Beijing city fortifications
The Beijing city wall was a series of fortifications built between the early 1400s and 1553. The Inner city wall was 24 km long and 15 meters high, with a thickness of 20 metres at ground level and 12 metres at the top. It had nine gates. This wall stood for nearly 530 years, but in 1965 it was removed to allow construction of the 2nd Ring Road and the Line 2, Beijing Subway. Only one part of the wall is extant, in the southeast, just south of Beijing Railway Station. The Outer city walls had a perimeter of approximately 28 kilometres. The entire enclosure of the Inner and Outer cities formed a "凸" shape with a perimeter of nearly 60 kilometres.
Beijing was a location of the capital during the last three Chinese imperial dynasties (the Yuan, Ming, and Qing). It was also secondary capital to two northern dynasties (the Liao and Jin), and is therefore often referred to as an ancient capital of five dynasties (五朝古都). It had an extensive fortification system, consisting of the Forbidden City, the Imperial city, the Inner city, and the Outer city. Fortifications included gate towers, gates, archways, watchtowers, barbicans, barbican towers, barbican gates, barbican archways, sluice gates, sluice gate towers, enemy sighting towers, corner guard towers, and a moat system. It had the most extensive defense system in Imperial China.
After the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Beijing's fortifications were gradually dismantled. The Forbidden city has remained largely intact, becoming the Palace Museum. Some fortifications of the Imperial city remain intact, including Tiananmen, the gate tower and watchtower at Zhengyangmen, the watchtower at Deshengmen, the southeastern corner guard tower, and a section of the Inner city wall near Chongwenmen. The latter two components now form the Ming City Wall Relics Park. Nothing of the Outer city remains intact. Yongdingmen was completely reconstructed in 2004.
- 1 History
- 2 Dismantlement
- 3 Defence
- 4 Inner city
- 5 Outer city
- 6 Imperial city
- 7 Forbidden city
- 8 Moats, canals, and other watershed systems
- 9 Influences
- 10 Preservation
- 11 See also
- 12 References
The city of Dadu, the forerunner of Beijing of the Ming and Qing dynasties, was built in 1264 by the Yuan Dynasty. Dadu's design followed several rules from the book Rites of Zhou: "nine vertical axis, nine horizontal axis"; "palaces in the front, markets in the rear"; "left ancestral worship, right god worship". It was broad in scale, strict in planning and execution, and complete in equipment.
Dadu had 11 city gates. The eastern, southern, and western sides had three gates per side, and the northern wall had two gates. The three eastern gates, from north to south, were called Guangximen, Chongrenmen, and Qihuamen. The three southern gates, from west to east, were called Shunchengmen, Lizhengmen, and Wenmingmen. The three western gates, from north to south, were called Suqingmen, Heyimen, and Pingzemen. The two northern gates, from west to east, were called Jiandemen and Anzhenmen.
In August 1368 General Xu Da of the Ming Dynasty captured the city. The Khan of Yuan, Yuan Shundi, escaped from the city without defending it, and thus the city sustained no damage. Xu Da decided that Dadu's fortification system was too large to defend during a siege, so he ordered the city's northern walls rebuilt 2.8 kilometres to the south of the original location. This construction pre-empted the planned expansion of the city into areas to the north. The new wall was constructed with an extra layer of bricks, further strengthening the city's defences.
The original northern walls were abandoned after 1372, but were still used as secondary defense systems during the Ming dynasty. During the rebellion of An Da, there were some Ming troops stationed at those gates. Only a small part of the northern and western sections of the Dadu city walls remain, as well as parts of the moat system in those areas. The southern half of the rammed earth wall of the barbican at Suqingmen is still visible today as well.
In 1370 Hongwu Emperor granted to his fourth son, Zhu Di (later Yongle Emperor), the title of King of the Yan dependency, with his capital at Beiping (present-day Beijing). In 1379 the new palace was completed, and Zhu Di moved in the following year.
In 1403 Zhu Di changed the name of the city from Beiping ("northern peace") to Beijing ("northern capital"). In 1406 he began planning a move of his capital from Nanjing to Beijing. Beijing was then merely the capital of Zhu Di's dependent kingdom of Yan, and did not have very extensive fortifications. Extensive expansion and reconstruction work would be needed to meet the defence requirements of the new capital for it to withstand the sporadic Mongol intrusions from the north. This marked the beginning of construction of the Ming sections of Beijing's fortifications, parts of which still exist today.
Construction work on the Xinei ("inner west") began in 1406, upon the foundations of the Yan King's Palace. It was finished the following year. In 1409 Jianshouling was completed at Mount Tianshou in the Changping District. Construction work began in 1416 on the Beijing Imperial Palace complex, in a style that imitated the original Nanjing Imperial Palace. The Forbidden City's halls, palaces, and pavilions, such as Taimiao, Ancestor Hall, Mount Wansui, Taiye Lake, Residences of the Ten Kings, Residences of the Imperial Princes, Residences of the Officials, and the Drum and Bell Towers were built at this time. The southern city walls were moved south by 0.8 kilometres, to allow more space for the future Imperial city complex. In 1421 the capital of Ming Dynasty China was officially moved from Nanjing ("southern capital") to Beijing ("northern capital"). The Temple of Heaven, the Temple of Earth, and Xiannong Temple were built in what was then the southern suburbs. Some sources indicate that the central axis of the city was moved eastwards to subdue the previous dynasty's Qi (new Qi comes from the east, where the sun rises daily).
A second expansion of the city occurred between 1436 and 1445, on the orders of Emperor Ying of the Ming dynasty. Major works included the addition of an extra layer of bricks on the interior side (that is, facing the city) of the city walls; creating the southern end at Taiye Lake; construction of gate towers, barbicans, and watchtowers at nine major city gates; construction of the four corner guard towers; Setting up a Paifang on the outside of each major city gate; and replacing wooden bridges over the moats with stone bridges. Sluices were built under the bridges, and revetments of stone and brick were added to the embankment of the moat.
The newly expanded city wall and moat system was 45 lis (22.5 kilometres) around the perimeter, forming a formidable defence. The Imperial Tombs were built on the outskirts of the city. Changping city, a supply city, interior sections of the Great Wall, and other distant fortifications were built for the protection of Beijing during a siege.
The city faced many invasions from the Mongols. In 1476 construction of an Outer city was proposed. In 1553, a large rectangular Outer city wall and moat system was completed to the south of the original city, forming a shape similar to the "凸" character. This defensive perimeter was maintained for nearly 400 years.
The wall and moat defence system was retained unchanged by the Qing dynasty (1644–1912), successors to the Ming dynasty. However, the Imperial city was completely redesigned. Many houses that had been used as residences by Ming dynasty inner cabinet officials were converted into housing for commoners, as were many imperial official's offices, servant's quarters, warehouses, and hay storage barns. The Han Chinese were forced to live in the Outer city or outside the city, as the Inner city residences became exclusively homes for the Eight Banners—Manchus related to the emperor. Additional housing was built in the Inner city for imperial relatives, along with Buddhist temples of the Gelug sect. The "Three Mounts Five Gardens" park in the western suburbs was also built at this time.
Historical records indicate that when Li Zicheng retreated from the city in 1644, he ordered that the Ming Imperial palace complex and the major city gates be set afire. But in 1960, when the walls were finally dismantled, the workers realised that the Dongzhimen and Chongwenmen towers and gate sections were the Ming originals.
The wall and moat systems were well maintained during the Ming and Qing dynasties, right up until 1900. No holes were allowed to be drilled, no arches made. Any damage—even if just a single missing brick—was swiftly reported to the authorities and repaired.
Much damage was done to the fortifications during the Boxer Rebellion (1898–1901). The Righteous Harmony Society burned down the gate tower at Zhengyangmen, and its watchtower was destroyed by Indian troops. The watchtowers at Chaoyangmen and Chongwenmen were destroyed by Japanese and British cannon, and the guard tower at the northwest corner of the Inner city was destroyed by Russian cannon. British troops tore down the western section of the Outer city walls at Yongdingmen and the city walls surrounding the Temple of Heaven. They moved the terminus of the Beijing–Fengtian Railway from Majiabao, outside the city, to the grounds of the Temple of Heaven, where the British and American forces were headquartered. This was the first time since the Ming dynasty that the city walls had been breached. In 1901 British troops tore down the eastern section of the Outer city walls at Yongdingmen to allow an extension of the railway eastwards to Zhengyangmen. This enabled the construction of the Zhengyangmen East railway station (the present Qianmen Station). Here, British embassy and consulate staff could board trains to travel to the port city of Tientsin (now Tianjin) in the event of the need to retreat. British troops also tore down the eastern section of the Outer city wall near Dongbianmen for the construction of the Beijing Dongbianmen-Tongzhou feeder railway.
