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Wumen - Meridian Gate of Forbidden City

Wumen in Chinese, is the southern entrance of the Forbidden City. It is also called Meridian Gate because the emperor believed that they were sons of Heaven, and his residence was the center of universe and that the meridian line went right though the city. 

The Meridian Gate was first built in 1420 and rebuilt in 1647. It is 35.6 meters high with five openings. There were strict rules to follow when people enter the Forbidden City. The central one was only for the emperor. High-ranking civil and military officials went through the side gate on the east and royal family members on the west. Further side gates were for the low-ranking officials.

Empress was granted the privilege of using this entrance once, and only once, on her wedding day. As a special honour, the three finalists who achieved the highest awards in the national examinations presided over by the emperor, would be permitted to march through this archway, following their interview with the emperor. The smaller arch to the east was used by ministers while that to the west was used by the royal family. The remaining arches were used by petty officials. 

Ordinary people were forbidden to enter the city.

In the ancient time, emperors would bestow foods to ministers on days of important Chinese solar terms. On the first day of October on solar calendar every year, emperors would issue next year' calendar. After wars, Emperors would receive captives themselves here. Also on the left side of the Imperial Way, which goes through the central opening, baculine penalty would be executed on those who offended emperors. 

The Meridian Gate was the place to announce the new lunar calendar for the following year, to celebrate victories and accept prisoners of war from the dispatched generals. This was also the place where emperors in the Ming Dynasty would punish the offending officials by heating them with sticks. It was recorded that in 1519 as the emperor wanted to select beauties from the lower Changjiang valley, ministers tried to dissuade him. The emperor got infuriated and 146 officials got beaten on one occasion and 11 were beaten to death on the spot. This punishment, known as "court beating", was abolished in the Qing Dynasty.

The gate is surmounted by five towers known as the Five-Phoenix Tower, the main gate-tower is the rectangular in shape and flanked by massive wings to the east and west. On each wing are two square towers connected by covered galleries. Drums (on the east) and bells (on the west) were installed in the towers. When the emperor went to Tiantan( the Temple of Heaven), bells were struck, and when he offered sacrifices to the deceased emperors in Taimiao (the Ancestral Temple), drums were beaten to make it known to the public.

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