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5, September 1993,395-X20

Tiananmen Square and the politics of place


~epu~~~t of Geograp~,

~n~z)~~~ of Toronto, 100 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario


ABSTRACT. Present-day Tiananmen Square (Beijing) is the product of two distinct but intertwined spatial traditions. The Square, its morphology and its monument historically have embodied the hegemonic political power of the Chinese state. Its symbolic geography also incorporates a tradition of dissent or rebellion through its association with popular movement which have appropriated this space, and the orthodox tradition it represents, as the geographical focus of

oppositional political practice. The power of oppositional movements rests on their ability to appropriate the space of the other and transform it in ways which detournment may be, it leaves its permanent
However temporary this process of mark on the geography of the place that is the physical object of struggle. Through this ongoing dialectic, space is continuously produced and transformed. The paper reviews the relevant geographical literature on space, place and politics, then sketches the morphological evolution of the Square and the muitiplicity of political meanings concretized in it. It examines the spatial practice of 20th century oppositional movements, focusing particularly on the struggle for Tiananmen Square in 1989, to demonstrate the extraordinary power of apparently placeless political movements over the production and definition of space. articulate their own political vision.

For several weeks in the spring of 1989, the attention of the world was ~lectro~icall~~ tuned in to a few square blocks at the centre of Beijing: Tiananmen Square. Television screens showed the massive space transformed into a city of plastic tents, with student protesters and hunger strikers clustered around the base of the monument to the Peoples Heroes at the centre of the Square. Mao Zedongs tomb stood behind them to the south, and in front, over Tiananmen itself-the Gate of Heavenly Peace, marking the entrance to the old imperial palace-hung a gigantic portrait of Mao. On the east and west flanks of the Square stood two more monuments: the Great Hall of the People and the Museum of Revolutionary History. Their entrances were heavily guarded by armed police, but protesters and onlookers lounged on the steps and lawns. The climactic event in the occupation of the Square was the erection of a statue called The Goddess of Democracy, her face turned provocatively toward Maos portrait over Tiananmen. This was a powerful political act, the imposition of a monument not only unauthorized by the state but representing a direct challenge to the states monopoly over the icono~raphy of the Square. But it was at the same time an act carried out within an established spatial tradition of protest and dissidence also embodied in the political geography of Tiananmen Square.
0962-6298/12/05 0395-26 0 1993 Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd


Tian4uzmen Square and the poliks


During those weeks of May and June, Tiananmen Square was much more than a backdrop to a political drama, a container of human actions. It was in itself the terrain of political practice (Ross, 19SS), and as such was part of the continuous social process through which human beings create and recreate space, and their own history. In this view,
Place always represents a human product: it always involves an appropriation and transformation of space and nature that is inseparable from the reproduction and tr~sformation of society in time and space.. It is not only what is fleetingly scene as place, a locale or setting for activity and social interaction. It is also what takes place ceaselessly, what contributes to history in a specific context through the creation and utilization of what is scene as place. (Pred, 1985: 337).

Focusing on Tiananmen Square, this article is more broadly an examination of the politics of place, which I take to mean both the articulation of politics through spatial practice, and the process by which space as a human product-place-is continually produced and transformed through political practice.

The politics of place Place has recently become the object of renewed interest both amongst geographers and other social scientists. This literature is broad and diverse, encompassing work by humanistic geographers on the experience of place and a large body of literature by cultural geographers as well as writers outside the discipline, which explores the multi-faceted meaning of place or landscape (Gold and Burgess, 1982; Rapaport, 1982; Goodsell, 1988; Mayo, 1988). Much of this work theorizes place in terms of its symbolic imagery or iconography (Cosgrove and Daniels, 1988), or, in the tradition of Geertz, studies place as text, as theatre (Cosgrove and Jackson, 1987) or as myth (Smith, 1992). The geographical literature has recently also seen what has been portrayed as a rapprochement between the geographical and sociological imaginations (Agnew and Duncan, 1989), or between social and cultural geography (Cosgrove, 1991). Stemming from the critique of the aspatiality of social theory and the need to find a place for space in the theorization of social life, this work focuses attention on the complex and reciprocal interactions between space and social practice (Gregory and Urry, 1985; Agnew, 1989; I-Iarvey, 1989). It makes clear that, while the forms of such interaction are many, almost inevitably they involve competition and conflict, and not infrequently violence. Although conflict over the control of space is the subject of much work by social and political geographers, the explicit juxtaposition of the terms place and politics occurs relatively infrequently in geographical writing. Duncan argues that cultural geography in particular would benefit from a more explicit foregrounding of politics: . cultural geographers have had too narrow a view of culture while political geographers have had too narrow a conception of politics. Fortunately it has become increasingly apparent that a radical separation of politics from culture and place diminishes all three concepts, for it creates, on the one hand, an impoverished view of political power as abstracted from the cultural and locational matrix of which it is so clearly a part, and on the other hand a view of culture and place which ignores the importance of political processes in both cultural continui~ and change in place. (Duncan, 1989: 185) A number of historical studies by geographers have attempted to bridge these various chasms by focusing on the political meanings and uses of monumental public spaces.



397 of political power and of


are the most conspicuous



the command of resources and people by political and social elites. As such, they possess a powerful and usually self-conscious symbolic vocabulary or iconography that is understood by those who share a common culture and history. In Lefebvres words:

Monumental space offered each member of a society an image of that membership, an image of his or her social visage. It thus constituted a collective mirror more faithful than any personal one. (Lefebvre, 1991: 220) Although Lefebvre argues that all members of society partake of the social consensus

embodied in monumental spaces, they do so under the conditions of a generally accepted Power and a generally accepted Wisdom (Lefebvre, 1991: 220) That is, monuments are the most conspicuous product of the hegemonic power of their producers-for example, the church or the state-to dominate space. Once in place, however, monumental spaces also become social property, and as such can be used in ways that are different from and even contrary to the uses to which their builders or owners intended they be put. These popular uses, too, become integrated into the symbolism and iconography of place and become important elements in the production of particular spaces. Their continuing recreation implicitly or explicitly incorporates these new meanings. It is in this way that place may be broadly understood as something that is produced politically-as the outcome of a cumulative and dialectic political process. Often, as in the case of ideological dissidents, political resisters and subcultures, the

usurpation of dominated space is quite deliberate and is in itself a political act expressed in spatial practice. Contemporary cultural studies, informed by a concept of hegemony drawn from the writings of Gramsci and Williams, has explored the subversive uses of place and other symbols of power. These actions are theorized in terms of the various strategies of resistance that subordinate groups employ to contest the hegemony of those in power (Hall et al., 1980: 35-36, emphasis in original). Such strategies involve the appropriation