The Imperial government of Qing China collapsed in 1911. Between 1912 and 1949, the Beiyang military government, the Republic of China Nationalist government, and the Northern China reform government all undertook minor deconstructions and adjustments. When the Beijing circum-city railway was built in 1915, the sight towers at the northeast and southeast corners were dismantled, and the side walls of the guard towers at these corners had arches built as passageways for trains. The barbican and sluice gates at Dongshengmen, Andingmen, Chaoyangmen, and Dongzhimen were dismantled for the passage of trains. The barbican at Zhengyangmen was dismantled to ease traffic in the Qianmen area. Arches for trains were cut in the city walls near Hepingmen, Jianguomen, Fuxingmen, and several other minor gates. The walls of the Imperial city were fully dismantled, except for the south to southwest section.
The gate towers, watchtowers, and corner towers of the major gates of both the Inner city and Outer city were dismantled over time due to lack of funds for maintenance. But when the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the majority of the moats and gate towers were extant, albeit in a dilapidated state.
In 1949 Beijing became the capital of the newly founded Communist government. Government-sponsored city planning studies showed that the remaining wall and moat structures were hindering traffic flow and were a barrier to expansion and development. The Outer city wall was completely dismantled in the 1950s, and the inner walls were torn down starting in 1953.
Meanwhile, a debate was raging as to whether to keep or to dismantle the remaining city walls. Architect Liang Sicheng was a leading advocate for keeping the walls. He recommended cutting more arches to accommodate new roads that would serve increased traffic needs, and suggested building a giant circum-city public park immediately outside the city walls and moats to beautify the environment. Pro-keep supporters included Redologist Yu Pingbo, then Bureau of Culture Vice Minister Zheng Zhenfeng, and many Soviet city planners then in the country. The pro-keep contingent was silenced by political pressure, and by the end of the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961), the Outer city wall was completely dismantled and the Inner wall was halved in length.
During the 1960s, relations between China and the Soviet Union became bitter, and after the Sino-Soviet split, people felt that war with the Soviet Union was inevitable. Underground bomb shelters, underground "supply cities", and an underground railway—the Beijing Metro—were commissioned. Work on the Metro began on 1 July 1965. The construction technique used was cut-and-cover: wherever the path of the metro was to go, everything on the surface had to be demolished. Since demolishing houses and relocating people would have been such a great undertaking, the decision was made to build the metro line where the city walls and moats were located.
The demolition work, which began in 1965, was under the supervision of Beijing city government's roads and development department. People and factories that hoped to gain access to building materials from the city's fortifications volunteered to participate in the demolition. After construction began on the metro system, troops were brought in to help with the demolition work to increase the speed and efficiency of the process. The first section of walls to be removed were the southern portion of the Inner city wall, Xuanwumen, and Chongwenmen, leaving behind a giant 23.6-kilometre-long ditch. The second stage began at Beijing Railway Station in the southeast corner of the Inner city and passed through the sites of Jianguomen, Andingmen, Xizhimen, and Fuxingmen. Towers and walls were removed and another 16.04 kilometres of ditch was created. A section of wall near Xibianmen about 100 metres long was used as a storage area for raw materials, and thus was spared from demolition. Another section from Chongwenmen to the guard tower at the southeast corner of the Inner city was spared, because the metro line veers there towards the Beijing Railway Station. The tops of the walls were dismantled, so it is no longer possible to walk along the top. Beginning in 1972, in order to pave the 2nd Ring Road above the Metro, and to serve high-rise apartments and hotels in the Qianmen area, Beijing's eastern, southern, and western moats were covered and converted to sewers.
In 1979, the government called off the demolition of the remaining city walls and named them cultural heritage sites. By this time, the only intact sections were the gate tower and watchtower at Zhengyangmen, the watchtower at Deshengmen, the guard tower at the southeast corner, the northern moats of the Inner city, the section of the Inner city wall south of the Beijing Railway Station, and a small section of Inner city wall near Xibianmen.
The defence system of Beijing during the Ming and Qing dynasties included city walls, moats, gate towers, barbicans, watchtowers, corner guard towers, enemy sight towers, and military encampments both outside and inside the city. The mountains immediately north of the city and the interior Great Wall sections on those mountain ranges also acted as a defensive perimeter.
During the Ming dynasty, troops under permanent encampment in and around Beijing were called Jingjun or Jingying ("capital troops"). During the Yongle era (1402–1424), they were organised into three groups, called Wujunying (consisting of the majority of the army), Sanqianying (consisting of mercenary and allied Mongol troops), and Shenjiying (consisting of troops using firearms). The three ying were further divided into 72 wei, organised into five groups named Zhongjun (centre), Zuoyejun (left middle), Youyejun (right middle), Zuoshaojun (left guard), and Youshaojun (right guard); these were collectively known as the Wujunying ("five troops"). The majority of the Jingjun were headquartered outside of west Deshengguan. Some camped in the rural districts of the capital area, at Nanyuan, Tonzhou, Lugouqiao, Changping, and the Juyongguan interior Great Wall. During the Tumu Crisis in 1449, the entire Jingjun was destroyed, a loss of some 500,000 men. Yu Qian then changed the organisational structure of the force, bringing approximately 100,000 well-trained troops from several different camps into one supergroup: the 10-battalion supergroup. This was raised to 12 battalions during the reign of Emperor Xian of the Ming dynasty. These were commanded from within the Inner city at Dongguanting and Xiguanting. Drilling and training fields outside of the city walls could also be used as temporary encampments. The original Wujunying, Sanqianying, and Shenjiying were converted to guard units in charge of protecting the Imperial city and the Forbidden city. Later the Imperial guards were joined by the Jinyiwei and the Tengxiangwei, whose commanders included "Mianyiwei Dahan General", "Hongkui General", "Mingjia General", "Bazong Director", and several others. A guard post in the Imperial city called "Hongpu" was formed. The city gates were closed at night; no one was allowed in or out unless special permission was given (one exception was the carts that continually brought spring water from Mount Yuquan). The city streets had guards on constant patrol at night. Loud and disruptive behaviour was forbidden. Some streets had barricades erected at night to keep traffic away. The city walls normally had no soldiers on station, day or night. Most lived under the walls in encampments, with a few doing night shifts at gate towers, watchtowers, and enemy sight towers. Only when there was danger of enemy attack were soldiers stationed atop the city walls. During the Ming dynasty, Beijing was often under siege by Mongol and Manchu forces. The city of Beijing was totally closed many times, with commoners forbidden entrance into the city.
During the Qing dynasty, Beijing's defence forces mainly relied on the Xiaoqiying, who were scattered in encampments within the Inner city, then mainly inhabited by Manchus. They were organised into Eight Banners: the Xianghuang banner at Andingmen, the Zhenghuang banner at Deshengmen, the Zhengbai banner at Dongzhimen, the Xiangbai banner at Chaoyangmen, the Zhenghong banner at Xizhimen, the Xianghong banner at Fuchengmen, the Zhenglan banner at Chongwenmen, and the Xianglan banner at Xuanwumen. Each banner had an office hall, several troop barracks, a patrol station, and a warehouse. In addition to the Xiaoqiying, troops permanently encamped in and around Beijing included the Qianfengying, Hujunying, Bujun Xunbuying, Jianruiying, Huoqiying (in charge of artillery), Shenjiying (first begun in 1862), and the Huqiangying (in charge of guns). From the Yongzheng era (1722–1735) onwards, the Eight Banner guard troops in charge of protecting the imperial leisure parks were camped in the area around the Old Summer Palace and Fragrant Hills. The same system of Eight Banners was in place for the nine gates of the Inner city. The troops consisted of an equal distribution of Manchu, Mongol, and Han soldiers. The soldiers of the Chengmenling, in charge of protecting the city gates, came from these banners: Andingmen: the Zhenglan banner; Deshengmen: the Xianglan banner; Dongzhimen: the Xiangbai banner; Xizhimen: the Xianghong banner; Chaoyangmen: the Zhengbai banner; Fuchengmen: the Zhenghong banner; Chongwenmen: the Xianghuang banner; Xuanwumen: the Zhenghuang banner; and Zhengyangmen rotated between the eight banners. The Outer city's seven gates were manned by Han troops from the following banners: Dongbianmen: the Xianghuang banner; Xibianmen: the Zhenghuang banner; Guangqumen: the Zhengbai banner; Guang'anmen: the Zhenghong banner; Zuo'anmen: the Xianglan and Xiangbai banners; You'anmen: the Xianghong banner; and Yongdingmen: the Zhenglan banner. In 1728 permanent barracks were built for the eight banners in the Inner city, excepting Zhengyangmen. Each gate had barracks of 460 rooms for a ying, 90 rooms for a ban, and 15 rooms for a geng, for a total of 3,680 rooms. Outside the city walls were an additional 16,000 rooms, with each banner having 2,000 rooms. Manchu troops were allocated 1,500 rooms and Han troops 500 rooms. There were also 135 storage rooms atop the Inner city walls, 106 of which were for military equipment such as direction flags, cannons, gunpowder, and guns. In 1835, 241 houses of three rooms each were added to the nine gates of the Inner city, as the original straw and earthen barracks were deteriorating. Twenty-eight store rooms were added, as well as 3,616 Outer city barracks. During the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), the Xiaoqiying soldiers usually lived outside the city gates rather than on the city walls. This proved to be easier for defending the city during a siege. Only when the emperor was leaving the city for Yuanmingyuan or the Temple of Heaven did the soldiers station themselves atop the walls. An exception was Xuanwumen; as the only gate that stayed open at night, the top of the wall was continually manned. Cannons were fired at noon atop Xuanwumen to mark the time.
