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Forbidden City - Meridian Gate 


 

The Meridian Gate, Wumen in Chinese, is the southern entrance of the Forbidden City. In addition,according to the ancient Chinese compass,the Meridian indicates the south.Chinese emperors believed that they were the Sons of Heaven and therefore should live at the center of the universe. They believed the Meridian Line went through the Forbidden City, so this gate was named accordingly. Wumen is the largest and most imposing of the entrances and is the main gate to the Forbidden City. It has five openings and is 35.6 meters high. The gate is surmounted by five pavilions named Wufenglou, which means 'The Tower of the Five Phoenix'. The tower housed drums which were beaten to announce the emperor's departure for the Temple of Heaven, while bells were rung to announce their departure to the Ancestral Temple. The bells and drums were sounded when the emperor was going to receive his ministers in Taihedian (Hall of Supreme Harmony).

The 14 emperors of the Ming and 10 emperors of the Qing dynasties ruled China with an absolute authority which probably has no equivalent in human history. However, except for the room which the emperor would choose to stay for the night to avoid possible assassins, they had very little privacy. When they went to the Temple of Heaven, bells in the west pavilion were struck. When they went to the Ancestral Temple, drums in the eastern pavilion were beaten. Modern day VIPS simply follow suit-sirens and motorcycles in front, a long fleet of cars behind.

"Why were there five openings?", simply because people of different classes or social statues shouldn't walk in through the same opening. The central opening was reserved for the emperor alone, the empress was entitled to go through the opening once-on her Wedding Day.

Everyone who entered the Forbidden City had to observe strict rules concerning the use of the Meridian Gate. The central arch was for the exclusive use of the emperor. However, an empress was granted the privilege of using this entrance once, and only once, on her wedding day. As a special honour, the three finalists who achieved the highest awards in the national examinations presided over by the emperor, would be permitted to march through this archway, following their interview with the emperor. The smaller arch to the east was used by ministers while that to the west was used by the royal family. The remaining arches were used by petty officials. Ordinary people were forbidden to enter the city.

A number of special events would take place at the Meridian Gate. On the equivalent of the 1st October, the emperor would issue the solar calendar for the coming year. The calendar would indicate the days on which various ceremonies would be held. In ancient times, emperors would bestow food on ministers to mark important days in the solar year. After wars, Emperors would receive captives here. Also, to the left of the Imperial Way which passes through the central arch, those who had offended the emperor would receive a flogging as their punishment.

Now you must feel honoured to march into the central opening. Do you see Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihemen) in the north?