The Forbidden City and Tianamen Square

All images copyright © 2006 by Wm. Robert Johnston.

This is a view from Tianamen Square (Tianamen Guangchang), looking north towards the Forbidden City. Tianamen Square has a long heritage for Chinese revolutionaries, from May Fourth protestors in 1919, to Mao Zedong's proclaimation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, to Red Guard gatherings in the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s.

In contrast to the extensive heritage of Tianamen in Chinese history, Westerns know the Square most particularly as the site of the suppression of protestors calling for democratic reforms in 1989. Following the death of former Party general secretary Hu Yaobang, tens of thousands of students gathered in Tianamen Square on 4 May 1989. Over 100,000 protestors continued demonstrations for weeks. On the night of 3-4 June, troops were brought in to clear the protestors, resulting in the deaths of thousands of demonstrators and the beginning of suppression of the pro-democracy movement in China.

The Great Hall of the People (Renmindahuitang) is on the west side of Tianamen Square. Built in the 1950s, it is the meeting place for the mainland Chinese parliament, the National People's Assembly.
The Mao Mausoleum (Mao Zhuxi Jiniantang), situated to the south of Tianamen Square. Built two years after Mao Zedong's death in 1976, it symbolizes the personality cult surrounding Mao. Despite the diminishing of this personality cult in recent years, there are still long lines of visitors waiting to see Mao's embalmed body.
The Monument to the People's Heroes (Renmin Yinxiong Jinianbei), in Tianamen Square just north of the Mao Mausoleum. Standing 37 meters tall, it was dedicated in 1958 to Chinese revolutionary heroes--not just the war in which the Chinese Communist Party took control of the mainland, but also earlier revolutions such as resistance to European forces in the Opium Wars and revolutionary protestors of 1919.
The Tianamen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) is north of Tianamen Square, south of the Forbidden City. The first gate here was built in 1417, but the Tianamen Gate was built in 1651 following destruction of two earlier gates. Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China here on 1 October 1949, and a 6-meter-tall portrait of Mao is constantly maintained on the south face of the gate.
Refurbishing of the structures in the Forbidden City is currently in progress, looking forward to the arrival of foreign tourists in 2008 for the Olympics. The Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian) is enclosed for repainting--but restorers kindly painted the Hall on the exterior of the enclosure, for those of us here in 2006. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Hall of Supreme Harmony was the tallest building in Beijing at 35 meters.

At the bottom of the picture is a large brass basin; such basins were situated throughout the Forbidden City to provide water for extinguishing any fires threatening the City's wooden structures.

An elevated walkway near the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian) in the center of the Forbidden City.
This structure is near (or might be, depending on my confusion) the Archery Pavillion in the Forbidden City.
An example of the artwork on the roof and eaves of structures in the Forbidden City.
A carved marble ramp along a stairway near the Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian).
A view in the Imperial Flower Garden (Yuhuayuan), dating from the Ming dynasty, at the north end of the Forbidden City. Besides flowers, the garden's landscaping includes rocks and trees. One hill of rocks was the only place within the Forbidden City permitting a view beyond its walls of the rest of Beijing.

Copyright © 2006 by Wm. Robert Johnston. All rights reserved.
Last modified 7 August 2006.
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