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Tian An Men Square
This vast square occupies an area of almost 100 acres. The name comes from the imposing gate and tower on the north side, which gave entry to the Old Forbidden City. Tian An Men Gate or "Gate of Heavenly Peace" bounds the square on the north. It has five passages leading through it and is topped by a wooden tower. Formerly these passages were closed and used only on ceremonial occasions.

The tall granite obelisk which stands on a two-tiered marble terrace is called Monument to the People's Heroes. The gilded inscription on the face reads: "The people's Heroes are Immortal." The base of the obelisk is decorated with bas-relief carvings, which depict major events of the revolution.

On the western side of the square is the Great Hall of the People. The National People's Congress (Parliament) sits here when it's in session. It's an immense building... 561,800 square feet, with conference rooms which can accommodate 10,000 people and a banqueting hall which can seat 5,000. The buildings to the east are the Museum of the Chinese Revolution and the Museum of Chinese History.

Directly behind the central obelisk is the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. Its' twin roof is supported by 44 granite pillars, and outside on either side are sculptures of the People's Heroes. If you are permitted to enter, you will be amazed at how organized it is. Groups form in lines four across and as they enter the first auditorium, they divide, with two people going on each side. In this auditorium there is an enormous statue of Mao. It's very dramatically lighted and rests in front of a huge landscape-mural. Your lines then pass into the next auditorium where the body of Chairman Mao, draped with the Communist Flag is "preserved" in a crystal coffin. Decide for yourself if the body is the real thing. But it's very dramatic.

As you exit the Memorial Hall, you'll face on the south, the Qian Men Gate to the Imperial City. It was constructed by the Ming in 1403-1425.

Generally, tour groups are given very little time in this vast square. If that is the case when you're there, find out how much time you have... and take off by yourself without the group. You'll see much more and it does take time to see it all. Also, try to come back some evening if you can find time. Would you believe that the world's largest Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant is on this square?
About the Author
Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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