While famous for its history, or maybe infamous is a better word, Tiananmen square, translated to the Gate of Heavenly Peace, doesn’t have much else going for it as a tourist attraction. It’s an incredibly large, parade ground style area located directly between the Forbidden City, the PRC Military Headquarters, a refurbished arrow tower from the Great Wall, and the National Museum of Chinese History; all of which are worth visiting.
Photographers, food vendors, and people selling tourist souvenirs roam the square hocking their goods, as police patrol throughout the crowds riding on segways.
For somebody who had just barely been born when the events that made Tiananmen square famous transpired, it didn’t hold much meaning for me other than being on the way to these other tourist attractions. And though I usually include some history in my blog posts, just like the real Tiananmen square, I will be disappointing my audience this time. With the goal of keeping my website off the Great Firewall’s censorship list, I’m going to ask you all to do your own research on Tiananmen’s history.
While Tiananmen square wasn’t a big deal for me, my parents who’d joined me on this trip were speechless. Having been about 30 when things went down here, they had followed the events plastered all over the US’s national news closely, and being able to stand where everything happened was a much more powerful experience for them. For the generation before me, Tiananmen may not just be an item to check off of your tourist list, but instead quite a humbling experience.
Even if you are my age, I still suggest walking through it on your way to other things. There are many great views, and some awesome statues sculpted to represent the need for both soldiers and workers in China. The arrow tower is also located within the square, and it’s recently been converted to a museum to educate people about Beijing’s medieval city defenses. The arrow tower was once a guard outpost and also half of an ancient entrance to Beijing. Anybody who wanted to enter Beijing had to walk between the two towers through a passway where they’d be incredibly vulnerable, archers positioned in both towers ready to defend the city.
Though photography wasn’t allowed inside the arrow tower, it had some really interesting paintings and engineer-style drawings of strategies and defensive layouts. You can also pay to pick a tablet that’ll be hung within the museum, and depending on your choice the tablet can bring you or loved ones increased health, luck or prosperity. And if that 30 year old daughter of yours still hasn’t married and won’t stop shaming your family, then you can even pay to hang a tablet to help with that as well. From the ramparts of the arrow tower there were some amazing views of the nearby buildings, and for just 20RMB it’s definitely worth it to stop by. Or rest and place games like a medieval soldier.