During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the principal defensive weapons were firelocks, cannons, and bows and arrows. In 1629, Houjin troops attacked Beijing, and in 1644, Li Zicheng's troops laid siege to Beijing. Troops atop the city walls used cannons extensively during both sieges. During the Second Opium War (1856–1860), invading troops stationed outside the city walls gave up, because Beijing was too extensively protected. They then went on to burn down Yuanmingyuan and attack Haidian to the northwest. Between 13 August and 15 August 1900, when the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded Beijing, the fortifications withstood bombardment by cannon attacks for two full days before being overrun. The Qing forces took full advantage of their higher elevation and the protection of the thick walls to shoot down Alliance troops. Russian and Japanese forces attempted several times to use nitrocellulose to blow a gap in the wall at Dongzhimen and Chaoyangmen, but failed, because every time a soldier tried to light the fuse, he would be shot down. The barbicans, enemy sight towers, and corner guard towers proved to be quite effective at deterring enemy attacks. For example, on the night of 13 August, Russian troops succeeded in invading Dongbianmen's watchtower, but suffered heavy casualties in the barbican. It wasn't until the late morning of 14 August that they conquered the gate tower at Dongbianmen, a mere 50 metres away. Even after the Outer city and Inner city fell to Alliance forces, the Imperial city's defenses still held. On the morning of 15 August, American forces used several guns to try to destroy the Tiananmen gates, but they held. Japanese troops used ladders to scale the wall and open the gates, thus allowing Alliance troops into the Imperial city. In an incident on 25 July 1937, a battalion of Japanese troops camped at Fengtai District, declaring that they intended "to protect Japanese immigrants" and "to protect Dongjiaomin Street's Embassy district", tried to advance into Beijing. When they began entering Guang'anmen, around twenty Chinese soldiers fired on them from atop the gate tower, forcing them to abandon their plan. Thus even in the modern era of the 1930s and 1940s, the dilapidated fortifications were still useful defensively.
Beijing's Inner city is also called Jingcheng ("capital city") or Dacheng ("big city"). The eastern and western sections were originally part of the Yuan city of Dadu, while the northern and southern sections were built during the early Ming dynasty in the Hongwu (1368–1398) and Yongle (1402–1424) eras. The walls were formed from rammed earth covered with rocks and a finishing layer of bricks on both the interior and exterior. The average height was 12 to 15 metres. The northern and southern sections, built in the early Ming dynasty, were thicker than the eastern and western sections, built during the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). The thicker sections averaged 19 to 20 metres at the base and 16 metres at the top, with parapets at the top. The Inner city wall had nine gates and a tower at each corner. There were three sluice gates, 172 enemy sighting towers, and 11,038 battlements. Immediately outside the city walls were deep moats 30 to 60 metres in width.
Inner city walls
The city walls of Dadu were used as the foundation for the Inner city walls of Beijing. In 1368, after Ming troops entered Dadu, General Xu Da directed Hua Jilong to build a second city wall of rammed earth to the south of the original northern city wall. The new wall was later covered with stones and bricks. In 1372 the original northern city wall was completely dismantled and the materials used to reinforce the new wall. The perimeter of the original Imperial city was measured at that time as 1,206 zhang (approximately 4,020 metres). The perimeter of the southern city was 5,328 zhang (approximately 17,760 metres). The southern city consisted of the remnants of the Jin Dynasty capital, Zhongdu.
After the capital was moved to Beijing in 1406, the southern city wall was moved south by 2 li (about a kilometre). The original Dadu city walls were not destroyed, except for a small section that overlapped the planned Ming Imperial city. Nevertheless, Dadu's southern city walls were gradually torn down by people looking for free bricks and stones. Dadu's eastern and western walls remained standing. During the Yongle era (1402–1424), the southern, eastern, and western walls were reinforced with stones and bricks. In 1435 construction began on gate towers, watchtowers, barbicans, sluice gates, and corner guard towers for the nine city gates. In 1439 bridges were built leading to the gates. In 1445 the interior walls of the city were reinforced with bricks. The wall and moat system of the Inner city was thus complete.
The walls of the Inner city had a perimeter of 24 kilometres. It was roughly square, with the east and west walls slightly longer due to the north and south walls being moved from their original positions. The northwestern section lacked a vertex; on a map it looks as if the corner had been bitten off. In the Chinese mythological story of Nüwa mending the heavens, "the heavens were missing in the northwest, and the earth was sinking in the southeast". According to scientific investigations done with remote sensing, this area originally had city walls, built in swamps and wetlands. The wall was abandoned in favour of a diagonal connection, placing a small triangle of land outside the city.
Beijing's Inner city came under siege many times; for example, the invasions of Anda Khan and Houjin during the Ming dynasty and the Boxer Rebellion and Eight-Nations Alliance attack during the Qing dynasty. All but the Eight-Nations Alliance were successfully defended against.
After the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, the barbicans at Zhengyangmen, Chaoyangmen, Xuanwemen, Dongzhimen, and Andingmen were dismantled, along with Dong'anmen and the city walls of the Imperial city, to improve traffic flow and to allow for construction of the circum-city railway. In 1924 a new gate was created at Hepingmen to improve traffic flow. Many other gates and archways, such as the Qimingmen (the present Jianguomen) and Chang'anmen (the present Fuxingmen), were opened during this period.
After 1949, the Communist Party of China ordered the demolition of the city walls on a giant scale. During the Korean War, in order to ease traffic density, six new archways were built: Dayabao alley archway, Beimencang archway (now called the Dongsi Shitiao archway), North Bell Tower Avenue archway, Xinjiekou archway, West Guanyuan archway, and Songhe'an alley archway.
Inner city gates
Beijing's Inner city wall had gate towers that sat atop rectangular platforms 12 to 13 metres high integrated into the city walls. Each gate entranceway, centred under the middle of its gate tower platform, had two giant red wooden gates that opened outwards. Iron bulbs were fitted on the exterior side of the gates and gilt copper bulbs on the interior side. When the gates were closed they were locked with giant tree-trunk-sized wooden beams.
The Inner city gate towers were built during the Zhengtong era of the Ming dynasty (1435–1449) in the multi-eaved Xieshanding style. The roofs were covered with grey tubed roof tiles and green glazed tiles. Zhengyangmen's gate tower was seven rooms in length and five rooms in width; Chaoyangmen and Fuchengmen were three rooms in width. Each gate tower had a different floor plan. The gate tower at Zhengyangmen was the tallest and the most imposing Inner city gate tower. Chongwenmen and Xuanwumen were slightly smaller than Zhengyangmen. Dongzhimen and Xizhimen were smaller still, and Deshengmen, Andingmen, Chaoyangmen, are Fuchengmen were the smallest. Each gate tower had two floors. Soldiers could climb to the upper level to have a better view of approaching enemies.
Each gate tower had a watchtower directly in front of it. They were all unique. The watchtower at Zhengyangmen was 38 metres high, 52 metres wide, and 32 metres deep, constructed on a raised platform 12 metres high. This gate, named "Qianmen", was for the exclusive use of the emperor. Built in multi-eaved Xieshanding style, it had grey tubed roof tiles with green glazed tiles at the top. The southern side had seven rooms with 52 arrow slits, and the northern side had five rooms with 21 arrow slits. The eastern and western sides each had 21 arrow slits. The other Inner city watchtowers had exterior designs similar to that of Qianmen, with multi-eaved Xieshanding-style gate towers in the front and a series of five rooms in the back. Both the upper and lower levels of the watchtowers were equipped with arrow slits.
The watchtowers were connected to both the inner walls and outer walls by a structure called a barbican. The barbicans of Dongzhimen or Xizhimen were square; the ones at Zhengyangmen and Deshengmen were rectangular; at Dongbianmen and Xibianmen they were semicircular. Most of the Inner city barbicans had rounded corners, which provided better sight lines and were more difficult to climb or destroy. Each Inner city barbican had a unique design.
