order to allow the ordinary people to expose evil-doers, hence it was originally called a slander pillar. Later it was reduced to a signpost, and now it serves as an ornament.
The beast sitting on the top of the column is called "hou", a legendary animal, which is said to have been a watcher of an emperor's behaviour. He was doing such duties as warning the emperor against staying too long outside the palace or indulging in pleasure and urging him to go to the people for their complaints or return in due time. Therefore, the two pairs of beasts were given the names "Wangjunhui" (Expecting the emperor's coming back) and "wangjunchu" (Expecting the emperor's going out) respectively.
In the old days, Tian'anmen, as a part of the Imperial City, was meant for important occasions. The two rows of chaofang (antechamber), on the sides behind the main gate, were reserved for civil and military members of the government waiting for imperial audience and in front of the gate, were offices of imperial administration.
On October 1, 1949, chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed on Tian'anmen Rostrum the founding of the People's Republic of China. Since then Tian'anmen has been the symbol of New Chine\a. Chairman Mao's portrait is hung above the central entrance, flanked by two slogans:" Long Live the Great Unity of the Peoples of the World". Today, the splendour of Tian'anmen attracts million of visitors from all over the world. The Rostrum on its top was opened in 1988 to the public for the first time in its history. It offers a panoramic view of the Square and the city proper.
Situated due south of Tian'anmen, the Square has an area of 44 hectares (109 acres) that can accommodate as many as one million people for public gatherings. It has witnessed may historical events in China's modern history and is a place for celebrations on such festive days as international Labour Day on May 1st and national Day on October 1st.
Around the Square are several famous buildings:
1 The Great Hall of the People
This is one of the largest congressional buildings in the world. Built in 1959, the hall consists of three parts: a 10, 000-seat auditorium in the center, a banquet hall in the north wing facing Chang'an Street, with a seating capacity of 5, 000, and offices for the Standing Committee of the National Peoples' Congress of China in the south. In addition, thirty-four reception chambers are named after various provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government, plus Hong Kong and Macao. Each is different from the other in decoration and furnishings to stress their local features.
2 The Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution These two museums were also built in 1959. The museum of Chinese History houses a permanent exhibition in four parts, covering the entire process of Chinese history spanning from 1.7 million years ago to 1919:
1) The Primitive Society (1.7 million years ago to the 21st century BC);
2) The Slave Society (21st century BC to 476 BC.);
3) The Feudal Society (475 BC. To 1840 AD.);
4) The Semi-Colonial and Semi- feudal Society (1840 to 1919.)
The Museum of the Chinese Revolution covers the period from 1919 to 1949.
3 The Monument to the People's Heroes
the monument 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. At the base of the monument are eight marble reliefs depicting the Chinese historic events since 1840. They are:
1) The Burning of Opium in 1840:
2) The uprising of 1851 in Jintian, Guangxi;
3) The Revolution of 1911;
4) The May Fourth Movement of 1919;
5) The May 30th Movement of 1925;
6) The Uprising of 1927 in Nanchang, Jiangxi;
7) The War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression from 1937 to 1945;
8) The Victorious Crossing over the Yangtze River by the Peoples's Liberation Army in 1949. This relief is flanked by two smaller ones—"Supplying the Front" and "Greeting the P.L.A."
4 Chairman Mao's Mausoleum
Chairman Mao Zedong, the founder of the People's Republic of China, passed away on September 9, 1976. In commemoration of this great man, a mausoleum began to be constructed in November 1976, and was completes in August the following year. The Mausoleum was officially opened on September 9, 1977.
The mausoleum is surrounded by four groups of sculpture. East of the northern entrance is the sculpture depicting the period of the New Democratic Revolution (1919-1949), and west of it is the one signifying the great achievements of the Chinese people during the period of socialist revolution and construction since 1949. The sculptures in front of the southern gate are figures of workers, peasants soldiers, intellectuals, technicians and children.
Inside the Mausoleum are three main sections: A white marble statue of Chairman Mao is mounted on a platform in the front lobby. On the wall behind the statue is a 24-metre-long (79-foot-long) tapestry, a fine needlepoint work with beautiful landscapes of the country.
In the main hall there is a crystal coffin, in which Chairman Mao's body lies stately with the Communist Party's flag covering over him.
On the wall of the southern lobby, a poem by Chairman Mao and in his own calligraphy is inscribed in gold inlay. It expresses his full great expectations for the country.
Tian' anmen Square has now completed its renovation after eight months' hard work to welcome the 50th anniversary of the People's Republic in 1999.