of certain artifacts and significations from the dominant (or parent) culture and their into symbolic forms which take on new meanings and significance for

those who adopt these styles (Cosgrove and Jackson, 1987: 98-99, emphasis in original). If hegemonic political power is linked to the domination of space, then where is the place for political expression of those who hold no power, who control no property, yet who challenge the hegemony of the power holders? The simple answer is, the space of the other (De Certeau, 1984: 36-37). The appropriation and transformation of space in the course of dissident political practice has become the central issue in much of the literature on politics and place. De Certeau, for example, contrasts the spatial practice of those who hold power with those who challenge the existing political order. The former employ spatial strategies in order to establish a power base. Spatial strategy postulates apluce that can be delimited as its own and serve as the base from which relations with an exterior@ composed of targets or threats. can be managed (De Certeau, 1984: 35-36, emphasis in original). The spatial practice of the powerless, on the other hand depends, according to de Certeau, on the tactical use of the very territory carved out by the holder of power: A tactic is a calculated action determined by the absence of a proper locus. The space of a tactic is the space of the other. Thus it must play on and with a terrain imposed on it and organized by the law of a foreign power.. [It] is a manoeuvre within the enemys field of vision, and within enemy territory. In short, a tactic is an art of the weak. (De Certeau, 1984: 36-37)



Square and thepofitks


Yet historical practice shows that the very strength of oppositional groups can come from their deliberate appropriation and tactical use of the space of the other, and that by doing so, they have the power to imbue space with new political meanings, thus actively participating in theproduction of space. Ross, for example, argues that the significance of the Paris Commune lay precisely in its deliberate breakdown of spatial hierarchy. The workers who occupied the Hotel de Ville or who tore down the Vendome
Column were not at home in the centre of Paris; they were occupying enemy territory, the circumscribed proper place of the dominant social order. (Ross,

1988: 42) Having occupied this space, through their political use of it they transformed embodiment of their political agenda. This tactical use of space, Ross argues, . provides an example of what the Situationists have called a detournementusing the elements or terrain of the dominant social order to ones own ends, for a transformed purpose; integrating actual or past productions into a superior construction of milieu. (Ross, 1988: 42)

it into an

AS a political tactic of groups who do not control the construction of built space, this process by necessity involves deliberate manipulation of the existing spatial hierarchy based on money and power: LMOWYZ~SZFZ~ is no mere Surrealist or arbitrary juxtaposition
of conflicting codes; its aim, at once serious and ludic, is to strip false meaning or value from the original t , (Ross, 1988: 42)

Onto the facade from which false meaning is stripped away, other meanings of more value to opponents of the dominant order can be imposed. Because of their historical associations or cultural significance, however, some places are more meaningful, more symbolic of the dominant order than others, and therefore more valuable as objects of detounmnem. This is especially true of monumental spaces, which serve, in Lefebvres phrase, as social condensers: Social space, the space of social practice. , is indeed condensed in monumental Thus each monumental space becomes the metaphorical and space. quasi-metaphysical underpinning of a society, this by virtue of a play of substitutions in which the religious and political realms symbolically (and ceremonially) exchange attributes-the attributes of power; in this way the authority of the sacred and the sacred aspect of authority are transferred back and forth, mutually reinforcing one another in the process. (Lefebvre, 1991: 225) Dissident political movements, by appropriating power condensed in those spaces. In Renaissance monumental spaces, appropriate Italian cities, for example, the

The locations which best established and solemnized order also became the most likely settings for displays of disorder and scenes for pollution. Riots and
revolts, often followed a decidedly ritualistic pattern, in which alternative banners, blazons, or insignias replaced the symbols of degraded power; the routes of rebellious demonstmtions followed the paths of sacred processions; and blasphemies mocked the formulas and gestures of respect. Mass demonstrations employed a language of space that can only be translated by reference to the symbolic geography of the city. (Muir and Weissman, 1989: 96)


399 of political power, of social

The symbolic


of the city is a representation

relations which are themselves constantly in flux. For Harvey, not only does command over space confer power in itself,
but the created processes privilege of social space of society is also. reproduction.

the space of social reproduction.

structures of authority or

Thus control over the creation of that space also confers a certain power over the [Hlierarchical directly through can be communicated crucial forms of spatial organization and authority over the use of of social power relations.

and symbolism. space become

Control over spatial organization means for the reproduction

(Harvey, 1989: 186-187)

There is thus a complex

and dialectical relationship


space and power. If as

Lefebvre argues, (social) space is a (social) product (Lefebvre, 1991: 26), then transitions in the form of social relations must entail the production of a new space (Lefebvre, 1991: 46). When revolt becomes revolution and a new political order is substituted for the old, the task of the new regime is not to obliterate the space of the old regime, but to create a new spatial order that, while building upon the old, invests it with new meanings. This is an integral part of what Dirlik calls the struggle to assert the hegemony of revolution over its historical inheritance (Dirlik, 1989: 28). Although Dirlik has characterized this process in linguistic terms, his discussion applies equally to spatial practice:
the new language out of the language it finds at to sever their ties to the past, to upon which its vitality to speak its

The new society must transcend the old society, not merely negate it; and this it
can achieve only by generating hand. Even if it were possible for revolutionaries air lacks the ability to articulate depends. A revolution

start off with a blank sheet of paper as it were, a new language created out of thin the social experiences that seeks to escape (Dirlik, the past by refusing

language is deprived of its own source of intelligibility reality it would transform.

and isolates itself from the

1989: 28-29)

Just as there is no blank sheet of paper upon which to inscribe the history of the new society, so there is no empty space upon which to build its new monuments, only the space of the now vanquished other, which is not obliterated but appropriated and transformed. In China, there is one universally recognized monument which overshadows all others in signifying both the hegemonic power of the state and the history of struggle against it, and that is Tiananmen or the Gate of Heavenly Peace.2 Tiananmen Square is the product of over five hundred years of social practice, during which its symbolic geography has been moulded by two interdependent spatial traditions. As a creation of orthodox political power it evolved into a monumental space, a concrete representation of the hegemony of the Chinese state, shaped and reshaped by an elite which pursued as a conscious goal the creation of a space which would both accommodate and symbolize an orthodoxy at the same time religious and political (Hou, 1979a,b; Spence, 1982; Samuels and Samuels, 1989; Strand, 1989; Meyer, 1991). Although its morphology and the content of its official functions changed after the revolution of 1911 and again after that of 1949, the orthodoxy inscribed in its monuments remains to influence its contemporary meaning and the official uses to which it is put. The second spatial tradition concretized in Tiananmen Square is that of dissidence and revolt. Since the beginning of the 20th century, occupation and control of the Square by dissidents and its defense by the entrenched holders of power has come to symbolize something much larger: control of the Chinese state itself. The Square has been crucial to



