Introduction to Meridian Gate (Wu Men) - Five Phoenix Tower (Wu Feng Lou) - How to Get There :
The Gate of the Meridian is the main ceremonial south gate of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) in Beijing and therefor its largest and most impressive Gate.
In the years of the Feudal Dynasties, the Gate of the Meridian, together with the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian'An Men) formed what can be named the "Public Face" of the Imperial Presence within the city. That is, the ordinary public was not admitted into the northern half of the city now known as Dongcheng- and Xicheng Districts. The only parts of the Inner City they could reach lay beyond the Front Gate (Qian Men) and therefor, all that the common citizenry could see of the Palace was the Gate of Heavenly Peace. At this outermost Gate the ordinary citizens could petition the Emperor, which is why there are two
An off-season photo of the central axis of the Palace and the City of Beijing. Wu Men, without tourist crowds bathing in sunlight.
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white marble post standing adjacent this Gate.
No commoners were allowed beyond, so the Gate of the Meridian was the "other" public face of the Palace, the location were (lower rank) officials would be summoned at dawn to hear of the new decrees of the Emperor, official announcements which could involve new policies, ordered punishments and the proclamation of new laws. At the same time this Gate, the Wu Men, was also used as a platform to be used for various other ceremonial purposes attanded by summoned officials only.

Today the Gate of the Meridian functions as the main south Gate of the Palace Museum of Beijing and so many tens of thousands flock past each day. Usually, this space is crowded with visitors milling to and from the Gate of Heavenly Peace along the central line of the city, much as it was for hundreds of years in the past.
In the tourist high seasons various types of
photo taken with a manchu Costume of choice along the eastern flank of this square. On the west side, just above the Duan Men one can find some often overlooked Qing Dynasty Era canons which form the proof of a strong linkage with the west in the 16Th and 17Th Century. Last but not least, at certain times of the day one can witness the arduous exercising of the ceremonial guards detail of the Palace Museum in the north-east corner of this giant square. The guards go out every morning to raise the National Flag on Tianan'Men Square at dawn. At nightfall they return from the square in front of the Gate of the Meridian to march out once more through Duan Men and across the Avenue of Eternal Peace to  the Square of Heavenly Peace in order to lower the flag and keep it safe for the night. Its a grand spectacle, and in the evening one can follow the guards all the wayd down to Duan Men and the next courtyard, from where the public is not permitted to follow the marching guards through the Gate of Heavenly Pace.
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View of the large rectangular space in front of the Meridan Gate - Wu Men from the base of the Duan Men.
Qing Dynasty Era bronze canons on display beneath Tian an Men. The Qing Canons were augmented with the help of European scientists, the renowned jesuit fathers Adam Schall von Bell and later Ferdinand Verbiest.
Architecture of Wu Men - Meridian Gate - Five Phoenix Tower (Wu Feng Lou) :

History of Meridian Gate (Wu Men) - Five Phoenix Tower (Wu Feng Lou) :
The meridian Gate , more commonly known as Wu Feng Lou, five phoenix tower, after its 5 magnificent pavilions lining the central Gate Platform, is the southern Entrance to the Imperial Palace. Traditionally known and used as the Main Ceremonial Gate, the central passage through the Gate was exclusively reserved for the Emperor's use. Officials were to enter through the left side of the Gate, whereas members of the Royal Family would use the right side of the Gate. Commoners simply were not allowed and any attempt to enter the Palace beyond Wu Men would be regarded a serious offence punishable by Death.
Wu Men is the Gate into Tze-Chin-Ch'eng or the Purple Forbidden City, the innermost Imperial City and the Imperial Palace. Those entering within these purple colored walls without official permission were in for "100 blows of the Bamboo Rod" or "Death by Strangulation". Hence, the nickname : Forbidden City" came into being.

When the Emperor had entered the TaiHe Dian -the Official Ceremonial Throne Hall of the Outer Court-  for ceremonies, drums
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Directions to Meridian Gate (Wu Men) - Five Phoenix Tower (Wu Feng Lou) - How to Get There :
Directions to the Meridian Gate are easy to give. The Meridian Gate is the main south Gate of the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) today. Most visitors, especially first timers and tour-groups enter the Palace Museum through the south Gate of the Meridian.

To be more precise, (use adjacent map), after locating the Forbidden City in the center of the Old City of Beijing on your map, locate Tian'Anmen Square to the South of it.
The first and Outer Gate of the Forbidden City used to be the Gate of Heavenly Peace (Tian'An Men), which is situated along the north
The Palace Museum - Inner & Outer Imperial Palace Perimeter Map,Quick Navigate using this unique satellite image overview of the Palace Museum Perimeter and the greater Imperial Palace Area.
One of the smaller pavilions along the west side of the large outer courtyard in front of the Gate of the Meridian serves a public toilet.
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Beyond on the north end lies Duan Men, after which follows another even larger and longer rectangular space, which lies in front of the Gate of the Meridian. From the Duan Men one can clearly see the Gate of the Meridian, massively looming on the opposite end of the huge paved space.

