Tank Man is considered one of the most important images in recent history and is included in 100 Photographs That Changed the World, a book of iconic photographs assembled by the editors of Life in 2003 (in fact it is one of the images on the cover).
The incident took place near Tiananmen Square on Chang'an Avenue, on June 5, 1989, one day after the Chinese government had violently crushed a huge student demonstration. The man positioned himself in the middle of the road, right in line with the tanks. He was just an ordinary man, carrying his two bags of shopping, one in each hand, and it is because he looked so ordinary, so much like us, that his actions that day seem all the more heroic and utterly extraordinary.
The tanks were forced to stop to avoid crushing the man and the leading tank then tried to drive round him but Tank Man kept moving round too, blocking the path of the armored vehicle. Finally the leading tank cut the engines, and after a brief pause, the man climbed up onto the lead tank. He then climbed right up on to the turret and it appears he conversed with someone before getting down from the tank.
When the tanks tried to move onwards the man again moved his body in front of the vehicle forcing it to stop once again. At this point, two figures were seen pulling the man away and the three of them disappeared into the nearby crowd. The tanks finally moved away and the incident passed but a hero was born that day and the man in the photo became known world-wide as the "Unknown Rebel".
Below is a documentary about the legendary tank man and surrounding events of the student protest in Tiananmen Square 1989. It's fairly long but well worth watching.
Check out Alberto Korda's iconic photograph of Che Guevara.
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