Square and thepolitia


these struggles, not merely as a container or backdrop, but in a very real sense as the physical object of struggle and transformation. The Square which became the focus of the 1989 student movenlellt is quite literally the product of this historical process. It is in this context that the political geography of Tiananmen Square must be understood. In particular, its use as the base of the 1989 student movement, and the shocking ferocity with which the state reclaimed it, can only be understood in this light. This is a perspective which is missing from most accounts of the 1989 occupation of the Square. Lacking an explicitly spatial focus even when they adopt a historical one (Wasserstrom, 1990), they refer to the historical tradition of protest in the Square generally without grounding it in place.3 This omission is most conspicuous in an article by Esherick and Wasserstrom (1990), who attempt to provide an interpretive framework for the events of 1989 by portraying them as an exercise in political theatre. In this view the dramatic power of the performance rests on the skilful manipulation of symbol and ritual. The importance of the setting is acknowledged, but the analysis of the students acts as political theatre tends on the whole to highlight the symbolic provenance of the performance, while largely ignoring the significance of the stage. This paper brings the stage more explicitly into the foreground. The next sections contain an historical account of the evolution of the space now called Tiananmen Square, its orthodox political uses, and the accretions of meaning left by successive rounds of political struggle in the 20th century. This is followed by an analysis of the politics of space in the 1989 student movement, its violent suppression, and its contribution to the continuing recreation of Tiananmen Square. The symbolic geography of Tiananmen Square

What is now Tiananmen Square was created at the end of the 14th century when the Ming dynasty overthrew the Mongol Yuan dynasty and established its own imperial seat, The city was named Beijing, or Northern Capital, and its centrepiece was the new imperial palace, also called the zijncbeng or Forbidden City (Hou, 1979a). The new city and the palace within it were built according to orthodox Chinese cosmographic principles befitting a dynasty that restored Chinese rule after a century of foreign domination. Wheatley describes the ideal-type Chinese city (of which in his view Beijing is the classic example) as a cosmo-magical symbol, the image of the cosmos in concrete form. The capital city was not only the seat of secular authority, but more importantly, the literal centre of the kingdom, the point of ontological transition at which divine power entered the world and diffused outwards through the kingdom (Wheatley, 1971: 434). This centrality was expressed morphologically in the design of the Ming capital, which was rectangular in shape, oriented toward the cardinal directions, enclosed by walls, and had a south-facing main gate (Figures 2 and 2). Within the city wall was another rectangular wall enclosing the compound known as the Imperial City, and within that, an inner wall surrounded the imperial palace (Chang, 1977; Wright, 1977). This whole complex of boxes within boxes was known as the inner city; to the south was another walled rectangle enclosing the less formal outer city. The role of walls and gates was of particular importance in delimiting a hierarchical ordering of space in which sacrality diminished with distance from the centre (Wheatley, 1971). Access to the centre of power was through a ceremonial passageway punctuated by a series of gate towers, the largest and most imposing of which was the outer gate of the



FIGURE 1.The approaches to the Forbidden City, based on a Ming dynasty map. Source: Hou (1979b). p. 239. 1.Wumen; 2. Altar of the Harvests; 3. Temple of the Ancestors; 4. Chengtianmen (later Tiananmen); 5. Right Changan Gate; 6. Left Changan Gate; 7. Damingmen (Great Ming Gate); 8, Zhengyangmen (later Qianmen or Front Gate); 9. Inner City wall; 10, 11. Government ministries; 12. Moat and bridges.


FIGURE 2. The Forbidden City and T-shaped square outside Tiananmen, Qing dynasty. Source: Cao (19X), p. 19. 1. Beihai (Northern Sea), Zhonghai (Middle Sea), Nanhai (Southern Sea); 2. Dianmen (Gate of Earthly Peace); 3. Jingshan (Coal Hill); 4. Wumen; 5. Tiananmen; 6. Qinnhulang (Thousand Step Gallery); 7. Daqingmen (Great Qing Gate); 8. Qibanjie (Chessboard Square); 9.Zhen@mgmen (later Qianmen or Front Gate).



imperial palace, which eventually became known as Tiananmen (Figure 2). South of Tiananmen was a T-shaped open space, walled all round, with gates to the east and west giving access to the outer city (Figure 3). The stem of the T was a walled passageway; behind its walls to the east and west were the offices of government departments, inaccessible from the passageway itself. The passageway contained a covered walkway called the Thousand Step Gallery (Qianbulung), flanked by two long buildings in which the various boards of government selected their officials and inspected the examination papers of aspiring degree-holders. It is this semi-public T-shaped open space that was the precursor of present-day Tiananmen Square. The organization of space was a concrete representation of the organization of political power. In the spatial hierarchy of imperial Beijing, the T-shaped space outside Tiananmen was intermediate in both form and function. It was part of a zone of gradual transition between inner and outer, sacred and profane, imperial and common, a continuum of spaces of decreasing sacrality as one moved outward. For the Emperor looking out,
Tiananmen was the ceremonial gateway to the world beyond the walls. The meridional route from Tiananmen to Qianmen in the south was reserved for only the most sacred of

FIGURE 3. Qing Tiananmen and environs, flanked by the government ministries. Source: Cao (1971), p. 21. 1. Tiananmen; 2. Changan Right Gate; 3. Changan Left Gate; 4. Qianbulang (Thousand Step Gallery); 5. Daqingmen (Great Qing Gate); 6. Qibanjie (Chessboard Square); 7. Zhengyangmen.