Zhengyangmen (正陽門 lit. 'Gate of the Righteous Sun'), completed in 1419, was located at the centre of the southern wall of the Inner city. It was constructed in the triple-eaved Xieshanding style, with green glazed tiles. Originally called Lizhengmen (麗正門), the name was changed during the Zhengtong era (1435–1449). Its gate tower was located on a platform atop the city wall at a height of 13.2 metres. The overall height was 27.76 metres. The gate had rooms on two levels, with seven exterior rooms 41 metres wide and three interior rooms 21 metres wide. Directly to the south was the watchtower, commonly known as "Qianmen"; it was seven rooms wide. Each floor had 13 arrow slits (the other Inner city watchtowers all had 12 arrow slits per floor). Additional towers in the rear had four arrow slits on the southern sides of their upper floors. The eastern and western sides had four floors with four arrow slits on each floor. The watchtowers and gate towers were connected with thick brick walls to form the Zhengyangmen barbican, 108 metres wide and 85 metres deep. The eastern and western ends had side gates with arches fitted with thousand-jin (approximately 500 kilograms) locks. Normally the watchtower gate and the eastern side gate were closed; commoners used the arch underneath the western side gate.
Each Inner city barbican contained a temple, and the barbican at Zhengyangmen had two: Guandimiao in the west and Guanyinmiao in the east. Guandimiao had Ming original statues, including the "three treasures" of Guandimiao: a precious sword, a Guandi painting, and a white jade horse statue. The Qing emperor would visit Guandimiao and light some incense each time he returned from a visit to the Temple of Heaven. The temples of Guandimiao and Guanyinmiao were dismantled during the Cultural Revolution.
The watchtower at Zhengyangmen was damaged by fire in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. The Hui and Dongxiang Muslim Kansu Braves under Muslim General Ma Fulu engaged in fierce fighting during the Battle of Peking (1900) at Zhengyangmen against the Eight-Nation Alliance. Ma Fulu and 100 of his fellow Hui and Dongxiang soldiers from his home village died in that battle. Indian soldiers under British command used wood from the damaged tower as firewood that winter. The gate was reconstructed in the latter years of the Qing dynasty. Internal Affairs minister Zhu Qiqian ordered the barbican dismantled in 1915 to ease traffic congestion. The watchtower and gate tower were saved from demolition in 1965 on the orders of then premier Zhou Enlai.
Chongwenmen (崇文門 lit. 'Gate of Respectful Civility'), commonly called "Hademen (哈德門)", was located on the eastern section of the Inner city southern wall. Originally called "Wenmingmen (文明門)", it was built in 1419. The name was changed during the Zhengtong era (1435–1449). The new name was taken from Zuo Zhuan: "崇文德也"(chong wen de ye, lit. 'It is a virtue to respect civility'). The barbican, sluice gates, and a watchtower were built in the Zhengtong era.
The gate tower was built in multi-eaved Xieshanding style, with grey and green glazed tiles. It was three rooms by five, with an overall width of 39.1 metres and a depth of 24.3 metres. The gate tower had two floors and was built on a tower platform at a height of 35.5 metres. The watchtower was similar in design to the one at Zhengyangmen, but on a slightly smaller scale. The enceinte had a width of 78 metres and a depth of 86 metres. There were sluice gates and arches on the western side. Chongwenmen had a Guandimiao temple in the northeastern corner, built facing the south. In 1900 the gate tower was destroyed by British cannon fire during the Boxer Rebellion; it was completely dismantled in 1920. The barbican was dismantled in 1950 and the gate tower in 1966.
Chongwenmen was a "sighting gate", with the connotation of "a bright and prosperous future". Its symbol was the Chongwen iron turtle. Due to its close proximity to the busy Tonghui river, it was the busiest gate in Beijing. Entry and departure taxes were charged at Chongwenmen throughout the Ming dynasty, Qing dynasty, and early Republican eras. The Empress Dowager Cixi's "cosmetic spending" and the early Republican China president's annual salary came directly from taxes levied at this gate. In 1924, Feng Tianxiang initiated a coup, after which the taxation at Chongwenmen was stopped.
Only Chongwenmen had bells announcing the closure of the gates at the end of the day. The other gates used a flat instrument that produced a "tang" sound. Thus arose the saying that of "nine gates, eight tangs, one old bell". This story is a possible etymological origin of zhongdian to refer to the hour in the Beijing dialect. In the past there were many distilleries in the southern Daxing District. Carts would carry newly brewed spirits through Chongwenmen. This is the origin of the saying, "Chongwenmen has carts carrying spirits entering; Xuanwumen has carts carrying prisoners leaving".
When Chongwenmen was dismantled during the Cultural Revolution, workers discovered that the gate was the original Ming structure, using phoebe puwennensis wood. Some of the recovered wood was used during reconstruction work in the Forbidden city and Tiananmen.
Xuanwumen (宣武門 lit. 'Gate of Advocated Martiality') was located on western section of the southern wall. It was built in 1419 when Beijing's southern walls were expanded. Before the Zhengtong era (1435–1449) the gate was called Shunchengmen (顺承門), while commoners referred to it as Shunzhimen. The gate tower was completely rebuilt during the Zhengtong era, and a barbican, sluice gate tower, and watchtower were added. The name was changed to Xuanwu ("martial advocacy"), from a quotation from Zhang Heng's Dongjing Fu: "the martial integrity is to announce 武节是宣 wu jie shi xuan". The gate tower was five rooms wide and three deep, with an overall width of 32.6 metres and a depth of 23 metres. The gate tower had two levels and was 33 metres high. The roof was built in the multi-eaved Xieshanding style with green glazed tile edges on grey tiles. The watchtower was similar to the one at Zhengyangmen, but on a slightly smaller scale. The barbican was 75 metres wide and 83 metres deep, with sluice gates on the eastern and western sides and one archway on each side. A Guandi Temple was located on the northwestern corner of the barbican, facing southward. The watchtower was dismantled in 1927. The watchtower platform and the barbican were dismantled in 1930, and the gate tower was dismantled in 1965. The giant cannons on Xuanwumen were fired at noon.
Xuanwumen was informally referred to as the "Death Gate", because carts carrying prisoners for execution were taken through this gate to the execution ground, located in Caishikou, to the south. Beijing's many cemeteries were located in and around Taoranting in the southern suburbs. Funeral carts carrying commoners would often leave the city through Xuanwumen.
Of the nine Inner city gates of Beijing, Xuanwumen was built at the lowest elevation. Although normally the river system accommodated and directed water flow out of the city through Zhengyangmen's eastern sluice gates, these proved ineffective during heavy rainstorms, when most of the water would flood out of Xuanwumen. According to Guangxu Shuntianfu Zhi, heavy rainstorms in Beijing in 1695 flooded the gates at Xuanwumen, making them impossible to open. Six elephants were brought over from the zoo to force open the gates, and the flood finally dissipated out of the city.
Dongzhimen (東直門 lit. 'Eastern Upright Gate') was located on the northern section of the Inner city eastern wall. It was built on the location of the Chongrenmen (崇仁門) gate of the Yuan era, the central gate of the eastern city wall of Dadu. In 1419 the name was changed, quoting "东方盛德属木、为春" and "直东方也，春也". Dongzhimen's gate tower was five rooms long (31.5 metres), three rooms wide (15.3 metres), and two floors high (34 metres). It was built in the multi-eaved Xieshanding style, with grey tiles with green glazed edges. The watchtower was similar to the one at Zhengyangmen, but on a slightly smaller scale. The barbican was built during the final years of the Yuan dynasty (ended 1368). It was nearly square, and was the smallest barbican of any of the nine Inner city gates. The northern and southern walls were 68 metres long, and the eastern and western walls were 62 metres long. Archways and sluice gates were present on the eastern and western sides. A Guandi Temple was located on the northeast corner, facing southward. The temple had no proper statue of Guandi; a minor deity made of wood was located there instead. This gave rise to the old Beijing saying: "Nine gates, ten temples, one without morality". The sluice gate towers and the barbican were dismantled in 1915 when the circum-city railway was built. The watchtower was dismantled in 1930 and its platform in 1958. The gate tower was dismantled in 1965.
Outside Dongzhimen was a pagoda made completely from iron, with a stone statue of Yaowangye. Many carts carrying raw wood entered the city through Dongzhimen.
Chaoyangmen (朝陽門 lit. 'Gate that Faces the Sun') was located at the midpoint of the Inner city eastern wall. Built at the site of the Dadu gate called Qihuamen (齊化門), it was informally known by that name by the commoners. The gate tower and watchtower were similar to those at Chongwenmen. The gate tower was 31.35 metres wide, 19.2 metres deep, and 32 metres high. The barbican was 68 metres wide and 62 metres deep, with a sluice gate and archway on the northern side. Its Guandi temple was located on the northeastern corner, facing south. The watchtower was destroyed by Japanese forces in 1900 and was rebuilt in 1903. The barbican was dismantled in 1915 when the circum-city railway was built. The gate tower and its platform were dismantled in 1953, and the watchtower in 1958.
