BEIJING, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- China's political landmark Tian'anmen opened its ceremony-review stand, once exclusive to the country's leaders and distinguished guests, to common people for the first time on Sunday, receiving more than 5,000 visitors.
The visitors from across the country witnessed the flag-raising ceremony as the morning sunlight shone over the Tian'anmen Square in Beijing on the New Year's Day.
A total of 10,000 pigeons, symbols of peace and auspice, were released as the red flag with five stars fluttered under the blue sky.
The ceremony-review stand, where one can get a bird's view of the Tian'anmen Square, had been a forbidden area to common visitors, though the entrance to the Forbidden City was opened to tourists in 1988.
The gate tower, whose name literally means the Gate of Heavenly Peace, was where China's late Chairman Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People's Republic of China and where his successors witnessed the grand ceremonies of New China's founding anniversaries.
The ceremony-review stand will open to visitors on the first day of each month starting this year, when the flag-raising ceremony is accompanied with a brass band playing the anthem of the People's Republic of China, according to the administration of the Tian'anmen area.
However, individuals are currently denied the access, as the stand only receives group visitors on a base of prior application, an administration official said.
Zhang Ke, a teacher at Yinyan Primary School, Haidian District of Beijing, came with his students.
"Every time I passed Tian'anmen I couldn't help thinking it was a place of mystery. Today, standing here to watch the flag-raising ceremony, I felt I can hear my heart beat," said Zhang.
His students saluted the flag, while singing the national anthem.
Some 50 volunteers worked on Tian'anmen Sunday morning to keep order and guide the visitors, the administration official said.
More than 10,000 tourists who did not have the chance to ascend Tian'anmen watched the flag-raising ceremony on the square.
Despite the chilly weather, they assembled at the square an hour before the ceremony started, when it was still dark. The lowest temperature in Beijing was minus seven celsius degrees Sunday.
Tian'anmen used to be the front gate of the imperial city of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The gate tower with red walls and golden glazed roof was built in 1420.
The founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China was held on Tian'anmen on Oct. 1, 1949. The image of the magnificent tower is the core part of New China's national emblem.
Since its opening, Tian'anmen has received 53 million tourists.
A 6-year-old boy, Chen Zheyu, who came with his parents from Nanjing, eastern Jiangsu Province, became the 53 millionth visitor to Tian'anmen. They received a commemorative certificate and a souvenir from Vice Mayor of Beijing Liu Jingmin.