Square and the politics of place

ritual purposes; in the Ming there was some debate over whether even the mother of the Emperor was allowed to use this passageway (Cao, 1971). AS an intermediate zone between the imperial palace and the outside world, the space outside Tiananmen traditionally served as the location of rituals which, if not exactly public, involved groups of people normally denied access to the palace itself. It was the site of military reviews and ritual offerings before embarking on military campaigns. On special occasions the Emperor would emerge onto the wall over the gate to issue proclamations, which were traditionally lowered from the Tiananmen gate tower in the mouth of a carved golden pheasant to the government officers kneeling before the gate (Peking, A Tou&t Guide, 1960; Meyer, 1991). The symbolism underlined the sacred origins of secular political power, emanating from inside the palace walls and radiating out through Tiananmen to the four quarters of the Empire.


as public terrain

The traditional hierarchical organization of space broke down with the disintegration of the Qing dynasty in the last half of the 19th century. The transformation of Tiananmen Square began symboli~lly with a ritualized but fleeting occupation of the Forbidden City by foreign armies during the suppression of the Boxer rebellion in 1900 (Lynch, 1901). Its real transformation, morphological and functional, occurred gradually through the first half of the 20th century, the product of an ongoing social revolution which stimulated the spatial reorganization of the city at the same time as it unleashed new social movements searching out the space to express their political discontents. Out of the dialectical interplay of official and popular spatial practice, modern Tiananmen Square was created, an embodiment of the tension between the domination and appropriation of social space. With the Nationalist revolution of 1911, the Forbidden City lost its traditional role as the seat of imperial power and the approaches to the palace as far as Tiananmen were opened to the public (Figure 4). As described by a contemporary observer:
The squalor reached to the Palace gates. Weeds pushed their way between the Gaps in the railings showed where pillars uneven flagstones of the pavement. had fallen, Sometimes a rude attempt was made to close them. But it was easy enough to push. a way through and not a few lazy pedestrians did so in order to avail themselves of a short cut across the square. This Sacred Enclosure, in theory rigidly forbidden to all, became the resort of idlers and beggars who sprawled there in the sun out of the way of traffic. (Bredon, 1922: 64)

Yet Tiananmen retained an ambiguous symbolic power which was incorporated into the spatial practice of the new regime. Yuan Shikai, the first President of the Republic, held his inaugural review from the top of Tiananmen. The space outside the gate was invested with official revolutionary symbolism. A memorial to Sun Yatsen, the founder of the Nationalist movement, was placed at the end of the passage leading to Tiananmen, and a huge portrait of Sun in blue and white, the colours of Nationalist China, was placed over the gates central archway (Arlington and Lewisohn, 1935). The traditional impenetrability of the Forbidden City influenced the earlier spatial development of the city. Traffic moved in a great rectangle around the imperial city, and the sealed T-shaped space from Tiananmen to Qianmen effectively cut the southern city in two (Samuels and Samuels, 1989). After 1911 the arms of the T were opened, creating a new east-west thoroughfare through the centre of the capital (Hou, 1979b; Gao, 1990).



FIGURE 4. Pedestrians and rickshaws in the newly-opened passage to Tiananmen, early Republican period. Source: Holmes (1917), p. 272.

As the hub of the new circulation pattern, the area commonly called the empty space outside Tiananmen (now dissected by low walls and shrubbery, and not yet considered a square) became an informal marketplace, frequented not only by idlers and beggars but also hawkers and peddlers (Cao, 1971; Strand, 1989). Inevitably it also became a space for public recreation. It was transformed, in short, from a closed, controlled space that both embodied and symbolized authority and orthodoxy, to an open public space in which new and heterodox functions quickly took hold. In the decades of political turmoil following the 1911 revolution, Tiananmen demonstrations. The attractions limitations: In the monumental and symbolic plan of Beijing, open spaces were designed to be empty spaces except when filled by carefully choreographed ritual events. Nationalism transformed the area. Instead of a lesser link in a chain of structures designed to exalt the emperor and awe the visitor, [Tiananmen] and the space outside had become a central fixture in the ritual of mass protest. The potency of this public space was reflected in the periodic attempts by the authorities to prevent its use as a political rallying point (Strand, 1989: 195) The first of these instances was the May Fourth Incident of 1919. About 3000 students from Beijing colleges and universities, protesting the governments passive response to the alienation of Chinese territory in the Treaty of Versailles, marched in ranks around the centre of the city and then converged on the space in front of Tiananmen where they were joined by townspeople for an anti-imperialist, anti-government rally.* Student leaders addressed the crowd from the marble bridges leading into Tiananmen. In the ensuing clash between police and students, 32 students were arrested, and one later died (Chow, 1964; Spence, 1982; Hsu, 1983; Strand, 1989). became the location of choice for public rallies and of its symbolic geography transcended its physical



Square and the politics of place

The May Fourth Incident was the first of dozens of anti-government protest movementS to occur in the capital throughout the 192Os,193Os and 1940s. It established a repertoire of spatial practice to which virtually all subsequent protest movernel~~ (up to and inclu~ng 1989) made self-conscious reference. Almost invariably these demonstrations culminated in rallies outside Tiananmen, and the police and city officials consistently responded by blocking access to the area, using increasingly violent means. By the late 1940s the image of blood flowing in the streets around Tiananmen had come to symbolize the seif-sacrificing patriotism of young Chinese intellectuals as well as the authorit~ianism of the modern Chinese state (Spence, 1982; Strand, 1989). At one level this was a radical change from the Squares historical function as an embodiment of political orthodoxy. Yet it was that very symbolism, Tiananmen as the frontier between the inner zone of the rulers and the outer zone of the ruled, that gave the Square its potency as the site for popular political action. The traditional hierarchical organization of space mirrored the traditional impenetrability of political power, and this symbolism created the space for oppositional groups to articulate their own political agendas. Their repeated suppression by the state added further layers of political significance. Out of this diaIectica1 process, modern Tiananmen Square was produced.


and post-revolutionary


With the victory of the communist revoiution, the new regime was placed in a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, the communist party represented re~olution,~~, the overturning of Chinese society.5 It freely appropriated the May Fourth movement and other historical symbols of patriotic resistance to the feudal state and its manipulation by the imperialist powers. On the other hand, once installed in power, the new regime also inherited monuments like the Forbidden City and Tiananmen, which still symbolized the continuity of central rule and the ideological hegemony of the Chinese state. In terms of its spatial practice, the task of the new regime was to appropriate and reconcile these contradictory symbolisms in support of its own legitimacy to rule, to create the language of its own hegemony over the Chinese nation. From the beginning Tiananmen figured large in the spatial practice of the new regime. IMao Zedong, like Yuan Shikai in 1911, announced the founding of the peoples Republic of China from the top of the Tiananmen gate tower (Wei, 1950). Tiananmen was chosen as the national symbol of the Peoples Republic of China and featured on the official seal of the new state (Samuels and Samuels, 1989) as well as its first postage stamp. After 1949, Tiananmen Square was cleared and enlarged, and around its perimeter new monuments were built incorporating the iconography of the new China. At the same time significant elements of the old were retained and re-interpreted. The objective, as Hou explains, was to create a space that would articulate the new regimes appeal to both patriotism and proletarian consciousness:
Just as many objects have a dual nature, a look back at history makes it very clear that the design of the old Tiananmen Square wholly served the interests of the And yet in modern times it has also been the site of feudal ruling class.. popular revolutionary struggles., Its major edifice-the stately and majestic Tiananmen-is a product of the lifeblood of workers of the past. It represents the highest development of the unique style of Chinese traditional building arts, and is an architectural legacy which must be cherished. These two aspects of the old Tiananmen Square formed a basis which could be fully utilized after the revolution, yet they also had to be further transformed. (Hou, 1979b: 246)



