Notes on the Geography of China: The Grand Axis of Imperial Beijing: Photo 6
The Meridian Gate, seen from the Court of the Golden River, inside the Forbidden City.
The gate has five entrances, of which the flanking two are visible here. The number five is not accidental: it alludes to the Five Elements (earth, wood, iron, water, fire), as well as the Five Virtues, Five Classics, Five Colors, and Five Spheres. It does get compulsive.
The middle gate was closed to all except the emperor, the empress on her wedding day, and the passage each year of the three outstanding candidates taking the imperial entrance examination. It was last used in 1922, for the wedding of P'u Yi, the last and by then already deposed emperor.
Princes and officials used the two flanking gates except on the 5th, 15th, and 25th day of each month, when the emperor held court. On those days, civil ministers entered through the east gate, visible here in the distance; military ministers used the west gate, the closest one here and behind the scaffolding.
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