Eastern Gate of Genuine Virtue (Zhao De Men ; 昭德门)
This page was last updated on: June 24, 2017
The Official schematic Map of The Forbidden City, by The Palace Museum.
A view of the Gate of Genuine Virtue, the south-west Gate of the "Harmony square" at the Outer Court of the Forbidden City, elevated atop its platform.
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Architecture of the Gate of Genuine Virtue (Zhao De Men) :
The Gate of Great Virtue is elevated upon a high gray brick platform and has a large ramp decorated with white marble balustrades leading up to its massive red door. Set within the thick red southern and outer wall of the enclosure surrounding the Throne Hall, the "Courtyard of Supreme Harmony" it is a non-conspicuous and harmonious part of its surroundings. The Gate has no special decorations. Two lamps are set in front of it, one adjacent each side of the ramp leading up to it.
The roof is single heaved, with ridges decorated with five ceremonial animals in addition to the Dragons on the each rooftop corner and at the beginning and end of each eave. The roof is covered with yellow ceramic tiling as are the surrounding buildings of the entire "Forbidden City"(except in fact for 1 structure). The roof and the gate are supported on each side, north and south, by six red wooden pillars, three to each side of each door.
The Gate itself has two massive wooden doors, which, painted in bright red, are pierced by golden yellow studs, and the iron work on them is ornamented with various designs of dragons.
As in the Chinese traditions of the semi-magical thinking the cosmological number 9 was the highest "Yang" decimal possible, it was reserved for the "Dragon", the Emperor himself. The Dragon was equaled with nine as it was the most powerful of all the "Yang" (male, luminous, active) Animals of the mythical Chinese
The Gate of Genuine Virtue Today :
Today the gate of Genuine Virtue has been rebuilt as have been the Gate of Supreme Harmony and the Gate of Chastity. Visitors pass back and forth through it every day. Panels displaying descriptions offering a minor explanation of the Zhao De Men have been attached to the middle ones of the pillars supporting the gate on each side. The information wrongfully tells how the Gate was burned down in 1888, whereas the correct year was 1881, the year of the marriage of the Guangxu Emperor.
Introduction to the Gate of Genuine Virtue (Zhao De Men) :
The Gate of Genuine Virtue (also: Gate of Manifesting Virtue ; 昭德门) is but a minor side-gate of the outer court. Due its ordinary appearance and the vicinity of its much more glorious neighbor the Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe Men), the Gate of Genuine Virtue generally goes relatively unnoticed by most passing visitors at the Palace Museum.
When the Palace was still the political center of the Chinese Nation and the Emperors held court at the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihe Dian), the Gate of Genuine Virtue - together with its twin the Gate of Chastity (Zhen Du Men) - was used by attending Manchu officials when answering summonces to the court. On important occasions such as the crowning of the Emperor, his birthday, his wedding and of course the celebrations of the first day of the Lunar New year (spring festival) officials of various levels would filter
through the two side-gates to gather inside the giant courtyard beyond, dubbed "Harmony Square" for ease. The main and central Gate of this court of course is the Gate of Supreme Harmony, and this large Gate was reserved for the Emperor to make his grandiose entry.
In History the Gate of Genuine Virtue goes mostly unmentioned, except for the huge fire that occured in the year 1881, during the reign of the Guangxu Emperor (Reign: 1875 AD – 1908 AD). The fire started near the Gate of Chastity (Zhen Du Men) in the west of the Courtyard, but over the next tow days high winds kept raising the fire, having it leap over to the Gate of Supreme Harmony and finally reducing the Gate of Genuine Virtue itself to smouldering cinders. Today the Gate has been rebuilt.
A view through the Gate of Genuine Virtue at structures of the gargantuan couryard of Supreme Harmony.
Looking back into the sunlight through the Gate of Genuine Virtue one can marvel at the white balustraded Golden River and the awing solidity of the Gate of the Meridian beyond. The highly symbolic 9 rows of nine golden studs mark the high imperial importance of the Gate of Genuine Virtue.
This page was last updated on: June 24, 2017
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History of the Gate of Genuine Virtue :
The Gate of Genuine Virtue was an original structure of the Forbidden City inaugurated in the year 1420 AD. It was originally called the Dong Jia Men, which means eastern corner gate. However, in the year 1562 of the Jiajing Reign it
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View of two of the Golden River Bridges just north of the Gate of the Meridian, the main south Gate of the Palace Museum. On the left, in the background the Gate of Great Virtue is visible.
realm, and thus, the studs number the ritual nine times nine, altogether 81 - the highest number to be gained from the dragon for maximum auspiciousness.
