Situated on the 8 kilometer long central Axis of the Old Capital, the Upright Gate (Duan Men ; 端門) is one of the many Gates of the huge complex of the Forbidden City and its surrounding Imperial City. To be exact, the Upright Gate stands almost in the center of the old city of Beijing, due north of The Square of Heavenly Peace where
the Upright Gate is the next Gate to the north after passing through the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian´An Men). As a result of this position, it is one of the most viewed, passed by and enjoyed Gates of the entire former Imperial Palace and surrounding Gardens. Technically though, it is part of the Imperial City that surrounded the `Forbidden City` and thus today it is not regarded as part of the Palace Museum proper.
Except for its fairly unique and historic traditional flair, the Upright Gate is interesting for its likeness to the original Gate of Heavenly Peace which stands just to the south. Both Gates were originally constructed at around the same time, during the Ming Dynasty Era and their designs are in principal identical.
Secondly, so far the Upright Gate is the only Gate that is open to the public for visits to its platform and of course Central Hall riding atop of it. To appreciate the feeling of what it was like to stand guard overlooking the walls and the Forbidden City or be an Emperor looking down upon the "little people" you simply must go to the Upright Gate, climb to its top and admire its solid yet elegant architecture and appreciate the unique views of the "Forbidden City" extending beyond to the North. One could spend some serious time up there and it is also a great place to have
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The view of the Upright Gate from the base and opening of the the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian´An Men). A Large square with alongside several buildings lies in between.
Directions to Upright Gate (Duan Men) - How to Get There
Due to its mentioned central position within the old city center of Beijing and along the central axis of Palace and City, finding ones way to the Upright Gate (端門) for a visit should not be too difficult. Although technically speaking there are several routes to the Upright Gate, most people would prefer to take the southern approach from the Square of Heavenly Peace and the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian´An Men).
SOUTHERN ROUTE :
The Central Axis of Palace and City, made clearly visible by a wide paved way, pass through the Upright Gate. Through the opening of Upright Gate one can make out a glimpse of the next Gate beyond, the Gate of the Meridian, which is the south gate and entrance of the `Forbidden City` and the Palace Museum proper.
your souvenir photo taken featuring you on a Throne with the view of the Palace in the background. An exhibition inside the Hall atop the platform completes the rather thrilling experience.
The Central Axis of Palace (and City) is made visible by the subsequent Gates and Halls of the Imperial City and Palace. In the bottom of the image stands the Gate of Heavenly Pace, followed by the upright Gate. Beyond Upright Gate is a rectangular courtyard on the north end of which stands the Merdian Gate and south entrance of the Palace Museum Proper.
sights of the Square and the Gate of Heavenly Peace, one can easily move on northward by passing through the central opening of the Gate of Heavenly Peace. After passing through Tian'anMen from the south one enters into a large marble square courtyard with low buildings set along both sides. This is the space between Tian an Men and Duan Men gates (Men=Gate) and the Upright Gate is immediately in view on the opposite northern end of this square.
EASTERN AND WESTERN ROUTES TO THE UPRIGHT GATE :
In principle, the Upright Gate can
Visitors to the Palace Museum flock along the Central Axis and through the Upright Gate to reach the Gate of the Meridian. It is a considerable walk.
Instructions are as follows: Find your way to the the East Gate (Donghua Men) but do not buy a ticket to the Palace Museum and do not pass through the Gate. Instead, choose the direction of the pedestrian footpath which is clearly visible between the wide waters of the moat and the road that leads south along the wall towards the south-east corner watchtower (This road is by the way known as Beijing's "First Ring Road"). After reaching the watchtower and taking some time to inspect it more up close, turn the corner and move further beyond. Luckily, here there is no wrong turn one could make.
