The Meridian Gate is the southern entrance of the Purple Forbidden City. This massive Gate, consisting of five openings, is shaped like a huge upside-down English capital letter "U" . It is the largest gate of the Forbidden City, 35.6 metres high and surmounted by five pavilions. The central pavilion is rectangular in shape, while the other four, two on each side, are square, henee the nickname "the Five Phoenix Tower".
The Meridian Gate was so named because the Chinese emperors believed that they lived in the center of the universe, and the Meridian Line went through the Forbidden city.
The 14 emperors of the Ming and 10 emperors of the Qing dynasties ruled China with an absolute authority which probably has no equivalent in human history. However, except for the room which the emperor would choose to stay for the night to avoid possible assassins, they had very little privacy. When they went to the Temple of Heaven, bells in the west pavilion were struck. When they went to the Ancestral Temple, drums in the eastern pavilion were beaten. Modern day VIPS simply follow suit-sirens and motorcycles in front, a long fleet of cars behind.
"Why were there five openings?", simply because people of different classes or social statues shouldn't walk in through the same opening. The central opening was reserved for the emperor alone, the empress was entitled to go through the opening once-on her Wedding Day:
The first three successful candidates in the imperial examination could enter the opening once, too, when they were to be received by the emperor. The east opening was for the Ministers while the west opening was for the royal family. The other openings were for petty officials. Ordinary people were forbidden to enter the city. Today, only two openings are ready for visitors, the one for the emperors and the one for the Ministers.
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