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Meridian Gate(Wu Men)

Meridian Gate(Wu Men)

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Jan. 25, 2022

The Meridian Gate is the main entrance to the Forbidden City. It was called Meridian Gate because the emperor believed that the Meridian line went right through the Forbidden City and his imperial residence was the center of the cosmos.

In addition, according to the ancient Chinese compass, the Meridian indicates the south, so the Gate also serves as the southern gate to the Forbidden City.

Meridian GateMeridian Gate

The Meridian gate was the place where the Emperor announced the new lunar calendar on the Winter Solstice (the first day of the 19th lunar month) each year. When ageneral returned from a battle, his captives would be "offered" to the emperor in a ceremony here, which was known as a victorious ceremony of "Accepting War Captives".

Before this ceremony the Emperor would pay sacrifice to altars such as the Altar of Earth and Grain (in today's Zhongshan Park)and the Altar of Imperial Ancestry (today's Cultural Palace of the Working People), which are close to the Meridian Gate.

Meridian GateNight View of Meridian Gate

It is said that the capital punishment was carried out outside the Meridian gate but the there are no accurate records to verify this. Nonetheless the famous "Ting Zhang" or Court Beating (a penalty to punish those offending officials by beating them with heavy sticks on their hips) did take place in the courtyard in front of the gate.

It is recorded that in 1519, more than 130 officials tried to dissuade Emperor Zhu Hongzhao of the Ming Dynasty from going out to the south to select beautiful girls. The official's discouragement offended the Emperor and these officials were beaten and 11 of whom were even beaten to death on the spot. Fortunately, this cruel punishment was abolished in the following Qing Dynasty.

Through the Meridian Gate, across the Golden Stream Bridge is the Hall of Supreme Harmony. It was the highest and most important building throughout the nation during the Ming and Qing times.

What are some interesting facts about the Forbidden City?

  • The Forbidden City is the world’s largest imperial palace, over three times larger than the Louvre Palace in France.
  • It has some of the largest and best-preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.
  • The Forbidden City took 14 years to build (from 1406 to 1420) and was built by over 1,000,000 workers, including more than 100,000 craftsmen.
  • It was the imperial palace of China for 492 years (1420–1912) and was the home of 24 emperors — 14 of the Ming Dynasty and 10 of the Qing Dynasty.
  • The Palace Museum in the Forbidden City is one of the world's largest cultural museums, hosting 14 million visitors per year.
  • Exotic buildings? There are European and Arabic style buildings in the Forbidden City.
  • No trees! There are no trees in the Outer Court because emperors thought they would overshadow or disrupt the majesty of the atmosphere.
  • No Birds? Birds cannot land on the palace roofs, which have a special design so as to retain the cleanliness and magnificence of the Forbidden City.
  • Cold Palaces? The palaces where concubines or princes who made mistakes and lost the favor of the emperor lived were called the 'Cold Palaces'.  
  • 9,999½ rooms? Legend has it that the Forbidden City was redesigned to have 9,999½ rooms. Half a room is missing to avoid upsetting the God of Heaven (who was believed to have 10,000 rooms in his heavenly palace).
  • Higher-status palaces in the Forbidden City had more complex patterns of doors and windows.
  • Fakes! The Palace Museum also (deliberately) exhibits some “fakes”. These forgeries are very similar to the originals and are no less valuable.  
  • The emperors’ routine in the Forbidden City was very regular. They usually got up at 4 a.m. and went to bed at 8 p.m.  See A Day in the Life of Emperor Qianlong in the Forbidden City

See more interesting facts on 15 Interesting Facts about the Forbidden City.

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