The square to the south of the Gate of the Meridian is a public space, whereas one can only go north and beyond the Gate of the Meridian after purchasing a ticket to the Palace Museum. On the north end of this square Gates lead away  Eastward and Westward to the Palace Moat and the "1st ring road" which circles the red outer wall of the Palace. These
and bells would be sounded inside the Towers of Wu Men. The official function of this was to "Maintain Imperial Dignity", which can could be loosely translated as "letting everyone know the important imperial court was in function". Thus citizens would feel secured by the Imperial presence and harmonious life could continue.
Overview of the courtyard in front of the Gate of the Meridian in snow as seen from the platform of Duan Men. (Photo: November 2003)
performances are given in this vast space. A few giftshops have been set up and one can have ones
the Meridian Gate (Wu Men ; 午门), the main entrance as well as the exact place where emperors announced the new lunar calendar on the winter solstice and other important event. No one else but emperors could walk through it except empresses entering it on the day they married emperors, and the top three examinees of the annual final imperial exams walking out of it for one time) on the south

Wu Men or Gate of the Meridian was the Main Gate for Visitors to the Inner Imperial City, known for and designated its purple colored Walls. In addition to being the entry point for high Imperial Officials and the Like (no others allowed) , Wu Men was also used as Platform for Official Communications from The Emperor and Imperial Court. Important Policy Statements would be read here, as well as Officials punished and Flogged for their mis-behaviour, perceived or real. Last but certainly not least the Wu Men was a Central Point in official Ceremonial Celebrations, and at the
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end of the Square of Heavenly Peace (Tian'An Men Square) where it remains perhaps not its most visible but surely its most distinct and most colorful landmark.
To Gate of the Meridian then, stands on the same line as the Gate of Heavenly Peace but is the second Gate to the North of the Gate of Heavenly Peace. The line upon which both Gates are situated is the all important central line of the Palace and the City without.

Many visitors start their tour of the Palace Museum the "proper" way, that is by starting out from the north side of the Square of Heavenly Peace. From here one has to head northwards across the five white marble bridges and pass through the Gate of Heavenly Peace. To the north of this Gate lies an extensive oblong rectagular courtyard where, among things, the ceremonial guards section of the Palace Museum have (some of) their barracks and where they can often be seen excercising on the excercise field along the eastern wall.
routes stay outside of the Palace Museum and lead underneath the walls to the eastern- and western (flowery) Gates, Dong Hua Men and Xi Hua Men.
The inverse U-shape of the Gate of the Meridian, the largest Gate of the Palace, seems small in this vast paved space as one walks along the central line towards it.
Chinese New Year the Imperial Court distributed Mooncakes and snacks at the Lantern Lit Gate.
Around that Time the (new) Lunar Calendar would be announced at this Gate, accompanied by sounds from The Bells & Drums atop the Gate
Platform. Explore around the large square and find other attractions scattered around. From here one can buy a ticket and walk inside and on top of the Platform at Du An Men. Other options are to get your picture taken with Five Phoenix Tower as your background, while dressed in an Imperial Ching Outfit. Become and Emperor, Empress or Concubine, buy some of the souvenir and tour books at one of the many stands (booths).
Watch out for pick-pockets ! This square seems like a reasonable spot for theft.
If you don't like the crowds or photo-taking, go around the square and study the interesting set of Ching Dynasty canon that are on display here. In the very late Ching Dynasty, the chinese had guns too. But .. soon they proved no match for the onslaught of the industrial age forces that were to be thrown against them.

and of those who did wish to venture beyond everyone had to dismount and go forward on foot. Only those with special invitations to the Palace, usually high mandarins from the provinces and foreign envoys were allowed passage through the Gate.
Walking on foot northward and passing through the Duan Men the visitor is confronted with yet another large rectangular paved square at the other end of which stands the massive South Ceremonial Gate to the Imperial Palace, the Gate of the Meridian.

During the Ming and Ching Dynasties, ceremonies were held at Wu Men whenever a General and his Armies were dispatched on expediations, when the army returned in triumph, when prisoners of war were presented to the Emperor and when a new official Almanak or Encyclopedia was issued.

Go on to Wu Men and find the ticket office West at its Base in a small side-office.
Old birds eye view photo of the Palace Museum revealing the Central Line and its main structures. The last one these is the Gate of Divine Military Might.
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