Tiananmen square is a large city square and the geographical centre of Beijing, China. It is named after the Tiananmen Gate (literally, Gate of Heaven’s Pacification) 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 Tiananmen square was designed and built in 1651, and has since enlarged four times its original size in the 1950s. In November 1958 a major expansion of Tiananmen Square started, which was completed after only 10 months, in August 1959. This followed the vision of Mao Zedong to make the square the largest and most spectacular in the world, and intended to hold over 500,000 people. In that process, a large number of residential buildings and other structures have been demolished.
The year after Mao’s death in 1976, a Mausoleum was built near the site of the former Gate of China, on the main north-south axis of the square. In connection with this project, the square was further increased in size to become fully rectangular and being able to accommodate 600,000 persons. The urban context of the square was altered in the 1990s with the construction of National Grand Theatre in its vicinity and the expansion of the National Museum.
Tiananmen Square has been the site of a number of political events and student protests. These include the famous Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. These 1989 protests resulted in the massacre of Chinese protesters in the streets to the west of the square and adjacent areas. There are reports where soldiers opened fire on protesters, killing 400–800, and perhaps many more. Eyewitness accounts of the events on the night of June 3 and the early morning of June 4, 1989 continue to emerge from former student leaders and intellectuals, broadening the scope of the original reporting of the massacre by Western media outlets. This was the scene for the iconic image of Tank Man, where a column of PLA tanks was stopped in its tracks by a protester. No one knows if the man in the image is still alive. Some Western reporters who were on the square during the unfolding events reported that they saw no one actually die on the square itself, though they did see bloodied people but could not confirm whether they were dead or injured.