Gate of Supreme Harmony

Gate of Supreme HarmonyGate of Supreme Harmony is guarded by a pair of bronze lions, symbolizing the imperial power. In ancient times, lions were supposed to be good door-keepers and put at the gate to ward off evil spirits. Lions are frequently seen in front of buildings as guardians, one playing with a ball (male) and the other a cub (female): It was considered auspicious.

The ball is said to represent imperial treasury or peace. The cub sucks milk from underneath the claw, because the female doesn’t have breast.

Now we are at the Gate of Supreme Harmony, the gate leading to the palace court. The emperors of Ming Dynasty attended to state affairs and summoned their ministers for consultations here. In the Qing Dynasty, state affairs were handled in the inner court.
Proceeding to the north, you can see a vast courtyard, 10,000square metres in area. Flanking the courtyard are 33 room-units on each side. They were used as warehouses for storing fur, porcelain, silver, tea, satin and clothes, etc.

In the courtyard there are iron vats for storing water against fire. In the whole complex there are altogether 308 water vats, 18 of them gilded. Most of them were made in the Ming Dynasty. On the roofs of these buildings you can see lightning arresters installed in 1953. The roofs are of yellow glazed-tiles, as yellow was the colour reserved for the emperor. The Forbidden City was heavily guarded, yet the emperor still did not feel secure and was worried that someone might tunnel his way into the palace. So, the ground bricks were laid in a special way: seven layers lengthwise and eight layers crosswise, making up fifteen layers in all.
On the triple marble terrace you find eighteen bronze incense burners. They represented the eighteen provinces in the Qing Dynasty. On this huge terrace stand three big halls: the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Complete Harmony and the Hall of Preserving Harmony, all lying on the north-south axis. Each terrace is higher than the other, encircled by marble balustrades carved with dragon and phoenix designs. From the edge of the terraces jut out heads of mythical monsters, which serve both as decorations and rainspouts. They stand out as works of art, whether seen from afar or close by.

There are three staircases leading to the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the central one was reserved for the emperor. He was carried in a sedan-chair to the marble ramp, which was covered with red carpet on big occasions. The side staircases were for others.
On the terrace in the east stands a sun-dial. It could be used when there was sunlight. People looked at the markings of time on its upper part in summer and on its lower part in winter. In the west there is a little pavilion in which a copper grain measure is kept. The measure was used as the national standard in the Qing Dynasty, but it was al-ways in favour of the ruling class. The grain measure and the sun-dial were symbols of imperial justice and rectitude. The dragon-headed tor-toises and storks, a pair of each kind, were incense burners. The tor-toise was a symbol of longevity and strength while the stork represented longevity.

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