also the Five Phoenix Towers after its 5 pavilions riding atop the platform - is painted in a blood-red chalking, signaling the status of this separating wall. The Walls are colored red because this color signals "auspiciousness". This is what is known as The Purple Forbidden City, the Inner Palace City.
To the East- and West adjacent, the perimeter Walls lead away and around the Palace to be joined by the impressive moat just out of view beyond the side-gates.
Only High Officials could enter through Wu Men, and then still only on official invitation by the Palace. Entrance was that exclusive.
Angry chinese rickshaw-driver-who-wants-to-be-payed outside of the Eastern Side Gate of the Meridian Gate Ceremonial Square.
Follow the moat here to Dong Hua Men or visit the Imperial Ancestral Temple !
To make a small detour and see more of the solid brick walls surrounding the vast Palace Complex, go across the giant square in front of the Gate of the Meridian (Wu Men) and leave through one of the side gates found in the East and West. They are not hard to find, simply follow the Taxi's and small busses drive through here all the Time.
To give you some idea: this is Beijing's First Ring Road. The First ring road enters at the West Flowery Gate, the circles south along the Palace Wall and Moat and passes through a small gate onto the square south of the Gate of the Meridian (Wu Men). From there the first ring road the continues on between Wall and Moat to leave the route at Dong Hua Men, the East Flowery Gate more or less famous for its nightmarket with peculiar foods like snakes and scorpions. So, the "first ring road" connects three of the four Palace gates making it an ideal conduit for exploring these. In the past one had to walk the distance, not a very harsh punishment, however since a few years little electric buses have been taken into service, shuttling the distance between the Gate of the Meridian and the East Flowery Gate. Now that both the east- and west Gates are also open as entrances to the Palace Museum, the same electric buses also drive to and from the West Flowery Gate.
The Palace Walls turn to their normal color of grey brick once outside the view of the magnificent Meridian Gate and its square. From Wu Men and the side-gate a road and walking path lead around both to the East and the West Gates. The Northern Half of the Palace Walls cannot be approached. That is, there is only a narrow strip of land between the Palace Wall and the Moat on the East side, leading North from the East Flowery Gate (DongHuaMen). Usually the Gate is closed as this area is reserved as make-shift parking for Palace Workers. There is nothing worthwhile to view anyhow.
12 Stories Tall : Wu Men - the Gate of the Meridian with its Five Phoenix Pavilions on Top.
The Palace has not always had its current structure. The current Palace Museum is only the Inner Core of a larger Imperial Palace City. As hinted above and on several of our maps, in the Past the Imperial Palace had an even larger size at several Times.
More details on this will Follow on this Page, soon !
View of Jingshan and its Park looking North along the Imperial Cities' Central Axis from ShenWu Men, the Northern Gate of Divine Military Might.
Dong Hua Men - The Eastern Gate of the Imperial Palace in the Dongcheng District.
When walking around the Palace along the Walls and Moat, keep an eye out for the
Walk either West or East around the Palace, quite a distance, and end up at Shen Wu Men. Shen Wu Men, the Northern Gate (which no longer has a ticket office!) and stands across from Jingshan (Coal Hill) Park, which was once a part of the Imperial Palace Structure and a favorite pleasure Garden of Emperor Qianlong (of the Ching Dynasty). Jingshan was created with the debris of the raised Yuan Dynasty Palace which stood North of the Ming Palace location. In Agony, Shame and Despair over his sudden impotence, The Last Ming Emperor, Chong Zhen, killed himself at Jingshan when faced with the advancing Paeasants and Qing Armies in an undefended City.
The largest Gate by far is the southern Gate of the Meridian. The second largest is the north Gate of Divine Military Might and the two side-gates are of equal size.
In the strictly regulated court world of the past the Gates had their very own ceremonial functions, however today not much of that is left. That is, visitors still are not allowed to enter through the central ceremonial opening in each Gate, the one previously reserved for the Emperor, instead right hand openings are used as entrance, whereas left hand openings are usually used for visitors to exit through. It helps to regulate the flow of the millions who visit the Forbidden City yearly.
Until recently, only the north and south gates served as visitor entrances, with the East Gate being reserved for the use of the Staff of the Palace Museum and the West Gate being closed altogether. Today, this situation has been completely changed. Currently, the South Gate still serves as the main entrance to the Palace Museum. In addition, since 2011, the East and West Gates are now also open to the public. However, mind you: in order to guarantee the easy exit of the many daily visitors, the north gate is now no longer in use as an entrance. No tickets are on sale here and no entrance is allowed. Instead, the entire north Gate is reserved as the main exit point for the masses of tourist groups passing through.