Chaoyangmen was Beijing's "Food Gate", through which many carts carrying staple foods entered the city. The gate was closest to the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, and wheat and rice from the south China plains such arrived via that route. Much of the food was stored in warehouses just inside Chaoyangmen. Thus it has the symbol of a wheat grain engraved on the archway of the barbican gate. Chaoyangmen has the informal name of "Dumen", meaning 杜门 "resting station".
Xizhimen (西直門 lit. 'Western Upright Gate') was located on the northern section of the Inner city western wall. Built on the site of the Yuan era gate called Heyimen (和義門), the name was changed in 1419 to reflect its location ("Xizhimen" means western axis gate). The gate tower and watchtower were similar to that of Dongzhimen. The gate tower was 32 metres long, 15.6 metres wide, and 32.75 metres high. The barbican was 68 metres by 62 metres, with a sluice gate and an archway on the southern side. Its Guandi temple, which was dismantled in 1930, was located on the northeastern corner, facing south. Heyimen's barbican was built during the reign of Yuan Shundi, in 1360. It was in continuous use for over 60 years during the Ming dynasty. During the Zhengtong era (1435–1449), at a time when the other Inner city gates were all undergoing complete reconstruction, it was covered over with bricks and was merged with the new watchtower platform.
Due to the poor water supply within Beijing, the Imperial family and wealthy families would get their water from springs on Mount Yuquan in the northwestern suburbs. Every morning, carts carrying spring water would enter the city through Xizhimen. Thus, a symbol of water was engraved on the barbican gate archway of Xizhimen.
Xizhimen, the last gate to remain fully intact, was completely dismantled in 1969. During demolition, workers discovered that parts of the barbican gate's archway were the originals from the 13th century.
Fuchengmen (阜成門 lit. 'Gate of Abundant Success') was located at the midpoint of the Inner city western wall. Originally the site of the Pingzemen (平則門) gate of the Yuan era, it was still informally known as Pingzemen by the commoners even after its name was changed. The new name, "Fucheng", came from the classic Shàngshū, "六卿分职各率其属，以成九牧，阜成兆民". The gate was repaired in 1382 and completely rebuilt in 1435. Its gate tower and watchtower were similar to those at Chaoyangmen. The gate tower was 31.2 metres by 16 metres and 30 metres high. The barbican was 74 metres by 65 metres, with a sluice gate and an archway on its northern side. The Guandi temple was located on the northeastern corner of the barbican, facing south. The sluice gate tower and watchtower were dismantled in 1935. The barbican and watchtower platform were dismantled in 1953, and the gate tower in 1965.
Due to its proximity to the Western Hills and the coal reserves at Mentougou District, carts carrying coal would enter the city through Fuchengmen. The barbican gate archway had an engraving of a plum flower (plum flower "梅 Mei" and coal "煤 Mei" are homophones in Chinese. Also, the plum trees near Fuchengmen blossom in spring, around the time when coal was no longer needed and deliveries ceased). This gives rise to the old Beijing saying: "Fucheng's plum blossoms announce the arrival of the new spring's warmth". Fuchengmen is also informally referred to as "惊门 Jingmen", meaning "Justice".
Deshengmen (德勝門 lit. 'Gate of Virtuous Victory') was located on the western section of the Inner city northern wall. Its name was changed from the original "Jiandemen (建德門)" during the early Ming dynasty. The new name implied that the Ming won the war against the Yuan Mongols by having strong ethics and morals. The northern wall was rebuilt in 1372 slightly to the south of the original position. The gate tower at Deshengmen was 31.5 metres by 16.8 metres, with a height of 36 metres. The barbican was 70 metres by 118 metres, the second largest, after Zhengyangmen. The barbican had a sluice gate and an archway on the western side. Its Zhenwu (the Dark Warrior) temple was at the center of the northern side of the barbican, facing south. The barbican was dismantled in 1915. In 1921 the gate tower was dismantled and in 1955 the gate tower platform was dismantled. A proposal was made in 1979 to dismantle of the watchtower, but it was kept intact.
Both the Ming and the Qing, after defeating the Yuan and the Ming respectively, entered the city for the first time through Deshengmen; the name "Desheng" means "morally victorious". Carts carrying weapons used this gate for luck when entering or leaving the city. Deshengmen was also informally known as "修门 Xiumen", meaning "having high moral and ethical standards".
Andingmen (安定門 lit. 'Gate of Secured Peace') was located on the western side of the Inner city northern wall. It was built when the gate called Anzhenmen (安貞門) was moved south during the early Ming dynasty. It was renamed Andingmen, hoping for "peace and tranquility under the heavens (天下安定)". Its gate tower was 31 metres by 16.05 metres and 36 metres in height. The barbican was 68 metres by 62 metres, with a sluice gate and an archway on its western side. The barbican was dismantled in 1915 and the gate tower and watchtower in 1969.
Seven of Beijing's Inner city gates had a Guandi temple built within their barbican grounds. Andingmen and Deshengmen had Zhenwu temples instead, as these gates were used by soldiers entering and leaving the city.
Andingmen was informally known as "生门 Shengmen", meaning "bountiful harvest". The Emperor always used this gate when leaving the city for the Temple of Earth, where he would pray for a bountiful harvest. Outside Andingmen were storage areas for feces, which was used for fertiliser. Carts carrying feces would leave via this gate for farms in the countryside.
During the dismantlement process, a small experiment to test the structural integrity of its gate tower was conducted. It was found that the gate tower structure could lean forward by 15 degrees and still not collapse.
Newly opened archways
Shuiguanmen was located near Zhengyangmen's eastern sluice gate. In 1905 the District Works Office of the Dongjiao Embassy District covered the original moat with concrete. They opened a new archway in place of the original sluice gate to create a new gate, which could be used as a means of swiftly retreating to the Zhengyangmen railroad station. Two iron gates were added. Each side of the archway had a hollowed-out room to serve as a guard station.
Hepingmen was located at the Inner city southern wall, between Zhengyangmen and Xuanwumen. It was opened in 1926 to ease traffic congestion. The gate had no defensive structures, but was simply a passageway in and out of the city. Originally named "Xinhuamen", the name was changed to "Hepingmen" in 1927 to distinguish it from the famous Xinhuamen, the entrance to Zhongnanhai, a complex of central governmental offices. The archways were 13 metres high and 10 metres wide, with two iron gates. The top of the archway was removed in 1958 and the gate became a simple opening in the wall.
Jianguomen was located at the southern edge of the eastern wall of the Inner city. It was at the northeast region of the Beijing Ancient Observatory. The gate was dismantled in 1939 and an opening 7.9 metres wide was created in its place. It was in the shape of an inverted "八" character. Although it was merely an opening in the wall and not an actual gate, it was given the name of a gate – "Qimingmen". The name was changed to "Jianguomen" in 1945. In 1957 it was torn down, along with the surrounding Inner city walls.
Fuxingmen was located at the southern edge of the western wall of the Inner city, at the same latitude as Jianguomen on the eastern wall. The gate was dismantled in 1939 and an opening 7.4 metres wide created in its place. It was in the shape of an inverted "八" character, similar to Jianguomen. It too was given the name of a gate – "Chang'anmen". The name was changed to "Fuxingmen" in 1945 when a 12.6-metre-high platform was built and a single-arch passageway 10 metres wide was added. The complete structure was dismantled in 1955.
Inner city corner guard towers
Guard towers were located at the four corners of the Inner city walls. They were all similarly designed in the multi-eaved Xieshanding style, with grey tiles with green glazed edges. The towers had a height of 17 metres, and a total height of 29 metres, including the platform. The two adjacent sides facing away from the city were 35 metres wide. The towers were four storeys high and were fitted with 14 arrow slits on each floor. The two adjacent sides facing into the city had four arrow slits on each floor. The sides facing the city also had true windows that could be opened for ventilation and light, while the arrow slits were only opened when shooting arrows or cannonballs. The interior of the towers were hollow; platforms and stairs ringed the walls to allow access to the arrow slits.
Only the southeastern corner guard tower has survived. To avoid disrupting rail service at the nearby main train station while the metro was being built, the metro was routed away from the city walls and the southeastern corner guard tower. Thus the tower survived, along with a section of the Inner city wall. The northeastern tower was dismantled in 1920 and its platform in 1953. The northwestern tower was destroyed by Russian cannon fire in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion. Its platform was dismantled in 1969. The southwestern corner guard tower was dismantled in 1930 because of a lack of funds for maintenance. Its platform was dismantled in 1969.
The Outer city was also called "Guocheng" or "Waiguo". It was expanded in 1553. The walls were 7.5 to 8 metres high, and were 12 metres wide at the bottom and 9 metres wide at the top. The southeastern corner was built on the diagonal to avoid low swamps in the area. This fulfilled the legend of Nüwa mending the heavens: the heavens were missing in the northwest and the earth was sinking in the southeast.
