The Story Behind The Iconic Yet Mysterious Figure Known As ‘Tank Man’

There are very few photos that most people can see and recognize as having seen it somewhere before. One of those rare photos is the iconic photo of a lone unidentified Chinese man standing before a column of tanks. This was the birth of ‘Tank Man’ who would soon become a symbol of freedom. Nobody knew who he was or where he went. Like a comic book hero, he came out of nowhere, made a statement with a simple non-violent move, and then disappeared, never to be heard from again. But, what is the real story behind this iconic incident?

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1A shot ruined

On June 5, 1989, a column of tanks was leaving Tiananmen Square. Photographers were naturally lined up to get the best shot. One of them happened to be Jeff Widener who was annoyed that a Chinese man had come into the shot. Little did Jeff know that he was about to take one of the most iconic photos to ever be taken.

A shot ruined

Image Source: thethaiger.com

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2Tank Man was born

This was the birth of ‘Tank Man’. The unidentified Chinese man fearlessly stood in front of a raging column of tanks and halted their progress. This was a huge moment for the country as the tanks were there as part of the military action that had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests by force.

Tank Man was born

Image Source: nytimes.com

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3A statement was made

Once the photos of this daring action were taken by reporters and spread across the world, ‘Tank Man’ was the name given as nobody knew who the person in the image was. Media headlines ran with the story as an unidentified Chinese man opposed the tanks during the protest to show the will and strength of the people.

photos of this daring action

Image Source: www.history.com

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4Nobody knew who he was

At that time nobody knew who this unidentified man or student was who stood in front of the tanks. According to Shao Jiang who was a student leader at that time, he said that many people had stopped the tanks but only ‘Tank Man’ was photographed.

Nobody knew who he was

Image Source: bwbx.io

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5How did the incident play out?

The incident took place at the northeast edge of Tiananmen Square, along Chang’an Avenue. It was the day after the Chinese government took strict and violent actions on the Tiananmen protests. This outraged the people who could not do anything due to the military being present. It was a column of approaching Type 59 tanks that ‘Tank Man’ stood in front of.

How-did-the-incident-play-out

Image Source: npr.org

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