Above the large doors hangs a
Structures of the "Courtyard of Supreme Harmony" immediatly to the East of the Gate of Genuine Virtue. A corner tower and several minor storage houses stand nearby the Gate.
large wooden panel with the words "Zhen Du Men" written in the Han Chinese language only. As one of the structures of the Outer Court, the name sign of this Gate was replaced just previously to October the 10Th when he took office as the (2nd) President of the (1st) Republic of China. This replacement eliminated the Manchu language of the recently abdicated Qing Dynasty, and was an attempt to move toawards an all Han Chinese Palace. later on Yuan Shi-Kai would even attempt to have himself crowned Emperor here, but the attempt miserably failed.
The exterior otherwise has few unusual decorations or features. A covered gallery and ballustraded walkway connect the Gate with adjacent buildings such as the corner tower and storage buildings flanking the "Courtyard of Supreme Harmony".
View of the Gates of Genuine Virtue (left), the Gate of Supreme Harmony (middle) and the Gate of Chastity (right) from the "Courtyard of Supreme Harmony", the giant square in front of the Throne Hall in the outer Palace.
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Structures of the "Courtyard of Supreme Harmony" immediately to the East of the Gate of Genuine Virtue. A corner tower and several minor storage houses stand nearby the Gate.
was renamed and dubbed Gate of Promoting Politics (Hong Zheng Men) refering to its usual function as the Gate for Officials to attend State Affairs and Ceremonies. In line with the Yin-Yang balance of the Palace and according to the theory of the five elements, the Zhaode Men as the eastern Gate of this court, was associated with wood growth and therefor learning. All buildings in the Palace associated with learning or civil administration were situated in the east, whereas all structures relating to military affairs stand in the west half of the Palace).
In the year 1900 AD, only 19 years after the ruinous fire that swept the Gates of the Outer Court, Foreign Armies invaded the Capital of China in order to "liberate" and rescue their compatriots besieged at the nearby "Legations Quarter" and henceforth put an end to the anti-foreign and anti-Christian "Boxer Rebellion". With the stooge Emperor Guangxu, and the de facto ruling "Old Buddha" Hsu-Tzi out of the way, fleeing towards Xi'An, "barbarians" roamed, pillaged and often raped the city and although an American detachment had been posted at the southern outer Gate of the Imperial Palace (the Gate of the Meridian) looters and the Americans still strode beyond, to pass through the Gate of Genuine Virtue and desecrate the outer- and inner courts. It was the first time that Foreigners had come within the "Forbidden City" uninvited, and the desecration of the Palace would leave the Empress-Dowager a powerless and fallen ruler upon her return there in the year 1902 A.D. At the whim of the "barbarians" she
View of the Gates of Genuine Virtue (left) and the Gate of Supreme Harmony (middle) from the next gate to the north, which is the right middle gate. In the Background the roof of the main pavilion of the Gate of the Meridian - Shenwu Men.
loathed but upon whom she depended for her continued rule, she launched a charm offensive and not much later, between 1902 and 1908 AD, the Gate of Genuine Virtue would frequently see the passing of the wife's of the Foreign Ambassadors on their way to a much wanted audience with the old lady in power of the dying old Empire. The Ladies were duly impressed with the buildings of the outer court, as had many been before them.
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(1368 AD - 1644 AD) this gate was chosen as the place where men were tested and selected for the institutes for higher learning.
Finally, after the demise of the Ming Dynasty the newly emerging Manchu Rulers declared the beginning of the Qing Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD) and with their taking up residence within the former Qing Imperial Palace in 1645 AD many structures were renamed. One of these structures was the former Gate of Promoting Politics which received a new name that is has carried eversince: the Gate of Genuine Virtue. Throughout the Qing Dynasty Era the Gate of Genuine Virtue is known to have been heavily guarded and the main barracks of the guards was right next door.
Rebuilding of the Gate of Genuine Virtue and the other gates adjacent were started in the year 1889 AD, and the work was completed at an unspecified time, probably during the early years of the First Republic of China when the "Traitor General" Yuan Shi-Kai attempted a restoration of the feudal order under his own person, at which time the Xinhua Men (Gate of New China) of Zhongnanhai was built, and several structures of the outer court were renovated for the expected crowning ceremony.