Relax, enjoy and follow the road all the way along the base of the outer Palace Walls until one is met by a side-gate which stands underneath the much larger Gate of the Meridian. Leave the moat behind to Pass through this side-gate and reach the huge rectangular courtyard which lies between the Gate of the Meridian in the
In the evening the Palace Museum closes up, as do its massive Gates. However, access through the Gate of Heavenly Peace and the Upright Gate remains possible until late making the walk through and along the outer walls of the Palace a popular attraction.
north and the Upright Gate in the South. The last necessary action to be taken is to turn and south and walk towards the Upright Gate.
Architecture of the Upright Gate (Duan Men ; 端門) :
The Courtyard to the south and in front of the Upright Gate (Duan Men) contains 26 buildings, 13 along each of it sides. The buildings on the west side used to be the location of the main offices of the "Board of Works", the workers and artisans who maintained and sometimes reivented the Palace.
On the east flank of the couryard in front of the Upright Gate were the offices for the important "Board of Rites" which oversaw all aspects of the largely ceremonial life of the Emperor and the rest of the court.
The Upright Gate (端門 ) is identical in design to the original Gate of Heavenly Peace which stands immediately to its south. It was designed and built along with the Palace in the years between 1406 AD and 1420 AD of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD) making it one of the most important original structures of the Palace.
As with its twin, the Upright Gate is 33.7 meters high and is painted bright red (or "purple"). The building is 60 meters long, 37 meters wide and encompasses over 20 thousand square meters.
The large Pavilion centered atop its platform counts 60 pillars and has 36 windows that open to the south. It is further noted for its hipped roof with symbolical 9 ridges, double upturned eaves and 10 ornamental glazed pottery dragons atop its yellow tiled roof.
The only major difference between the two gates is that the Gate of
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View through the opening of the Upright Gate at the next Gate beyond, the Gate of the Meridian. Before the enlargement of the the Square of Heavenly Peace further south this was the largest square space in Beijing inside and outside the Palace proper.
The Upright Gate (Duan Men ; 端門) Today :
Already a well visited location throughout the international seclusion of China in the years of Mao Zedong, ever since the 1980's a steadily growing stream of visitors, national and international have passed in its view and through its opening, usually on to a visit to the internationally renowned, fabled and unique Palace Museum of Beijing.
The Upright Gate is the only Gate structure which visitors are actually allowed to enter and climb atop, making at an interesting place to pay a visit to. Making ones way up to the tower platform, one can clearly see the confines of the Imperial Ancestral Temple (Tai Miao) in the east and the Park of the Altar of Land and Grain (now Sun Yat Sen ; Zhongshan Park) in the west. From the platform one can look over at the north- and back-side of the Gate of Heavenly Peace, and on the other side one can take in the sight of the gargantuan Gate of the Meridian standing hundreds of meters north yet remaining impressive and almost view filling.
In addition to the views to be taken in, there is an exhibition in the Hall atop the platform and one can have ones photo taken with the Gate of Heavenly Peace as a background.
Recent exhibitions have been the Exhibition of Hundreds of Emperors and an Exhibition of Calligraphy and Painting Masterpieces by Famous Artists.
SPECIAL TIP FOR THE UPRIGHT GATE :
You may find it interesting to loiter outside of the Gate of the Meridian (Wu Men) after the closing time of the Palace Museum. In the early spring and during much of the fall season the times more or less coincides with the sun-up and sun-down, at which times the ceremonial guards detail of the Palace Museum (and the Square of Heavenly Peace) marches out for their daily National
Live like an Emperor, if only for a few moments, and have your picture taken atop the Platform of the Upright Gate. It could be the closest you ever get to feeling like : you own the place". Its highly recommended ! (Photo: November 20, 2003)
History of the Upright Gate (Duan Men ; 端門) :
According to the information given by the Palace Museum itself, the Upright Gate was designed along with the original Palace of the Ming Dynasty which came complete in 1420 AD and was inaugurated on the 1st Day of the Lunar New Year of 1421.
In the history of the Imperial Palace, the tower of the Upright Gate (Duan Men) was the location where the royal articles for use in important court ceremonies were stored. These were stored at the Upright Gate until necessary.