An enormous


of Mao was placed over the central archway of Tiananmen,

replacing the old image of Sun Yatsen. To accommodate larger crowds, the Square was cleared of trees. The left and right arms of the former T were extended and widened, giving Changan Boulevard, now the citys major thoroughfare, the appearance of a ceremonial route where it passed by Tiananmen, now flanked by viewing stands. One effect of these changes, according to Hou, was to permanently alter the symbolic balance between the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square: On one hand ihis reinforced the primacy of Tiananmen Squares location , and on the other hand it relegated the location of the old Forbidden City to back yard status. That ancient symbol of imperial primacy thus lost its exalted position relative to the rest of the city (Hou, 1986: 234) The centrality of Tiananmen Square in the new spatial hierarchy was further reinforced by the addition of the Great Hall of the People and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution along its western and eastern perimeters, as well as a new memorial to the martyrs of the Chinese revolution, which was placed at the centre of the Square directly facing the old gate tower along the historic central meridian (Figure 5). The Monument to the Peoples Heroes is an obelisk rising 38 metres above the square, with marble bas-reliefs around the base depicting selected events in the reconstruction of Chinas revolutionary history, including the May Fourth Movement of 1919 @e/zing: A Tourist Guide, 1960; Hou, 1979b; 1986). In contrast openness to the historical symbolism of exclusion, the new space combined a sense of

and inclusion

with an element

of intimidation:

From Tiananmen southwards to the Qianmen stretches a broad unbroken prospect for a quarter of a mile. On this vast space. one feels dwarfed and diminished. And yet ones spirit soars. It is the beauty of the place, the consciousness of what it signifies that stirs us with especial force. This is a Peoples Square, built anew and dedicated by the people to their freedom. (Wei, 1950: 23) The ambiguities observation evident about in the composition complexity of the new Tiananmen Square recall


the unique

of monuments:

A monumental work, like a musical one, does not have a signified (or signifieds); rather, it has a horizon of meaning: a specific or indefinite multiplicity of meanings, a shifting hierarchy in which now one, now another meaning comes momentarily to the fore, by means of-and for the sake of-a particular action.. To the degree that there are traces of violence and death, negativity and aggressiveness in social practice, the monumental work erases them and replaces them with a tranquil power and certitude which can encompass violence and terror. (Lefebvre, 1991: 222) The revolutionary imagery of its monuments thus defused, the Square reverted to its original function as the terrain of state organized ritual. In contrast to pre-revolutionary days, however, the new rituals required not isolation from the people but instead their active involvement, in very large numbers, in the monumental space created expressly for this purpose. After 1949, virtually all important holidays and celebrations were commemorated by parades and ceremonies held in the Square. Visiting foreign dignitaries laid wreaths on the Monument. New party members recited their pledge there. In the massive Red Guard rallies of the Cultural Revolution, millions of young students marched through the Square as Mao and other dignitaries watched from the top of the gate tower and the viewing stands flanking it (Bennett and Montaperto, 1971).


Tiananmen Square and the politics

of place

FIGURE 5. Post-revolutionary Tiananmen Square, 1977. Source: Hou (1979b), p. 249. 1. Tiananmen; 2. Maos Mausoleum: 3. Manument to the Peoples Heroes; 4. Great Hall of the People; 5. Museum of Revolutionary Histoy; 6. Zhengyangmen (Qia~men).

In 1976, Mao Zedong was laid co rest, not in the official cemetery for rev~lut~~n~ heroes in the suburbs of the city, but in a mausoleum at the southern end of Tiananmen Square. The new square was now completed, defined on all sides by revolutionary monuments: the museum and the Great Hall to the east and west, Maos mausoleum to the south, the marryrs memorial at the centre (Figure 5). To the north, across the boulevard, Maos portrait continued to hang over the central arch of Tiananmen.



The contemporary


of Tiananmen


Post-revolutionary Tiananmen Square was, as in imperial times, an iconographic representation of the hegemony of the Chinese state. What was different was the synthesis of elements in the iconography of the old regimes along with those of the modern revolutionary tradition which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) now claimed as its own. These together formed a new iconography, a prepared text inscribed in the monuments of the Square, from which it was possible to read the official account of Chinese revolutionary history which led inexorably to the triumph of the CCP. But as Lefebvre argues, space-particularly monumental space-is much more than a text to be read: The actions of social practice are expressible but not explicable through discourse; they are, precisely acted-and not read (Lefebvre, 1991:222, emphasis in original). Thus one former Red Guard, describing his first glimpse of Tiananmen, indicates its impact on a youth visiting the capital for the first time by describing the action it evoked:

pay our respects

immensity impressed us as no picture could. Little Mihu suggested that we to Chairman Mao. We stood in a row on the bridge, took out

our little red books and held them against our chests, and bowed to the giant portrait several times. (Gao, 1987: 118)

It was this complex representation of revolutionary orthodoxy that the popular movements which engulfed Tiananmen Square from 1976 onward continued to appropriate for their own political uses. The deaths of the two founding fathers of the revolution, Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, followed by the disintegration of the Cultural Revolution regime and the return to power of Deng Xiaoping, provided the opportunity for popular movements to coalesce. For a form and venue in which to express their discontents, they turned to models of the past: their own experience of Cultural Revolution rallies, and the earlier protest movements now enshrined in the monuments of Tiananmen Square. The catalyst was the death of Zhou Enlai in January, 1976. In late March, just before the Qingming festival (when Chinese people traditionally make ritual visits to the graves of their ancestors), the citizens of Beijing began to converge on Tiananmen Square. They laid memorial wreaths on the base of the central monument and from that vantage point read poems, chanted slogans and displayed banners that were both expressions of mourning for Zhou and thinly veiled criticisms of Mao and the Cultural Revolution leadership. On the day of the Qingming Festival, approximately one million people gathered in the square; the next day (April 5) up to two million showed up. Police and soldiers invaded the square during the night; more than 100 demonstrators were killed and thousands arrested (Goodman, 1981; Hsu, 1983; Domes, 1985). At the time the Cultural Revoiution leadership labelled this a counter-revolutiona~ incident and blamed it on Deng Xiaoping, who was then Maos leading opponent. Three years later after Deng cemented his hold on power, the incident was reevaluated and is now portrayed in official accounts as a revolutionary movement6 From the point of view of the politics of place, the April 5 Incident was certainly counter-revolutionary in the sense that its participants challenged the revolutionary orthodoxy concretized in Tiananmen Square by reappropriating the symbols of opposition inscribed in its monument to put forward their own political message. The 19% protesters appropriated the space of the other in order to reclaim what was to them the authentic revolutionary tradition concretized in it. In the process, they invested the symbolic geography of the Square with new images which would now mingle with those



