Tiananmen Square

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Tian'anmen Square (simplified Chinese: 天安门广场; traditional Chinese: 天安門廣場; pinyin: Tiān'ānmén Guǎngchǎng, Mandarin pronunciation: [tʰjɛ́n.ánmə̌n]) is a large city square in the centre of Beijing, China, named after the Tiananmen Gate (literally, Gate of Heavenly Peace) located to its north, separating it from the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the largest city square in the world (440,000 m² - 880m by 500m). It has great cultural significance as it was the site of several important events in Chinese history. The square was the center of the 4 June 1989 protests, where soldiers opened fire on protesters, killing 400–800, and perhaps many more.[1][2]

Contents

History

The Tiananmen Gate to the Forbidden City was built in 1415 during the Ming Dynasty. Towards the demise of the Ming Dynasty, heavy fighting between Li Zicheng and the early Qing emperors damaged (or perhaps destroyed) the gate. The Tian'anmen square was designed and built in 1651, and has since enlarged four times its original size in the 1950s.[3][4]

Near the centre of today's square, stood the "Great Ming Gate", the southern gate to the Imperial City, renamed "Great Qing Gate" during the Qing Dynasty, and "Gate of China" during the Republic of China era. Unlike the other gates in Beijing, such as the Tiananmen and the Qianmen, this was a purely ceremonial gateway, with three arches but no ramparts, similar in style to the ceremonial gateways found in the Ming Dynasty Tombs. This gate had a special status as the "Gate of the Nation", as can be seen from its successive names. It normally remained closed, except when the Emperor passed through. Commoner traffic was diverted to two side gates at the northern and eastern ends of today's square, respectively. Because of this diversion in traffic, a busy marketplace, called Chessgrid Streets developed in the big, fenced square to the south of this gate.

British and French troops who invaded Beijing in 1860 pitched camp near the gate and briefly considered burning down the gate and the entire Forbidden City. They decided ultimately to spare the palace and to burn instead the emperor's Old Summer Palace. The Qing emperor eventually agreed to let the foreign powers establish headquarters in the area. During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 the siege badly damaged the office complexes and several ministries were burnt down. In the conflict's denouement, the area became a space for foreign troops to assemble their armies and horses.

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