The southern walls encompassed the southern walls of the Temple of Heaven, and the eastern and western walls were parallel with the Inner city's walls, about 2 kilometres away. This was where the rammed earth walls of the Yuan city of Dadu had been located before being abandoned in the closing years of the Hongwu era (1368–1398) during the early Ming dynasty. Walls in the northeastern and northwestern sections were built using materials recovered from the Yuan rammed earth structure. The Outer city walls had a perimeter of approximately 28 kilometres. The entire enclosure of the inner and outer cities formed a "凸" shape with a perimeter of 60 kilometres. Eleven gates were built, three each on the eastern, southern, and western walls, and two on the northern walls (one on the northeastern section and one on the northwestern section).
When the expansion of the Outer city was being planned in 1550, one idea called for nine small minor cities to be built around the nine Inner city gates, which would have been a formidable addition to the city defenses. Construction began in 1550 on three of these minor cities. However, because of the proximity to the Inner city gates, where many commoner's houses and shops had sprung up, many buildings needed to be dismantled. The disgruntled commoners forced the abandonment of the project not long after construction began. In 1553, it was decided that the remaining rammed earth walls of the Yuan city of Dadu would be dismantled and the raw materials used to complete the Outer city walls to form a "回": a square within a square. The plan called for the Outer city walls to have a perimeter of 70 kilometres. The east and west walls would have been 17 kilometres and the north and south 18 kilometres. The plan called for 11 more gates, 176 more enemy sight towers, two additional sluice gates outside of Xizhimen and Tonghui River, and eight more sluice gates at other low swampy areas. The Outer city expansion was a grand project, greater than any of the capitals of the previous Chinese dynasties. The Emperor approved, and construction began in 1554. Under the supervision of Yan Song, the project was divided into segments. The southern walls were built first to add extra defenses for the bustling commercial district south of the Inner city gate at Zhengyangmen. The eastern and western walls were planned for the second segment of the project. However, due to successive invasions from the Mongols and Manchus, soldiers were called away to the northern frontiers to defend the Great Wall, and thus few could be spared for construction. A great section of the Forbidden city caught fire in 1557, and workers and funding were funnelled towards repairs and reconstruction of the palaces. The expansion of the Outer city walls was thus never completed. In 1564, the barbicans of the Outer city gates were built.
Outer city walls
The Outer city walls had four corner guard towers and seven gate towers. The outside of the wall was covered with blocks averaging a metre in width. Most of the larger blocks were installed during the Ming dynasty and the smaller ones during the Qing dynasty. The blocks on the interior surface averaged 0.7 metres. The Outer city walls had an average height of 6 to 7 metres. The wall was 10 to 11 metres wide at the top and 11 to 15 metres wide at the base. The western sections were the narrowest, averaging only 4.5 metres at the top and 7.8 metres at the base.
The Outer city walls, gate towers, and corner guard towers were dismantled between 1951 and 1958.
Outer city gates
Beijing's Outer city wall had seven gates, three on the southern walls, one each on the eastern and western walls, and two side gates on the northern walls (on the northeastern and northwestern sections). The Outer city gate towers were all smaller in scale than those of the Inner city. The largest was the central southern gate: Yongdingmen. This gate was aligned on the same north-south axis as Zhengyangmen of the Inner city, Tiananmen of the Imperial city, and Wumen of the Forbidden city. The gate tower at Yongdingmen was approximately 20 metres in height, in the multi-eaved Xieshanding style, and was seven rooms by three rooms. Just below Yongdingmen in size was the slightly-smaller Guangningmen (present-day Guang'anmen). The gate towers at Guangqumen, Zuo'anmen, and You'anmen were all single-eaved Xieshanding style with one floor, and were only 15 metres tall. The two side gates, Dongbianmen and Xibianmen, were even smaller.
The barbicans of the Outer city gates were not built until the Ming dynasty. The watchtowers were built during the Qianlong era of the Qing dynasty (1735–1796). The watchtowers of the Outer city wall were smaller than those of the Inner city. The watchtower at Yongdingmen was the largest on the Outer city wall; it had two rows of arrow slits with seven slits in each row on the front and two rows of three on each side. Unlike in the Inner city, the watchtowers had no side tower on the interior aspect; there was only an archway. The watchtowers at Guang'anmen, Guangqumen, Zuo'anmen, and You'anmen each had 22 arrow slits. Dongbianmen and Xibianmen had the smallest watchtowers, with only eight arrow slits. Unlike the Inner city wall, the barbicans on the outer wall were all built around the base of the watchtowers instead of the base of the gate towers, thus forming a straight line with the gate's archway. Guandi temples were not built in the barbicans of the Outer city gates.
Yongdingmen (永定門 lit. 'Gate of Eternal Stability') was located on the midsection of the southern wall. It was built in 1766, imitating the multi-eaved Xieshanding style of the Inner city gates, roofed with grey tiles with glazed green rims. The gate had two floors, each five rooms by three rooms and 24 metres by 10.5 metres. The gate was 26 metres high. The watchtower was small in scale: three rooms by one room, 12.8 metres by 6.7 metres, in the single-eaved Xieshanding style with grey roof tiles. It had two levels of arrow slits, with seven on each level on the southern face and three on each level on the eastern and western sides. A single archway was positioned directly under the watchtower platform. The gate had a rectangular barbican measuring 42 metres from east to west and 36 metres from north to south. The corners of the barbican were curved. During the Boxer rebellion, on 11 June, the secretary of the Japanese legation, Sugiyama Akira (杉山 彬?), was attacked and killed by the Muslim soldiers of General Dong Fuxiang near Yongdingmen, who were guarding the southern part of the Beijing walled city. The barbican was dismantled in 1950, and the gate tower and watchtower were dismantled in 1957. In 2004, the gate tower was reconstructed slightly north of its original location.
Zuo'anmen (左安門 lit. 'Left Gate of Peace') was located on the eastern section of the southern wall. The gate tower was built on a single level in the single-eaved Xieshanding style with grey roof tiles. It was three rooms by one room, 16 metres by 9 metres. The gate tower, 6.5 metres tall, sat on a platform 15 metres high. The watchtower was also single floored, and in the single-eaved Xieshanding style with grey roof tiles. It was three rooms by one room, 13 metres by 6 metres, and 7.1 metres high. It used the same arrangement of arrow slits and had the same type of barbican as Yongdingmen. The gate tower and watchtower were dismantled in the 1930s, and the gate tower platform, watchtower platform, and barbican were dismantled in 1953.
Zuo'anmen was commonly referred to as "Jiangcamen". "江擦 （jiāng cā）" and "礓磋 （jiāng cuō）" sound different but have the same meaning. In traditional Chinese architecture, "礓磋（jiāng cuō）", also called "礓礤 (jiāng cǎ)", are stone steps without ladder-like step platforms.
You'anmen (右安門 lit. 'Right Gate of Peace') was located on the western section of the southern wall. It was commonly known as "Fengyimen" or "Xinanmen" ("southwestern gate"), because Fengyimen of the Jin dynasty city of Zhongdu had been located nearby. All of its specifications were the same as Zuo'anmen. The barbican and watchtower were dismantled in 1956, and the gate tower in 1958.
Guangqumen (廣渠門 lit. 'Gate of Extended Waterway') was located slightly north of the midsection of the eastern wall. Its common name was "Shawomen (沙窝門)". It had the same specifications as Zuo'anmen. The watchtower was dismantled in the 1930s, and the barbican and gate tower were dismantled in 1953.
Ming general Yuan Chonghuan defeated the Manchu Houjin dynasty forces at this gate in 1629, in the final years of the Ming dynasty. In 1900, when the Eight Nation alliance forces reached Beijing, they initially did not attack this gate, so troops stationed there were relocated to help defend the other Outer city gates. British troops took the opportunity to defeat this gate. They then bombarded the Inner city gate of Chongwenmen from the Temple of Heaven and entered the Inner city.
Guang'anmen (廣安門 lit. 'Gate of Extended Peace') was located slightly north of the midsection of the western wall. It was called "Guangningmen (廣宁門)" during the Ming dynasty, and was also called "Zhangyimen", because it was on the same axis as Zhangyimen of the city of Zhongdu of the Jin dynasty. The name was changed from "Guangningmen" to "Guang'anmen" during the Qing dynasty, in order to avoid criticism of the Qing Emperor Xuan, who was named Minning (旻宁). Its original specifications were the same as Guangqumen. Because it was heavily used by new arrivals entering the city from the southern Chinese provinces, Qianlong Emperor decided to make the gate more impressive and majestic. Guang'anmen was expanded in 1766 in a style that imitated Yongdingmen and the Inner city gates. The gate tower was a two-storey multi-eaved Xieshanding style building with grey roof tiles with glazed green rims. It was 26 metres high, 13.8 metres by 6 metres, and three rooms by one room. The barbican was originally semi-circular. After the expansion of 1766, it was rectangular with curved corners, and measured 39 metres by 34 metres. The barbican and watchtower were dismantled in the 1940s, and the gate tower in 1957.
