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Tian'anmen Square has hosted momentous events like the declaration of the People's Republic of China by Chairman Mao in 1949, and is surrounded by a host of world class sights, from the Forbidden City to China's National Museum.
Things to do: In the square tourists can climb Tian'anmen Rostrum, attend the national flag raising ceremony every morning at sunrise, visit the National Museum of China, and go to the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong, in which one will see the body of the great Chinese leader.
Attractions: Tian'anmen Square holds the Monument of the National Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong. To the north is the Forbidden City and to the south the Temple of Heaven.
Tian'anmen Square is the largest famous world square, eclipsing Delhi's India Gate Complex and Warsaw's Parade Square, on its expansion in 1959. It fulfilled Mao's vision of being the largest square in the world for 17 years, until 1976, the year Mao died. It has been the second largest in a capital city, after Jakarta's, since then.
It's now the sixth largest city square in the world (and the fourth largest in China [Dec. 2015]), at 440,000 square meters, and can hold about one million people for public celebrations or gatherings.
Tian'anmen Rostrum, standing to the north of the Tian'anmen Square, on the south–north central axis of Beijing, was the main gate of the royal palace of both the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
It was initially called Chengtianmen ('Carrying Heaven Gate'), which means to bear the edict and divine power of Heaven itself, as the Emperor, who used this gate, was believed to.
In the eighth year of emperor Shunzhi's administration (1652), the gate was refurbished and called Tian'anmen ('the Gate of Heavenly Peace'). From then on nearly all important imperial celebrations and events, such as: the enthronement of an emperor, imperial weddings, the rite of the emperor going to battle, the famous "Imperial Edict Issued by the Golden Phoenix", the worship of Heaven and Earth and the worship of the five grains, have involved passing through this gate.
The magnificent gate has five openings. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the passage in the middle leading to the Forbidden City was reserved for the emperor himself. The emperor went through the central passage on the way to the altars for rituals and other religious activities. High-ranking government officials and the empresses, concubines, princess and princesses could only enter the Forbidden City through the side passages, while ordinary subjects were absolutely forbidden to go inside the Forbidden City, hence its name.
The 34.7-meter-high Tian'anmen Rostrum seems even more magnificent in the sunshine, with glittering yellow glazed tiles on the roof and deep red walls and pillars.
Before Tian'anmen are the Golden Water Bridge and the white Huabiao, a pair of ornamental columns made of white marble sculptured with dragon designs. They are also called "slander pillars", as in ancient times they carried the ordinary people's slander and suggestions for the emperor. There is also a pair of big stone lions on Tian'anmen Square.
A ceremony for the raising and lowering of the Chinese national flag is held at sunrise and sunset everyday.
Every morning, exactly at sunrise, there is a flag raising ceremony conducted by uniformed troops. The entire ceremony lasts only 3 minutes. It takes about 2 minutes and 7 seconds for the entire sun to rise above the horizon, so the flag is raised very slowly in 2 minutes and 7 seconds as well. It is exactly timed to coincide with sunrise. So to watch it, you'll need to get there at least about 10 minutes before then.
The squad of troops emerge from Tian'anmen Tower a few minutes before sunrise, and they march to the flag pole in formation across a bridge in front of the tower. You can get along side the flag pole if you get there early enough. Sometimes crowds of thousands are there for important national holidays, and sometimes in bad weather, only a small crowd is there. So if you want to get close to see the troops, get there earlier. There is a national anthem played, and if you know the words, you can sing along.
To get into the plaza, you have to go through a security check. It is best not to try to bring in a lot of baggage, but if you have small handbag, that will be checked. There is a simple low fence to pass through. Visiting the square is free.
A short walk south-east of Tian'anmen Square is an elegant courtyard of two-story buildings housing the U.S. Embassy from 1903 to 1949. It has now been lovingly restored by a French New Yorker and celebrity chef, Daniel Boulud. World class dinning at China prices.
Enter the largest building Maison Boulud in the main building and your find a French New Yorker who not only can cook some of the best food but serves an amazing cocktails with an interesting Chinese twist.
Time magazine's travel article recommended the Lychee Martini as probably the best in the world.
If on a budget and wanting a deal, go at lunchtime and have his four-course brunch at under 300 RMB, that’s about $45.
Address: Maison Boulud, 23 Qianmen Dong Dajie 前门东大街23号
Tel: +86 6559 920
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