The big square in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony is 30, 000 square meters in area. The grand courtyard was necessary to accommodate large number of civil and military officials who would assemble here for important ceremonies. In the old days, whenever the grand ceremonies were held in the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the civil officials and military officers all dressed in their splendid ceremonial robes and would stand in the courtyard in lines with high ranking officials in front and the bronze Rank Marker or Rank Label beside them. When a long whip cracked three times as a signal, they all performed the three kowtows and nine prostrations ( to kneel three times with the head touching the ground nine times). During the ceremony, the emperor sat on his throne and all the incense burners were used as the ceremony went on. The fragrant clouds of cense rising from the incense burners inside and outside the Hall of Supreme Harmony made all the attendants feel a very awesome atmosphere with imposing surroundings.
(1) Ti Ren Ge＆Hong Yi Ge：The buildings on each side of the Gate of Supreme Harmony in the courtyard are named Ti Ren Ge to the east, and Hong Yi Ge to the west. This is where there used to be warehouses for storing fur, silk, porcelain, silver, tea, satin, clothes, etc. While during the Qing Dynasty, Hongyige was a warehouse for storing jewelry.
(2) Werrhuadian：To the east of the Outer Court, is Wenhuadian ( the Hall of Literary Glory) , which served as the palace and a study for the crown prince during the early Ming Dynasty. During the Ming Dynasty, Yongle Encyclopedia ( Yongle Dadian) was originally kept in this hall.
(3) Wenyuange：Behind Wenhuadiae， is the Wenyuange ( the Pavilion of the Source of Literature) . the Qing imperial library, where the famous collection, known as Sikuquanshu ( Complete Library in the Four Branches of Literature) was formerly housed. The black glazed tiles were used on the roof of Wenyuange because the color of black represents water which is based on the theory of Five Elements, so that the black color can prevent the building from catching fire.
(4) Wuyingdian：To the west of the Outer Court, is Wuyingdian he Hall of Martial Spirit) where the Ming emperor used to abstain and give audience to the high officials. In 1644-Li Zicheng, the Peasant Uprising leader, overthrew the Ming Dynasty and proclaimed himself the emperor in this hall. When Qing Emperor Shun Zhi (1644-1661) entered Beijing, he ascended the throne here in this hall.