Gate of Supreme Harmony

Gate of Supreme Harmony
Gate of Supreme Harmony

A pair of bronze lions (the lion is the king of beasts) symbolizing the imperial power guards the gate. In ancient times, lions were supposed to be good doorkeepers and put at the gate to ward off (exorcize) evil spirits. Lions are frequently seen in front of buildings as guardians, one playing with a ball (male) and the other a cub (female). It was considered auspicious. The ball is said to represent imperial treasury or peace. The cub sucks milk from underneath the claw. Because the female doesn’t have breast.

Because they were used to exorcise evil spirits and fend off disaster, these two lions emphasized their strength, ferocity and predatory nature. The source of physical features for these lions was the tiger, which was fairly common in China, so the Chinese lion is essentially a tiger dressed in lion’s clothing, with features such as the lion’s mane added and often exaggerated for the sake of effect. The result is that the Chinese lion presents an imposing rather than a realiser in squatting postures.

Now we are at the Gate of Supreme Harmony, the gate leading to the palace court. In the Ming and early Qing dynasties, a throne was placed at the Gate of Supreme Harmony for the emperor to hear reports from high officials and issue his decisions: This illustrates the personal style of the emperors in administration, and was called “governing the state under an imperial gate.” During Emperor Kangxi’ reign(1662-1722)the practice of “governing the state under an imperial gate” was moved to the Gate of Heavenly Purity in the inner court of the Forbidden City.

Proceeding to the north, you can see a vast courtyard, 30,000 square meters in area. Flanking the courtyard are 33 room units on each side. They were used as warehouses for storing fur, porcelain, silver, tea, satin and clothes, etc.

In the courtyard there are iron vats for storing water against fire. In the whole complex there are altogether 308 water vats, 18 of them were gilded. Each iron vat weighs 2.2 tons; while each gilded bronze vat weighs 3.4 tons. Most of them were made in the Ming Dynasty. On the roofs of these buildings you can see lightning arresters installed in 1953.

Two Chinese researchers invented a semiconductor lightning eliminator (SLE), which is said to be a great leap forward from the lightning rod invented in 1752 by Benjamin Franklin (1706-90, American politician and scientist) in America more than 200 years ago. The SLE device, which was invented by Professor Xie Guangrun and professor Chen Cixuan (hunsband and wife) from Wuhan University of Hydraulic and Electrical Engineering, is composed of a semiconductor set, grounding wire and grounding installment. Tests have shown that the protective area of SLE is 11 times larger than of the protective area of a common lightning rod. The common lightning rod is a metal strip connected to the earth at its lower end and its upper end to a sharp point attached to the tallest part of a building. The State Commission of Science and Technology and the ministry of Public Security issued a document in 1992 urging the country to apply the newly invented device in tall buildings. Many of the treasured buildings in China have been protected by lightning arresters and light lightning rods, and they are much safer.

The roots are of yellow glazed tiles as yellow was the color reserved for the emperor. The Forbidden City was heavily guarded, yet the emperor still did not feel secure and was worried that someone might tunnel his way into the palace. So the ground bricks were laid in a special way: seven layers lengthwise and eight layers crosswise, making up fifteen layers in all.