Square and the politics of place

of the opposition movements of 1919 and 1925 to create a new feature on its horizon of meaning. In this light, the official rehabilitation of the April 5 Incident can be read as an effort by the state to reverse the process of detournement and transformation, retrospectively reclaiming Tiananmen Square as the exclusive terrain of officiallysanctioned political expression, and at the same time proclaiming its interpretation of the Squares symbolic geography as the only correct one. The struggle for Tianatunen Square, 1989

The friction between these two very different interpretations of the meaning of Tiananmen Square is the key to understanding why ensuing student movements (in 1978-9, 1986-7, and finally 1989) almost inevitably involved (and were popularly understood to involve) literal struggles over occupation and control of the Square and the area around it. The well-developed spatial awareness on both sides became an integral element in the struggle for political space that ended with what has come to be called, depending on ones sympathies, either the Tiananmen massacre or the counter-revolutionary rebellion of 1989.8 Examination of the spatial practice of the 1989 movement reveals that the occupation of Tiananmen Square was an explicit challenge to the states power to define and control political space. The students did not stay in their proper place on the campuses dispersed around the periphery of the city, surrounded by walls and gates which permit tight security. On the contrary, the trajectory of protest carried them away from the university district to Tiananmen Square, where they invaded and successfully occupied what the state regarded as its property and an image of its own authority. Once in control of the Square, the students actively transformed it. They reorganized the space within the Square to accommodate the needs of student delegations from other cities, hunger strikers, the news media, demonstrators and onlookers. They turned existing monuments to their own uses, decorating them with banners expressing their political aims. And finally they added their own monument-the Goddess of Democracy-to the iconography of the Square. The students deliberately reinforced their occupation of the Square at certain crucial moments, usurping the proper place and time for the customary ceremonial rituals during the official memorial service for Hu Yaobang, the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the May 4th Movement, the Asian Development Bank meetings and, most significantly, the Gorbachev visit to Beijing (Esherick and Wasserstrom, 1990). During these politically charged events, they made effective use of the symbolic geography of the space they had appropriated by incorporating it into their own political counter-rituals. In their public mourning for Hu Yaobang (removed from office after the 1986-7 movement and upon his death appropriated by the students as a symbol of their cause), the students hung a huge memorial portrait of Hu on the central monument, facing Maos portrait over Tiananmen. The laying of memorial wreaths on the monument provided a destination for the successive student marches to the centre of the city, with echoes of the 1976 demonstrations following the death of Zhou Enlai (FBIS, 19-20 April 1989; Liang, 1989; Quarterly, 1989; Esherick and Wasserstrom, 1990). By the time Gorbachev arrived, the student hunger strike had been going on for two days and the Square was under twenty-four hour occupation by the strikers and their supporters. The central monument, festooned with banners, served as a command post and press centre (Figure 6) Several hundred hunger-strikers and movement leaders were camped at its eastern base, and hundreds of thousands of their supporters (the numbers depending on the time of day or night) filled the Square (Figure 7). The entire centre of


FIGURE6. The Monument the monument, The vertical banner

to the Peoples Heroes,

May 1989. The inscription heroes


in Maos calligraphy,

reads: The peoples

are immortal.

hanging below reads: Long live the people!


%manmen Square and thepolitics@place

FIGURE 7. Tiananmen Square, May 1989.The Museum of Re~ol~ltiona~ History is in the background.

the city was clogged with demonstrators, onlookers and tourists. The festive atmosphere was enhanced by the brightly coloured flags strung up in Gorbachevs honour over Changan Boulevard along the approaches to the Square. These grew more and more tattered as the weeks progressed. The student occupation of the Square overshadowed Gorbachevs visit by displacing many of the official rituals surrounding it to other, less significant, locations. The official welcoming ceremony took place at the airport, rather than in Tiananmen Square as planned, the motorcade route from the airport to the Great Hall of the People had to be routed away from Changan Boulevard to less impressive side streets, and the usual wreath-laying ceremony at the central monument in the Square was replaced by a visit to the official cemetery on the outskirts of the city. The scheduled visit to the Forbidden City had to be cancelled because of the crowds blocking the entrance through Tiananmen (Figure 8). For the international media gathered in Beijing, Gorbachevs visit quickly became a sideshow in comparison to the gripping scenes in the Square being transmitted to the rest of the world. What they showed was a Tiananmen Square now firmly in the control of the protesters and their supporters, and a new organization of space to accommodate them (Figure 3). Student marshals directed traffic around the Square, keeping a lifeline open for the continuous stream of ambulances, bedecked with pro-student banners and with sirens wailing, that sped in and out of the Square to pick up ailing hunger-strikers and transport them to local hospitals. The Square was cordoned off into segments for each of the schools and universities pa~icipating in the occupation, which by now included many delegations from distant cities. Security was tight around these compounds, mimicking the arrangements at their home institutions, with students required to show their identity cards for admittance behind the symbolic walls (usually lengths of plastic twine strung



FIGURE8. Changan Boulevard and the Tiananmen gate tower during the student occupation, May 1989.

between benches). Toilet sheds were set up along the eastern side of the square. City workers tapped the underground watermains to provide drinking water. When the rains began, makeshift shelters were constructed of plastic sheeting and bamboo poles. Public buses commandeered to transport students to the Square were lined up along its northern edge across from Tiananmen (Figure 9). They were draped with banners and used as portable canteens, clinics, command headquarters and dormitories (and ultimately as barriers against tanks). Onlookers were kept at a distance by the student marshals who

FIGURE 9. Traffic control at the northern end of Tiananmen Square, May 1989. Behind the Monument is Maos mausoleum, which during the occupation bore a banner reading Chairman Mao, old man, are you weeping now?.



