Tiananmen means "the gate of heavenly peace" (characters: heaven - peace - gate). It's been a center for revolution, protest, and political upheaval for nearly as long as it has existed. It was the physical center of the May Fourth Movement. On October 1, 1949, it was the site of Mao's official declaration of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Later, it hosted the rallies that started off the Cultural Revolution. So it was naturally the logical choice for the Hu Yaobang/democracy demonstrations of 1989. The Square also holds Mao's mausoleum.

In 1999, the square was unusually closed for months surrounding the ten-year anniversary of June 4, 1989. Supposedly, this was to prepare for the massive celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the PRC.

It is the world's largest public square.

Every morning at dawn there is a big parade at the square when the Chinese flag is raised. The soldiers are all trained to walk with the same pace and with the same distance between their steps. There are usually lots of people from other parts of China there to watch the parade so you can't really see anything.

Tiananmen Square is so big that it creates a kind of optical illusion. Most buildings around it are extremely large and when you first stand on it, it appears much smaller than it actually is. You start somewhere, like the Quianmen Metro station and walk past the Mao Zedong mausoleum. To the left you see the main entrance of the Great Hall of the People. You keep on walking towards Tianamen. After walking a considerable time, you take another look left, expecting the entrance to be exactly left of you. But - it is still way ahead. Then you realize that you are not used to a square that is over 500 meters wide and more than 800 meters long. With 440000 square meters, it is as big as Vatican City.

Tiananmen is translated into English as "The Gate of Heavenly Peace". It is pronounced "tyEnn-unn-menn", not "tee-AN-a-men".
The Chinese characters (hànzĭ) are:

tiān, meaning heaven, (amongst other things; "sky", "God" etc.);

ān, meaning peace; and

门 (門)

mén, meaning gate

The characters for "square" are:

广 (廣)

guăng, meaning wide; and

场 (場)

chăng, meaning open space.

Here is the whole word:

天安门广场 (天安門廣場)

The characters in parentheses ( ) indicate the traditional characters, as used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, etc. Mainland China uses primarily the simplified characters. Read about the differences at Simplified Chinese vs. Complicated Chinese

Microsoft Chinese Language Support is required to view the above characters. You may also download a Unicode font such as Arial MS Unicode or MS Song.

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