May 30, 1989 (a Tuesday)

Goddess of Democracy

On this date, dissident Chinese art students finished setting up a large, 10-meter-tall (33 ft) sculpture called the “Goddess of Democracy” (民主女神) in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Modeled after the Statue of Liberty, it became one of the enduring symbols of the protest.

The art students who created the statue wrote a declaration that said in part:

At this grim moment, what we need most is to remain calm and united in a single purpose. We need a powerful cementing force to strengthen our resolve: That is the Goddess of Democracy. Democracy…You are the symbol of every student in the Square, of the hearts of millions of people. …Today, here in the People’s Square, the people’s Goddess stands tall and announces to the whole world: A consciousness of democracy has awakened among the Chinese people! The new era has begun! …The statue of the Goddess of Democracy is made of plaster, and of course cannot stand here forever. But as the symbol of the people’s hearts, she is divine and inviolate. Let those who would sully her beware: the people will not permit this! …On the day when real democracy and freedom come to China, we must erect another Goddess of Democracy here in the Square, monumental, towering, and permanent. We have strong faith that that day will come at last. We have still another hope: Chinese people, arise! Erect the statue of the Goddess of Democracy in your millions of hearts! Long live the people! Long live freedom! Long live democracy!

Protesters surrounding the sculpture of the Goddess of Democracy in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, May 30, 1989.

The document was signed by the eight art academies that sponsored the creation of the statue: The Central Academies of Fine Arts, Arts and Crafts, Drama, and Music; the Beijing Film Academy; the Beijing Dance Academy; the Academy of Chines Local Stage Arts; and the Academy of Traditional Music.

Photo from May 30, 1989; a student from an art institute plasters the neck of the Goddess of Democracy

The Goddess of Democracy had stood for only five days before being destroyed by soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army in the assault on Tiananmen that would end the Democracy Movement. Nevertheless, the original statue has become an icon of liberty and a symbol of the free speech and democracy movements.

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