The Moat in the East, beyond DongHuaMen is equally un-approachable due to the dense housing built immediately on its banks. Only in the North-East Corner great views of both Palace Wall and Watch-towers return.
In The West, North of the Western Gate (Xi Hua Men) the Moat is wide and equally difficult to approach. High two- or three-story wooden structures are built against the Palace Wall on the Palace Side, making it appear even higher. A single strip of housing prevent a walk along the Moat to the North.
interesting corner watchtowers. Study them with the eye and discover a magnificent design of complex wood-work and high grade carpentry. The corner watchtowers rank among the architectural masterpieces of the Palace !
The Corner Watchtowers are best approachable in the south-west corner and the south-east corner, although at times when the fences are opened, one is allowed to walk up to the north-east corner tower from the Gate of Divine Might passing alongside the base of the outside of the Wall itself.
3D Digital Map of Central Beijing - See Beijing in an entirely different way !! - CLICK THROUGH -
MOAT SURROUNDING THE FORBIDEN CITY:
To start on the outside, the Moat of the Forbidden City is 52 meters wide and 3800 meters long, today still reaching all around the Palace. At the height of the four gates of the Palace the Moat is pierced or over-arched by bridges, the largest and widest of which lies in front of the main ceremonial south Gate of the Meridian. The bridges in front of the other three palace gates are of the same lesser size.
The moat is most easily inspected from one of the bridges, from the pedestrian footpath along the south-eastern wall and the "first ring road" and on the opposite side the Gate of the Meridian
along the south-western wall of the Palace. One can also find a pedestrian footpath leading along the mooat on the northern side of the Forbidden City.
Have a look down from one of the bridges for a closer inspection. Where it was earlier muddy and often quite shallow in places, recently the Moat has been dredged and cleaned, perfecting the view for the many foreign visitors to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the multitudes that have followed them since.
To the North of the Gate of the Meridian (Wu Men) stands the true "Forbidden City", the Palace which measures 960 meters south to north, and 750 meters wide from east to west altogether enclosing 720.000 square meters. It is the largest Royal Palace found anywhere in the world, in the present or in the past. Inside are over 900 buildings and structures which together have 160 thousand square meters of floor space. This vast Palace city is surrounded by its very own Moat inside of which is a gray outer wall.
View of the Forbidden City Moat, its north-east corner pavilion, watchtower and surrounding 10 meter high wall on a foggy fall day in 2006.
(Shenwu Men), one can find more opportunity to walk along the moat and appreciate the view of the massive walls and towers of the Forbidden City. Here, along the length of the moat but even more so at the corners, one can often find fishermen, idling their time away and having a chat while awaiting for some of the fish to strike at their hook. The Moat is also a favorite place for rickshaw drivers to try and pick up a ride, so be prepared. As long as you stick to the path right along the moat you should be safe from them though.
Although the waters of the moat are quite deep and often quite dark so one cannot see it, there are quite a few fish swimming the wide moat surrounding the Palace Museum today.
To complete the review, it should be mentioned that the moat cannot be viewed along most of the east- and west
flanks of the complex. On the east and west flanks of the Palace various buildings block access to the Moat making it impossible to get anywhere near close to the water.
WALL OF THE FORBIDDEN CITY:
The next layer within the moat is the thick Wall enclosing the Forbidden City. This Wall is a respectable 10 meters in height and altogether 3400 meters long, counting altogether four gates, and carrying intricately designed watchtowers on each of the four corners.
In the past, up to the succesful Xinhai Revolution that brought the Republic of China in early 1912, the Gates and Walls of the Forbidden City were heavily guarded by day and by night. Although it was unlikely that anyone should do so, it was known that anyone who managed to cross the moat and attempted to scale the wall would be faced with a barrage of arrows from the bowmen placed atop the platform at close intervals. The Gates were even more heavily guarded of course.
The closest one can come to the experience of standing atop the walls or the gates is by going to the Duan Men, the Gate found between the Gate of Heavenly Peace in the far south and the Gate of the Meridian more to the north and technically not a part of the Palace Museum itself. Only at Duan Men one is allowed to climb to the Platform and look around inside one of the Halls atop a Forbidden City Gate. The Duan Men offers an interesting exhibition and a remarkable view of the large courtyard of the Gate of the Meridian with the Palace beyond its three massive red Gate Doors.