The Wumen Square is long and rectangular standing at the end of the square. Wumen, also called the Meridian Gate, is the grandest of the four gates in the Forbidden City.
It is the southern entrance of the Forbidden City. Since Chinese emperors believed that they were sons of Heaven and should live in the center of the universe, and they believed the Meridian Line went through the Forbidden City, the gate was named so. The grand gate, consisting of five openings, is the largest gate and main gate of the Forbidden City, 35.6 meters high and surmounted by five pavilions, named Wufenglou (Five Phoenix Tower). In Five Phoenix Tower, there are drums that were used to announce emperors’ departure to the Temple of Heaven and bells which to announce their departure to the Ancestral Temple. Both toll to announce that the emperor was going to receive his ministers in Taihedian (Hall of Supreme Harmony).
Houses on both sides of the square are low, and the size of the two security houses under Wumen are purposefully reduced to set off the towering Wumen. The left and right of Wumen extend forward, thus expanding the level visual angle of scenery and enriching the overall pattern.
The U-shaped plane has a very strong power of expression. When people are getting near Wumen, the gigantic structures and monotonous red city walls appear directly before them, giving them an ever-stronger closed, constrained and intense feeling. It takes a longer time for people to advance along the long middle road of the long square, so that this feeling is further intensified.
In short, artists create a very powerful and heart-stirring atmosphere through various techniques, so as to demonstrate that the imperial authority is sacred and inviolable.
There were strict rules to follow when people enter the Forbidden City. Entering through the central opening was the emperors’ exclusive privilege, while their empresses were allowed to go through the opening once on their wedding day. The top three in the national examinations, presided by emperors on the final stage, would be honored to strut through the arched hole after receiving emperors’ interview. 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.
In the ancient time, emperors would bestow foods to ministers on days of important Chinese solar terms. On October 1 of solar calendar every year, emperors would issue next year’ calendar. After wars, Emperors would receive captives themselves here. Also on the left side of the Imperial Way, which goes through the central opening, baculine penalty would be executed on those who offended emperors.