Meridian Gate

  Meridian GateThis is the main gate of the Purple Forbidden City. The purple colour was symbolically attributed to the North Star, and it was used here to show that the imperial residence was a cosmic centre. The emperor believed that the meridian line went through the city. The gate was also nicknamed the “Five-Phoenix Tower,” in which drums (on the east) and bells (on the west) were installed. When the emperor went to the Temple of Heaven, bells were struck to celebrate this important occasion. When he went to the Ancestral Temple, it was Made known to the public by beating drums.

  The gate has five openings. The central passage was reserved for the emperor alone. High-ranking civil and military officials went in through the side gate on the east and royal family members on the west. The further side gates were for petty officials.

Celebrations of victories, ceremonies of “accepting” prisoners of war and announcement of the new calendar all took place here. In the Ming Dynasty, this was also the place where the emperor punished high officials. The offending officials would be taken out of the gate and beaten with sticks. It was recorded that in 1524, 134 men were beaten on one single occasion and 17 died on the spot.
  Now we approach the Five Marble Bridges on Golden Water River. The bridges were supposed to represent the five virtues preached by Confucius – benevolence, righteousness, rites, intelligence and fidelity. They were shaped like five arrows reporting symbolically to Heaven because the emperor considered himself the Son of Heaven.

  The buildings on the east were the Imperial Secretariat and the Chronicler’s Offices where the daily activities of the emperor were recorded by scholars. The buildings on the west were for translators.

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