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English / USA Language: English / USA

The Meridian Gate is also known as the Five Phoenix Turrets, a reference to the five tower pavilions around it. The central tower, with two glazed tile roofs, is 60 meters high and sits on a 12-meter-high red base, where you’ll see three entrances.

Anyone arriving in the Forbidden City had to observe very strict rules. The central entrance was reserved for the emperor only, with two exceptions: the empress, who had the privilege of using it to enter on her wedding day, and the top three students in the imperial examinations, who were allowed to exit through the gate. The two smaller gates were used respectively for ministers and public officials, and for the royal family.

At the two sides of the central tower, you can see the bells that were rung to announce the emperor’s departure for the Temple of Heaven.


Now press pause and press play again once you enter.


Just after you go through the gate, you’ll find five bridges with marble balustrades elaborately sculpted with dragon and phoenix motifs. The bridges cross the two-kilometer-long Golden Water River. The central bridge was used by the emperor only, and the others by members of his court. Because most of the structural elements of the palace were made from wood, the river also provided a source of water to put out fires, in addition to its decorative function.

The large square on the other side of the river measures 10,000 square meters, and as you can see, is closed off by the magnificent Gate of Supreme Harmony, the main gate of the outer courtyard, guarded by two bronze lions, symbolizing the emperor’s power. The male lion, with his right front paw resting on a globe was a symbol of imperial power over the entire world, while the lioness on the other side, with her left front paw resting on a lion cub, emphasizes the role of mother held by the empress.

Now go through the Gate of Supreme Harmony, which leads to the Hall of Literary Glory.


An interesting fact: if you’re wondering why there are no trees in the squares, it’s because the emperor was considered the Son of Heaven, and no living being could reach a higher position than his.

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