Tian’an Men Guangchang (Square of the Gate of Heavenly Peace) is not the world’s most attractive public plaza. It also has unfortunate associations with death, in the shape of Mao’s Mausoleum and in the memories of the bloody climax of 1989’s pro-democracy rallies. However, it is central to modern life in Beijing, surrounded by major national institutions, and filled daily with visitors and kite flyers.


Tian’an Men Square


prac_info Subway: Tian’an Men West, Tian’an Men East, or Qian Men

prac_info National Museum of China: 6511 6400; open 9am–5pm Tue–Sun (Jul & Aug: 7–11am Tue–Sun); free with valid ID;

prac_info Mao’s Mausoleum: 6513 2277; open 8am–noon Tue–Sun; free with valid ID; carrying handbags, backpacks, cameras, food and drinks inside, and wearing vests or sandals is prohibited

prac_info Qian Men: 6522 9384; open 9am–4.30pm Tue–Sun; adm ¥20

prac_info Railway Museum: 6705 1638; open 9am–5pm Tue–Sun; adm ¥20

prac_info Tian’an Men: 6524 3322; open 8:30am–4:30pm daily; adm ¥15

Google Map

  • Entry involves security checks, so schedule plenty of time for lines.

1. National Museum of China

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The largest museum in China houses several exhibitions which showcase the history, art and archaeological artifacts of the Chinese civilization. It is also the second most-visited museum in the world.


Artworks at National Museum of China

2. Great Hall of the People

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A monolithic structure dominating the western side of the square, the Great Hall is the seat of the Chinese legislature. The vast auditorium and banqueting halls are open for part of every day except when the People’s Congress is in session.

3. Qian Men

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Also known as Zhengyang Men (“Sun-facing Gate”), the “Front Gate” was built during the Ming dynasty. It was the largest of the nine gates of the inner city wall. It now houses a city history museum.


The colourful Qian Men

4. Tian’an Men

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On October 1, 1949, Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China from this massive Ming-dynasty gate, where his huge portrait is still prominently displayed. The way to the Forbidden City is through here.


The entrance to Forbidden City through Tian’an Men

5. Arrow Tower

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Along with the Qian Men, the Arrow Gate formed part of a great double gate. The walls that once flanked the gate were eventually demolished in the 20th century.

6. Railway Museum

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Built by the British in 1906, China's first ever passenger train station now houses a Railway Museum. Perfect for train enthusiasts, old photos, model trains, and a full-sized replica of a modern high-speed train driver's cabin are on display.

7. National Flag

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The Chinese flag flies at the northern end of Tian’an Men Square. People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers raise the flag each day at dawn and lower it back down again as the sun begins to set over the city.

8. Mao’s Mausoleum

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In an imposing hall at the center of Tian’an Men Square lies the embalmed body of Mao Zedong, who died in 1976. Encased in a crystal casket and draped in a red flag, the founding father of Communist China is raised from his refrigerated chamber for daily public viewings.

9. Bicycles

While there are allegedly 10 million bikes registered in Beijing, every day as many as 1,300 new cars are added to the city’s congested roads. Smog levels in the city are a serious problem.

10. Monument to the Heroes

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Erected in 1958, the granite monument is decorated with bas-reliefs of episodes from the nation’s revolutionary history and calligraphy from Communist veterans Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.


The historic monument to the Heroes


It was during the Ming era (1368–1644) that the walls took on their recognizable shape of an outer wall with seven gates, and an inner wall with nine gates. Rather tragically, almost all was demolished in the 1950s and 1960s, although a small portion still stands south of Beijing Station. Today the gates are remembered in the names of the subway stations situated on the Second Ring Road.

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