Square and the politics

of place

directed traffic and also controlled access to the Square. Attempts were made to sweep the grounds and keep the area free of garbage, but after several weeks of continuous occupation, conditions could only be described as squalid, in sharp contrast to the usually pristine appearance of the Square. The Square was a magnet at~ac~ng daily marches and bicycle demonst~tions by groups carrying banners identifying their work units (which included government agencies, schools, media and publishing units, factories, police academies, Buddhist monasteries and others too numerous to list). Recalling the protests of the 192Os, they marched or pedalled in huge circuits around the perimeter of the Square, chanting slogans and singing the Internationale. A more modern note was struck by the motorcycle brigades, made up mainly of young private entrepreneurs, careering around the Square at high speed. The crowning event in the transformation of the Square was the erection of the Goddess of Democracy. Even more than its supposed resemblance to the Statue of Liberty, the location chosen for it was a direct provocation to the authorities. It was placed squarely along the central north-south meridian, in line with Maos mausoleum and the Monument to the Peoples Heroes, directly opposite the portrait of Mao on the gate tower of Tiananmen, and in a spot which was supposed to be reserved for a portrait of Sun Yatsen during official ceremonies. The symbolic resonance of this locational choice, and of the movements spatial practice generally, is mirrored in the harsh response it elicited from the government. Official criticism reveals several key themes which, in Maoist rhetorical tradition, can be expressed
in the form of interrelated contradictions: order/chaos, publi~private, sacred/profane,

A report later issued by the mayor of Beijing for example explicitly cites the appropriation of public space for political uses as a justification for the violent termination of the occupation. In the mayors account, the spatial practice of the protest movement was illegitimate not only because it appropriated space reserved for officially-sanctioned political expression, but precisely because it stubbornly persisted in redefining that space in its own political terms:
revolutiona~/counterrevolutionaly. One of the major tactics of the organizers and schemers of the turmoil. ~wasto continue to stay on the Tiananmen Square. They wanted to turn the square into a centre of the student movement and the whole nation.. . These people had been planning to stir up blood-shedding incidents on the square, believing that the government would resort to suppression if the occupation of the square continues and blood can awaken people and split up the government. They set up villages of freedom and launched a democracy university on the square. They erected a so-called goddess statue in front of the Monument to the Peoples Heroes. The statue was formerly named the Goddess of Freedom but was later renamed Goddess of Democracy, showing that they took Americanstyle democracy and freedom as their spiritual piliar. (Chen, 1989: m-xv)

In this official view, Tiananmen Square was the geographical centre of a counterrevolutionary movement which was intended to provoke anti-government violence which would then spread throughout the country. That the power of the students message depended in large part on their continued physical occupation of the square is underscored by the mayors report, which accused student leaders of pumping up their supporters with the claim that, As long as the flags on the Square are still up, we can continue our fight and spread it to the whole country until the government collapses (Chen, 1989: XV). Continued appropriation of the Square by the students presaged social




chaos not only in Beijing but throughout the country; the reassertion of the states domination over the disputed space was the prerequisite for a return to order.9 The opposition of sacred and profane uses of space recurs frequently in attacks on the occupation published in the official media before June 4. An editorial in Peoples Daily argued that the Square was a symbol of the nation, and thus its treatment was to be taken as a symbol of the regard citizens have for their country: All citizens have the duty co cherish and protect Tiananmcn Square. This is equal
to cherishing and protecting our motherland and our nation and to cherishing and protecting our own rights. The square is sacred. (FbIS, 1989: 1 June) In contrast, the student occupation was portrayed as an act which defiled this sacred space. As stated in a letter (quoted in the Peoples Libet-&on Army Daily) which was purportedly sent by some Beijing citizens to the students: We have a feeling of sacredness ;~ndsolemnity whenever we gather in the square. However, its appearance has changed in the past month. Not only has it become a market for rumours, but heaps of garbage are seen everywhere with mosquitoes and flies swarming around. The magnificent square has been changed beyond recognition. This has.. hurt the image of the square in the mind of the people across China. (IBIS, 1989: 1 June)

The sacrality of the square, in the official view, was related to its construction as an icon of revolution (in its orthodox sense) and a locale associated with rituals celebrating official revolutionary history, According to another Peoples Daily editorial:
Tiananmen Square is a sacred place in the eyes of the Chinese people.. Whenever people think of Tiananmen Square, they will surely. cherish the memory of numerous revolutionary martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the founding of the PRC. Grand rallies to mark the May Day and the National Day and welcoming ceremonies in honour of foreign heads of state are held on Tiananmen Square and visitors from other parts of the country and from abroad will never fail to visit the square. Tiananmen Square also serves as an important place for conducting education in revolutionary traditions for children and young people-every kindergarten pupil in China knows how to sing the song I Love Tiananmen of Beijing. Therefore Tiananmcn Square belongs to the Chinese people of all nationalities. (PBIS, 1989: 2 June)

In contrast

to the orthodox public function of the Square, the student occupation in this official view a private (and thus illegitimate) use of this sacred space:

Tiananmen Square, which belongs to the people, has become some individuals private domain. In defiance of the peoples feelings and desire, some people have arbitrarily erected that statue of a so-called goddess on the solemn and sacred Tiananmen Square. It is absolutely natural that their act has aroused indignation among the broad masses.. Nobody is allowed to erect any statue on the square under any pretext. Just imagine what the sacred Tiananmen Square will look like if everybody is allowed to build something there as they like. (PBIS, 1989: 2 June)

Statements such as this, emphasizing the illegitimacy of the students spatial practice, were used to build a case for the counterrevolutionary nature of the student movement and thus for the violent reassertion of control over the Square. The states victory celebration two weeks after June 4 (broadcast on national television) stands out in stark



Square and the politics of place

contrast to the students chaotic use of space. Ten thousand Young Pioneers (a state-sponsored childrens organization) assembled in the Square along with a thousand martial-law troops. The mayor and military officers reviewed the Young Pioneer honour guard, and the ranks of children saluted the national flag as a military band played the national anthem. In the words of the television narration, The Young Pioneers laid a wreath on the Monument to the Peoples Heroes to express their condolences to the PLA fighters who died in enforcing martial law in Beijing while the officials and military officers bowed their heads and observed a moment of silence. The mayor then addressed the children (FBIS, 1989: 19 June):
Our great and dignified Tiananmen Square has experienced a serious disaster of upheaval and a counterrevolutionary rebellion, and it is now returned to the embrace of the people. Today you are the first group. greeted at the post-disaster Tiananmen Square. I wish to extend warmest greetings to you! The broadcast ended surrounded by soldiers with a wide-angle shot of the Monument to the Peoples Heroes, and Young Pioneers in military formation. From the official point

of view, chaos had been averted and order restored, profanity cleansed, counterrevolution quelled. The Square was public space once again. From another point of view, however, although the physical traces of the occupation-and its violent suppression-had been
eliminated, a new feature had been added to the horizon were not simply of meaning eradicated. of Tiananmen Rather, to quote Square. As before, Lefebvre: the traces of struggle

