Door Knobs Mystery

Door Knobs MysteryAccording to the engineering standards of the Ministry of Works of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) , there were three kinds of arrangements for the gilded ornamental knobs on each of the double doors of the Forbidden City, ranging from 81  (nine rows of nine knobs) , 49 (seven rows of seven knobs) to 25 (five rows of five knobs). These symbolized three ranks, of which nine was the highest.

But each door of Donghuamen (East Flowery Gate of the Forbidden City) has 72 knobs (nine row of eight knobs), the only exception. What accounts for this? Explanations differ.

One explanation blames superstition. Yin and yang are two opposing principles in ancient Chinese philosophy. Ancient Chinese believed that odd numbers and the living belonged to yang while even numbers and the dead belonged to yin. The funeral processions of the Qing Emperors Shunzhi, Jiaqing and Daoguang went out of the palace through Donghuamen; therefore, the number of knobs there is even.

Another explanation is that Donghuamen originally had 81 knobs. After Li Zicheng, leader of the peasant uprising towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, led peasants to capture Beijing in 1644, the last Ming Emperor Chongzhen, escaped from the Forbidden City through Donghuamen and hanged himself at the Coal Hill (now JingshanPark). When Donghuamen was restored in the early Qing Dynasty, the landlords, had a line of knobs removed to punish the gate for not blocking the Emperor’s way.

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