All About Beijing
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Popular Attraction: Tiananmen Square
Tiananmen Square may well be Beijing's most popular tourist destination. A large open space surrounded by official buildings, the square is often used for celebrations and for official government speeches, as well as for kite flying. Much of the world knows it as the site of a deadly confrontation between protestors and government officials in 1989.
The flag to the front of the square is raised or lowered by a squad of army personnel at sunrise and sunset. Crowds generally gather to watch this, so plan to arrive an hour or so before, to get a good view. During the day you can buy a ticket to go up to the balcony from which the leaders address the people. The square remains open until 10:30 p.m., and is beautifully lit after dark.
Along the northern edge of Tiananmen Square you'll find the Gate of Heavenly Peace. A Chinese national symbol, the gate was originally built in 1420, during the Ming Dynasty, and was restored in the 17th century. It was from this gate that Mao proclaimed the People's Republic on October 1, 1949. Today Chinese officials watch mass troop parades from here.