The monument thus effected a consensus, and this in the strongest sense of the term, rendering it practical and concrete. The element of repression in it and the element of exaltation could scarcely be disentangled; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the repressive element was metamorphosed into exaltation. (Lefebvre, 1991: 220)

Conclusion In Lefebvres definition, monumental space is determined by what may take place there, and consequently by what may not take place there (prescribed/proscribed, scene/ obscene) (Lefebvre, 1991: 224). The right to make this determination ultimately defines who owns or dominates the place in question. Yet public places can never be completely enclosed, and thus their uses, and their meanings, can never be completely prescribed. The tension between the domination of public space and its appropriation as a (temporary) platform from which to communicate alternative or oppositional political messages is part of the social process that continually produces and transforms social space. No matter how temporary the appropriation, or how permanently its traces are eradicated, the very fact of its existence, the memories and associations it evokes, permanently changes the face of the place in which it occurred. Tiananmen Square is the product of a dialectical spatial history that continues to shape its morphology and its uses. The gate and the open space in front of it have from their original construction symbolized concentrated political power, the isolation of the rulers from the ruled, the forbidding grandeur of the state. The physical and symbolic opening of Tiananmen after the Nationalist revolution admitted the beginnings of another kind of spatial tradition, one of public political expression which encompassed resistance to the very power the gate and the Square had come to symbolize. The post-1949 regime was able to reconcile these two traditions (and thus tame the oppositional message of the



latter) by incorporating the symbols of resistance into the orthodox iconography of post-revolutionary Tiananmen Square, and by redefining the very meaning of public space and its public uses. In doing so, however, it left the Square with a complex symbolic geography that made it the inevitable object of detoumement, of appropriation and transformation by groups who refused to accept their displacement and looked back for inspiration to the spatial practice of protest movements of the past. The 1989 occupation and its bloody aftermath have now themselves been incorporated into the horizon of meaning embodied in Tiananmen Square, evidence of the extraordinary power of apparently placeless movements to create and transform space in new and authentically revolutionary ways. Acknowledgements
The visit to Beijing that inspired this paper was funded by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges and the Canadian International Development Agency. During the writing of this article I received financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and space and time from the Department of Geography, University of Toronto. I would like to thank Marvin Zuchowski, Susan Ruddick, and Mireya Folch-Serra for their patient readings and thought-provoking comments on earlier drafts, as well as John OZoughlin and two anonymous reviewers. My thanks to Professor Hou Renzhi for permission to use his maps. Acknowledgement is due also to Robin Munro and Mike Hickman, as well as many others who were there.

1. Examples include Harveys (1985) exposition of the politics surrounding the construction of the Sacre Coeur in Paris, the study by Harrison (1988) of the location of crowds in nineteenth century English towns, Muir and Weissmans (1989) article on Renaissance Venice and Florence and other contributions to the collection edited by Agnew and Duncan (1989). 2. Spence, for example, uses Tiananmen as a symbolic viewing stand from which to witness the sweep of revolution in 20th century China (Spence, 1982: 17-21). 3. See for example Simmie and Nixon (1989), the collection edited by Saich (1990>, and that edited by Wasserstrom and Perry (1992). Saich does in passing discuss the significance of the occupation of Tiananmen Square (which he calls the symbol of the authority of communist power) in terms of spatial tactics; By seizing the Square from the authorities, the students were making a frontal assault on the regimes legitimacy. Particularly with the massive demonstrations that began on May 15, it appeared as if it was the students who ruled Beijing while party leaders retreated into their bunker and looked on through binoculars (Saich, 1990: 39). For a review of this literature from the perspective of myth-making, see Wasserstrom (1992). 4. The incident was sparked by the decision at the Versailles peace conference to give Japan control of Chinese territories formerly colonized by Germany. More importantly, it initiated a broader cultural and political movement amongst Chinese intellectuals and students seeking to overturn traditional attitudes and practices in literature, education, politics and society. The 1919 movement was later assimilated into the official history of the Chinese Communist Party as the beginning of the social revolution that eventually culminated in the revolution of 1949 (Goldman, 1977; Spence, 1982; Wasserstrom, 1990). 5. The literal translation off&z&en is turn over, or turn the body but in contemporary usage the term also means revolutionary transformation of an individual or a society (recalling the concept of detoumement). 6. These labels refer to loyalty to the regime in power at the time of the evaluation. It should be noted that in Chinese the May Fourth movement is called the wmi yundong, literally the 5-4 movement. Given the portentous significance attached to numbers in Chinese culture, it was inevitable that the 1976 movement would become known as the siwu yundong or 4-5 movement, linking it explicitly with the oppositional movement of 1919.

7. The


Square and the politics of place

Democracy Wall movement of 1978-79, named after a stretch of wall along Changan Boulevard used by activists to hang the first wall posters, also made use of Tiananmen Square (see Munro, 1984). After a brief period of permissiveness, usually attributed to Deng Xiaopings need to cement his hold on power, the movement was suppressed; as of this writing its most prominent spokesman, Wei Jingsheng, was still in prison (Goodman, 1981; Spence, 1982). The 1986 movement began in the southern part of the country and within days spread to Beijing where it quickly focused on Tiananmen Square. The demonstrations (mostly involving university students) went on for weeks before they subsided, with minimum violence. One consequence was the forced resignation of the Secretary-General of the Community Party, Hu Yaobang, in part because of his allegedly lax treatment of the demonstrators (SCMP, 1986-7). 8. My sympathies are with the former interpretation. My data for this section come largely from participant-observation and informal interviews rather than published accounts. I was in Beijing from May 14, 1989 (the day before Mikhail Gorbachev) to May 26, and spent as much time as possible, day and night, in and around the Square where I wandered freely, watching, conversing with others in the crowd, and taking photographs. This is not a claim to a privileged perspective by virtue of being there, but an attempt to place myself in the scene as both participant and informed observer. 9. The threatening implications of the term chaos (in Chinese, luan or dongluun) are long-standing; see Wasserstrom (1992) for a discussion of the historical resonances of these terms, It should be noted that one of the demands of the students was the retraction of a Peoples Daily
editorial that described the occupation as donghan.

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