The Meridian Gate is very
grand, with five openings, and is the largest and main
gate of the Forbidden City.
The gate is 35.6 meters high and
surmounted by five pavilions. Because each pavillion
resembles a pheonix, this gate is also known as
WuFengLou, which means 'Five Phoenix Tower'.
There were strict rules to follow when
people entered the Forbidden City. Entering through the
central opening was the emperors' exclusive privilege;
their empresses were allowed to go through the opening
only once - on their wedding day.
The top three in the national
examinations, presided by the emperor in the final stage,
would be allowed to pass through the central arch once on
leaving after meeting the emperor.
The east opening was for the ministers
while the west opening was for the royal family. The
other openings were for other officials. Ordinary people
were absolutely forbidden to enter the city.
Today, however, visitors enter through
the central tunnel and, in doing so, one gets a first
glimpse of the vast spaces and grand structures within
the Forbidden City.
Entering through the central arch.
In the pavilions are drums
that were used to announce an emperor's departure to the
Temple of Heaven and bells to announce his departure to
the Ancestral Temple. Both would toll to announce that
the emperor was going to receive his ministers in the Hall
of Supreme Harmony (TaiHeDian)
The Meridian Gate as seen from the Gate of Supreme Harmony across the first courtyard.
:The First Couryard