According to court rituals, the Emperor would come to collect the ritual articles on the day before royal rites (or other important occasions), were to be held, on which occasion he was escorted by a train of ladies of the court, high officials and everyone else needed to make it a grandiose event to be as auspicious as possible. It is said that when the Emperor traveled out to the Upright Gate in his sedan chair (he never walked on his way official ceremonies) was followed by a line of attendees stretching the entire distance back to the Throne Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), a distance of roughly 3 miles. Meanwhile, as ritual stipulated, the bells and drums on the Gate of the Meridian and the Upright Gate were stricken in solemn rhythm to show the supremacy and dignity of royal power.
Other ceremonies involving the Upright Gate were the death of an Emperor, the marriage of the Emperor and another the graduation of the three best of the "Jinshi" - those who had passed the highest levels with of the Imperial Exams with flying colors - all because in this case a procession was sent along the central axis of the Palace.
In the case of the death of an Emperor, at least during the rule of the Qing Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD) the coffin was kept in the Palace until the day before the funeral, when the funeral vehicles and mourners were arranged in special dispositions outside the Meridian Gate to the north of the Upright Gate. After having gone through due ceremonies the coffin would be covered with a pall, and carried to the hearse.
Crowds are not allowed to follow the guards detail through the Gate of Heavenly Peace and onto Eternal Peace Avenue and must stop at the Upright Gate, however its quite a wortwhile spectacle to follow and witness.
In recent years, after continuous economic boom of over 25 years, a growing number of Chinese Nationals have managed to make their way to the Gates of the Imperial Palace and thus pay a visit to the solemn and massive Upright Gate. Visitor numbers boom during such National Holidays as the "Spring Festival" (Chinese New Year), and the may 1st and October 1st national holiday weeks.
Best times to visit are outside of these weeks, unless you really do love the crowds.
At other times, the path through the Upright Gate is always busy, however additional crowds flock about on the weekends.
Come at any other time to maximize the joy of your visit and do not forget to return one evening to appreciate the atmosphere and the views of the Palace at Night.
During daytimes, especially in the summer high season, special performances are given atop the platform on the balcony of the main hall allowing the crowds passing by a hint of what it may have been like in
Visitors flock to the Palace Museum each day of every year, no matter the season. In winter the Palace takes on entirely different charm coming snow and cold. Winter days can be bone chilling in Beijing in which case on better come prepared and drink some hot tea on the go inside the Museum.
the far past when Court officials "read down" or shouted down the latest laws, edicts and decrees issued by the Emperor - although in reality this done at the Gate of the Meridian. As was the meeting out of punishment to high court officials, which was done at the outer gate so that the citizenry may witness the retributions taken against corrupt or otherwise devious court officials.
thereafter the Upright Gate was used as the storeroom of cultural antiques of Historical Museum, among which the treasures taken from last Emperor Pu Yi upon his eviction from the Palace in late 1924.
Although the Palace Museum was opened in 1925 to what was at the time already a world public, much of the Palace Museum lay virtually unattended for many decades thereafter, with the Upright Gate House filled with antiques and relics from the feudal Centuries.
It was at some time during these years that the Upright Gate become home to a section of the National Museum of History. The other section of it was housed at the larger Gate of the Meridian.
Originally, the Museum of Chinese History developed out of the ranks and organization of The National History Museum which was constructed in 1912 at the site of Beijing Guozijian. However, later this Museum was moved to the Meridian Gate (Wumen) and the Upright Gate (Duanmen) of the Forbidden City. Only some years after the founding of the People Republic of China, the government
Snowy views from the platform of the Upright Gate in winter 2003. From the Upright Gate one can see the roofs of the Palaces and Halls beyond, as well as the Imperial Ancestral Shrine and Sun Yat Sen Park.
decided to build a giant new museum along the east of the Square of Heavenly Peace in August, 1958 moving all of artifacts and relics at the Upright Gate and other depositories into the Museum at the Square of Heavenly Peace in the next September of 1959.
