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Tian'anmen Square

Early in the morning, the south side of Mao Zedong's tomb looks peaceful as people settle down to wait for things to open. However, Tian'anmen was not always peaceful.

During the Ming and Qing Dynasty it was tradition to bring memorials to Tian'anmen to request that some matter be settled by the emperor. It was the complaints department. In the twentieth century, under the Republic of China, the area around Tian'anmen was filled with government offices and the parliament. The Department of Justice was also there. It was the natural and traditional place to bring protest. On May 4th, 1919, students from Beijing University and other universities in the vicinity gathered to protest the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. They criticized the government for being too weak and not being able to rid China of foreign interests, particularly those of Japan. The Treaty of Versailles left the Shandong peninsula under Japanese control. The Chinese had fought on the side of the Allies during the war and the students felt betrayed. The Chinese had been promised control of Shandong which had been a German area of influence. The Treaty of Versailles created conditions that led to World War II and it also created conditions that led to the invasion of China by Japan. Three thousand people gathered in the Square to protest. The government quickly put down the protests, but the traditional symbol of Tian'anmen as the site of protest was strengthened.

China Index >> History of Beijing in Pictures >> Tian'anmen

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Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009