Dongbianmen (東便門 lit. 'Eastern Convenient Gate') was located at the northeastern corner of the Outer city walls at the point where the outer wall stopped short and turned toward the Inner city wall. A matching gate was built on the northwestern corner of the Outer city walls. The gates, originally intended to be temporary, were at first not given names. About ten years after completion, the gates were named Dongbianmen ("eastern side gate") and Xibianmen ("western side gate"). The gate tower at Dongbianmen was similar to the one at Zuo'anmen, but on a slightly smaller scale. It measured 11.2 metres by 5.5 metres and was 12.2 metres high. The gate had no archway; instead it had a smaller wooden side gate on one side. The watchtower was built during the Qianlong era (1735–1796), with two levels of arrow slits, four per level on the northern side and two per level on the eastern and western sides. The barbican and watchtower were dismantled in the 1930s due to lack of funds for maintenance. The gate tower was dismantled in 1958 when Beijing's main train station was built.
Xibianmen (西便門 lit. 'Western Convenient Gate')was located at the northwestern corner of the Outer city walls. It had a height of 10.5 metres, and otherwise had similar measurements as Dongbianmen. It was dismantled in 1952. Parts of the barbican walls remain.
Corner guard towers
Four corner guard towers were built at the four vertices of the Outer city walls in 1554. They were all single-storey buildings in the single-eaved Xieshanding cross (square-shaped) style. Approximately 7.5 metres high, they contained one room measuring 6 metres by 6 metres. There were two levels of arrow slits, with three on each level on the two sides facing out of the city, and two on each level on the two sides facing towards the city. The southwestern and northeastern corner guard towers were dismantled in the 1930s, and the southeastern and northwestern corner guard towers were dismantled in 1955 and 1957 respectively.
Beijing's Imperial city was built during the Yongle era (1402–1424). It was expanded northwards, eastwards, and southwards from the foundations the Imperial city of Dadu of the Yuan Dynasty as an expansion of the Forbidden city, which was solely for the use of the imperial family. It was rectangular in shape, except in the southwestern corner, which was the location of Qingshou Temple. The walls averaged 7 to 8 metres in height, and were 2 metres thick at the base and 1.7 metres at the top. It was painted red on the exterior, with glazed imperial yellow tiles at the top. It had a perimeter of 10.6 kilometres (north: 2,506 metres, south: 1,701 metres, east: 2,756 metres, west: 3,724 metres). There were seven gates (some sources count four, six, or eight gates), of which Tiananmen, Di'anmen, Dong'anmen, and Xi'anmen are the four referred to by the saying "Inner city nine gates, Outer city seven gates, Imperial city four gates (内九外七皇城四)".
The main central southern gate of the Imperial city was Damingmen. It was made of bricks, in imitation of the Forbidden city gates. Its base was of white marble in the Xumi foundation style. The gate tower was in the single-eaved Xieshanding style with glazed imperial yellow roof tiles. It had five pillars on the front, three archways at the centre, and white marble railings. Its name was changed to Daqingmen (大清門 "Great Qing Gate") in 1644, when the Manchu first entered Beijing, establishing the Qing dynasty. A white marble tablet on the gate had the name "Daqingmen" engraved in gold on an azure background. In 1912, when the Qing dynasty was overthrown and the Republic of China was established, the gate's name was changed to Zhonghuamen (中華門 "Gate of China"). The city planners decided to reuse the tablet and simply write the words "Zhonghuamen" on the reverse of the tablet. However, when it was taken down and flipped over, they discovered the words Damingmen (大明門 "Great Ming Gate") already appeared on the back of the tablet; it had already been re-used. A new tablet made of wood was created instead. In 1954, with the recommendation of Soviet city planners then working in Beijing, the gate was dismantled for the future Tiananmen Square. Its location is now the site of the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
Located southwest of Tiananmen, Chang'anzuomen is similar to Damingmen. It was also called "Qinglongmen" or "Longmen", meaning "Dragon Gate", because during the Ming and Qing dynasties, results of the imperial examinations were posted on this gate. Successfully passing the examinations would result in a person entering the Forbidden city to work in imperial bureaucratic positions, normally forbidden to commoners. It was dismantled in 1952 when the Chang'an Avenue was expanded.
Located southeast of Tiananmen, Chang'anyoumen was similar to Damingmen. It was also called "Baihumen" or "Humen", meaning "Tiger Gate", because during the Ming and Qing dynasties, prisoners were executed just west of this gate. It was dismantled in 1952 when the Chang'an Avenue was expanded.
Tiananmen ("Gate of Heavenly Peace"), originally called Chengtianzhimen, was renamed during the Qing dynasty. It was located at the midpoint of the southern wall of the Imperial city. The Daming Huidian (the collected statutes of the Ming dynasty) refer to it as the main gate of the Imperial city. Tiananmen is one of several gates that lined up on a north-south axis at the main entrance to the Forbidden city. Its platform is 13 metres high. It has a white marble base of Xumi style and five archways. The gate tower was built in multi-eaved Xieshanding style with glazed imperial yellow roof tiles. It is nine rooms by five rooms (originally five rooms by three rooms during the early Ming dynasty) and 33.7 metres high. It was completely reconstructed in 1958 and subsequently repaired on several occasions.
Duanmen was located directly north of Tiananmen. It was similar to Tiananmen. It can be seen as an outer gate of Wumen, which was the main entrance to the Forbidden City. This conforms to the Rites of Zhou 's five gate rule's "Zhimen" or "Kumen".
Dong'anmen was located slightly south of the midpoint of the Imperial city's eastern wall. Single-eaved Xieshanding style with glazed imperial yellow roof tiles, it was seven rooms by three rooms, and had three archways, each fitted with a pair of red-painted golden-nailed doors. It was destroyed by fire in 1912 during Cao Kun's insurrection against Zhang Xun. In 2001 the site was cleared to become the Beijing Imperial City Site Park.
Xi'anmen was located slightly north of the midpoint of the Imperial city's western wall. It was similar to Dong'anmen. It was accidentally burnt down on 1 December 1950. A smaller version of the gate tower was built on its original site, using the same materials of the original gate tower, as a commemoration.
Beianmen was located at the central axis of the Imperial city's northern wall. The north gate of the Imperial city, it was commonly referred to as "Houzaimen" during the Ming dynasty. It was renamed "Di'anmen" during the Qing dynasty. It was similar to Dong'anmen, but slightly bigger in scale. It was dismantled between 1954 and 1956.
Beijing's Palace city or "Forbidden city" (so called because the majority of the populace was forbidden to enter) was completed in 1415. Its surrounding walls had a perimeter of 3.4 kilometres, a height of 10 metres, a thickness of 8.62 metres at the base, and a top thickness of 6.66 metres. The wall had two rows of roof tiles glazed in the imperial yellow colour set on a triangular base 0.84 metres tall. The interior and exterior sides of the walls were reinforced with 2-metre-thick bricks surrounding stones and rammed earth. The Forbidden city had four corner guard towers built in a combination multi-eaved Xieshanding style. There were four gates.
Wumen (午門 lit. 'Meridian Gate') was the southern-facing main gate. It was in alignment with the city's central axis and with three other gates: Yongdingmen of the Outer city, Zhengyangmen of the Inner city, and Tiananmen of the Imperial city. It was built on a "凹" shaped platform 13.5 metres high. The gate tower was nine rooms by five rooms in the multi-eaved veranda floored design. It had two side pavilion towers on each side, square in shape, each five rooms by five rooms. The two wings stretching from the centre are commonly referred to as "hawk wings towers". Each of these wings is 13 rooms by two rooms with a square pavilion tower at the end of the wing. The wings each have a minor gate near the intersection with the main "body" of the platform. At the left and right of the platform are sundials and many other time measurement instruments. The gates are rectangular in shape, unlike the archways seen in the Outer city, Inner city, and Imperial city gates. There are three archways in the middle of the gate.
Xuánwumen (玄武门) (not to be confused with Xuanwumen (宣武门) of the Inner city gates), also called Shenwumen, was the northern entrance to the Forbidden city. Its gate tower was five rooms by three rooms in a multi-eaved veranda floored design. It has three rectangular gates. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, there was a gate called Beishangmen just outside of this gate, but it was dismantled in 1950.
Donghuamen was the eastern entrance to the Forbidden city, with a design similar to that of Xuánwumen and Xihuamen. Xihuamen was the western entrance to the Forbidden city, with a similar design to Xuánwumen and Donghuamen.
The Qing Huidian records that there were six gates to the Forbidden city. This takes into account the two minor side gates of Wumen's two "arms".
Moats, canals, and other watershed systems
The city of Dadu of the Yuan dynasty had an extensive moat system in and around the city. After Ming troops entered Dadu in 1368, the northern wall was rebuilt slightly south of the original. The new wall was constructed on the piled earthen hill formed from digging the moat of Dadu. A new moat system was built for the three main southern gates of the Palace, Imperial, and Inner city quarters. The three moats were then linked to the eastern and western moats of Dadu. When the Outer city was reconstructed during the Jiajing era (1521–1567), another moat was built surrounding the outer wall.