Thus the Upright Gate continued to have this function as a storage facility during the first years of the People’s Republic of China, when no clear decision had yet been reached upon the future of the Palace Museum and indeed much of the country and nation.
It was only in 1999 that the upright Gate was finally restored, due to its authenticity becoming one of the best-preserved ancient architectural structures of the Forbidden City. Since the year 1999 it has been officially opened to visitors and countless have visited since. The courtyard spanning from the Upright Gate (Duanmen) north to the Meridian Gate (Wu Men) measures a whapping 30.680 square meters. It was intended as a buffer zone situated at the front (the auspicious and sunny south) of the actual Palace which served as the location for several important ministries and their offices. The Upright Gate then was their outer Gate.
On each side of this royal street, there were 21 buildings which altogether held hundreds of rooms for many officials of these Ministries. If things went well at court, work went on all day and usually started in the early morning so as to prepare in time before their morning meeting with Emperor.
Heavenly Peace has five openings (3 major ones and 2 minor side-gates) whereas the Upright Gate has but one opening. Everyone must pass through the same tunnel on their way to the Gate of the Meridian.
Upright Gate (Duan Men ; 端門) - Location Coordinates: 39° 54' 32" North 116° 23' 28" East
Any other visible differences to the exteriors of the two Gates were added at a later time. In particular, the Gate of Heavenly Peace carries an additional small pavilion atop its platform, situated to the immediate east of the main central Hall. Furthermore, the front exterior of the Gate of Heavenly Peace has been refurbished with the coming to power of the Chinese Communist Party ruling through the Government of the Peoples Republic of China. Ever since it has been repainted bright red offset with clear white lines.
The Gate of Heavenly Peace was further decorated with two inscribed plaquettes or very large boards and of course, the infamous Chairman Mao portrait whereas the Upright Gate remains in its originally intended state of splendor, virtually unmodified since the year 1420 A.D.
The view of the north and inner side of the Gate of Heavenly Peace covered in snow. The Gate of Heavenly Peace is principally identical in design to the Upright Gate.
It was then accompanied by all the mourners to the Meridian Gate, where the crown prince alone was to halt, leave the procession and turn back. The coffin was carried through the Meridian Gate to the Upright Gate, and from there to the north-west corner of the "tartar city" where it passed out of the Deshengmen Gate and was the carried all the way to the Royal Tombs. Memorial altars were set up beforehand along this way, where hereditary nobles, officials, members of the imperial family, ministers, monks, Taoist priests and local squires saw the deceased emperor off and held sacrifices for him. The crown prince, meanwhile, held an ancestral worship sacrifice in the Ancestral Temple adjacent and to the east of Upright Gate.
In case of a Royal Wedding, on the day of the "Grand Nuptuals" the Empress would enter the Forbidden City at dawn, passing through the Upright Gate and the Gate of the Meridian to the Throne Hall and its attendant buildings where the actual wedding ceremony took place. Traveling along the the central axis from south to north into the Palace had various important symbolic meanings and the magical effects of doing so were enhanced by passing through Upright Gate and passing underneath the very ritual objects that the Emperor used in the highest rituals of the Divination of the Heaven's.
In case of the best Confucian Scholars, the yearly vintage of the three highest ranking scholars in the national examinations would leave the Forbidden City through the central door, a high honor normally reserved for the Emperor only, as a reward for their incredible efforts at achievement and in order for them to spread their knowledge and use their wisdom in the world of the Empire beyond. This privilege was symbolic of the importance paid to Confucian scholarship, a service and system that was indispensable to the Empire and the Court and it also symbolized the promise of future service to the country and the Emperor.
The young scholars would proceed south to the Duanmen Gate and then to the Gate of Heavenly Peace and so out to the city along the symbolic and magically empowered central axis.
After the successful Xinhai Revolution of 1911, the abdication of the Qing Dynasty and advent of the first Republic of China in 1912 and subsequently for a long period
Except for admiring its marvelous exterior, visitors and passers-by are allowed to make their way to the Platform of the Upright Gate and take in the view. There is plenty of room for many.