The water for the moats was spring water diverted from Mount Yuquan and Baifuquan, northwest of the city. The water followed Changhe and then split into two tributaries at Xizhimen. One route went east, forming the Inner city's moat system, and then divided into two further tributaries at Deshengmen, one flowing south, the other east. The other route entered at Jishuitan in the south, formed the three lakes of the imperial gardens, and finally rejoined the moat system at Tongzihe. From there the water flowed along the curvature of the city wall and joined the city's southern moat system at Zhengyangmen. The eastern route turned 90 degrees south at the northeastern corner guard tower and converged with the city's southern moat system to the northwest of Dongbianmen. Another moat flowed westwards and then southwards, forming the Outer city's moat system. It converged with the Inner city's southern and eastern moat systems at Dongbianmen, and finally entered the Tonghui River.
The Inner city's moat system was widest, at 30 to 50 metres, to the southeast of Zhengyangmen. The narrowest point, a mere 10 metres in width, was the section between Dongzhimen and Chaoyangmen. The moat was three metres deep at its deepest point, and a metre deep at its most shallow, near Fuchengmen. The outer moat was narrower and shallower than that of the Inner city. By the end of the Qing dynasty, the artificial moat system behaved no differently from a natural river system.
Water passageways located at several locations along Beijing's city walls helped permit the flow of the water supply into and out of the city. There were seven passageways in the Inner city: Deshengmen West (entered the Inner city, three passages), Dongzhimen South (left the city, one passage), Chaoyangmen South (left the city, one passage), Chongwenmen East (left the city, one passage), Zhengyangmen East (left the city, one passage), Zhengyangmen West (left the city, three passages), and Xuanwumen West (left the city, one passage). There were three passageways in the Outer city: Xibianmen East (entered the Outer city, three passages), Dongbianmen West (entered the Outer city, three passages), and Dongbianmen East (the main drainage for the inner and outer cities, three passages). The passageways had rammed earth foundations covered with stone slabs and stone bricks, followed by a layer of bricks. Each passageway had two or three layers of iron railings, and plenty of soldiers on guard.
The moat system influenced the daily activities of Beijing's commoners. From the Yongle era (1402–1424) until the mid-Qing dynasty (1644–1912), the eastern sections of the southern moat system were used as canals for the transportation of staple foods entering the city. Commoners could board boats at the eastern moat system, travel southwards to leave the city at Dongbianmen, and go down the Tonghui River, which leads to the rural areas of Tongzhou. Every year during the Hungry Ghost Festival, people would place small ships containing candles on the water. When frozen in winter, the moats were used as shortcuts in and out of the city. There would be skating, and the ice would be cut and saved underground for use in the summer months. The moats were home to many fish and ducks.
In 1953, Beijing's moat system was measured at 41.19 kilometres. As the city continued to expand, the moat system was no longer used, and much of it was channeled underground. The moat systems of the three main southern gates became underground rivers during the 1960s. The western, eastern, and northern moat systems were covered in the 1970s. A few remnants remain of the Inner city's northern moat system, the Outer city's southern moat system, and the imperial and Forbidden city's systems.
Many of Beijing's lakes were filled in during the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s (for example, Taiping Lake), totalling a land area of 33.4 hectares. Many others, such as Longxugou and Lianhuachi, were decreased in size by being partially filled in. The government also cleaned up many lakes outside of the city, making some into larger lakes. Public parks were created at Taoranting Park, Longtan Lake, Yuyuantan, and Zizhuyuan. Some new river systems were built during the 1950s (Kunyu River and Jingmi Diversion River).
Beijing, the political, cultural, military, and commercial centre of the empire, was the capital city of the last three dynasties of China; it was the last imperial capital built in China's history. Continuing and improving upon the construction and planning traditions of earlier dynasties, Beijing embodied some of the highest achievements in the field of city planning during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The construction of the fortification system borrowed ideas from Dadu of the Yuan era and Nanjing of the Ming era, and typified the Yuan and post-Yuan pre-Republican era city planning styles. It is the final example of China's 3,200 year-long square-shaped dynastical city planning style. It closely matched the scale of Chang'an of the Tang Dynasty. The city was carefully planned during the early Ming dynasty, with a central axis running through the midpoints of the northern and southern walls, dividing the city into two equal parts to fulfil the Confucian ideals of "居中不偏" and "不正不威". The Forbidden city was at the centre of it all, with Longevity Mount (Jingshan) just north of the palaces. The Imperial city, surrounding the palaces, provided everything necessary for the maintenance of the Emperor's lifestyle within the Forbidden city. The southern sections of the city were allocated to officials and bureaucrats, while the Inner and Outer city served as extra protection for the Imperial city and the palace complex. The streets, avenues, and boulevards of the city were straight and wide, presenting the imperialistic ideal of order. Everything, including Buddhist temples, Taoist temples, business districts, parks, and imperial family residences were all planned in accordance with the city's layout, its order being much stricter than that of Dadu, and larger in scale. The design of Beijing's fortifications borrowed elements from the Wujing Zongyao of the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) and the already highly developed fortification construction expertise of the Southern Song (1127–1279). All of the structures used bricks and stones as foundations rather than rammed earth, including the watchtowers, the corner guard towers, the barbicans, the enemy sight towers, and the sluice gate towers. Forming both a planar and spatial defence for the city, it was dynastical China's best fortified city defence system, displaying the late dynastical China's greatest achievements in city fortification design.
Beijing's fortifications were described by American architect Edmund Bacon as "man's greatest single architectural achievement on the face of the Earth". Swedish scholar Osvald Sirén described the fortification's majestic views in his book The Walls and Gates of Peking. He wrote, "If we compare it (Beijing city) to a giant's body, then the city gates are as the giant's mouth, used for the giant's respiration and speech; the entire city's life is centered around these city gates, like arteries. Those that enter and leave these city gates not only are carts, automobiles, pedestrians, and domesticated animals, but also people's thoughts, ideas, hopes and dreams, expectations and disappointments, and funeral processions and marriage ceremonies, symbolising deaths and new lives. When you are standing by the gate's archway, you can feel the liveliness of the entire city, even the entire city's great expectations, all passing incessantly through these rather dark and narrow archways – the city's heartbeat, pumping life force to this incredibly complex organism called Beijing, giving it life, giving it rhythm." He concluded with a pessimistic view as to whether the fortifications would remain intact into the future. Indeed, the fortifications were subsequently dismantled one by one.
The call for restoration of the ancient architecture grew stronger in the period leading up to the 29th Olympiad, hosted in Beijing. Demands for a complete or partial reconstruction of the original "凸"-shaped city defence system were made. The recently completed reconstruction of Yongdingmen is one example of such work, and will likely be followed by others in the future. A restored Inner and Outer city moat system will become part of the public waterway network; reconstruction of the three gates on the south of the city's central axis (and possibly all nine gates and three corner guard towers of the Inner city) is being discussed by officials. However, the former sites of gates such as Fuchengmen, Chaoyangmen, and Xuanwumen, are now busy roads with high rises and other major developments. An alternative would be to reconstruct them nearby, at less crowded sites. Some of the more likely projects are the restoration of the remaining fortifications and the reconstruction of parts of the city walls, projects which are less daunting and require much less funding. Between 2001 and 2003, the extant section of the Inner city wall just south of the Beijing train station was completely restored and was opened to the public as the Ming City Wall Relics Park. More wall segments were added to the park in 2005 and 2006. The Southeast Corner Tower has been restored and forms part of the park. Restoration of the section of the city wall near the Beijing Ancient Observatory and its enemy sight tower are in the planning stages, as well as the barbican at Zhengyangmen.
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- 见 明清时期的北京城。 此派观点认为，明代兴建北京宫殿时，将中轴线向东平移了150米左右，将元代宫殿中轴置于西方方位、即"白虎位"或"杀位"上，在风水学说中为魇镇前朝王气的做法，同时也为在紫禁城西侧开挖筒子河提供了空间。今北京故宫内武英殿东边的断虹桥即元代宫城崇天门前的周桥，其依据为该桥桥面原极华丽，桥面上有汉白玉石雕云龙瑞兽，此做法在辽、金、元宫殿中只用于宫城正门之前居中位置的御桥。断虹桥桥面花纹在明初被朱元璋下令凿平。此外，从明清北京城市中轴线的位置来看，其轴线位置偏东，正阳门与崇文门之间的距离要小于正阳门与宣武门之间的距离。
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- 《城记》，p. 300
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- 《中国古代城市地理》, p. 230
- 《中国古代建筑史》第四卷，p. 31
- 《中国古代城市地理》, p. 84
- 《在北京生存的100個理由》尹麗川等著 遼寧教育出版社 "The Axis: Life Source of Beijing"
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