The Gate of Supreme Harmony (Taihe men
) is the grand formal entrance to the Forbidden City's Outer Court. Built during the Yongle reign (1403-1424), it was first named Gate of Venerating Heaven (Fengtian men
). The Jiajing Emperor (r. 1522-1566) renamed it Gate of Imperial Supremacy (Huangji men
). Its current name was assigned in 1645 after the Qing regime moved its capital to Beijing and began its rule over China.
During the Ming dynasty, emperors held morning audience here and accepted memoranda from officials. The Hongxi (r.1425-1425), Xuande (r. 1426-1435), and Zhengtong (r. 1436-1449) Emperors were enthroned here. In 1644 following the Manchu conquest, it was at this gate that the Shunzhi Emperor (r. 1644-1661) ascended the throne and issued the proclamation of Qing dynasty rule over the country.
The gate you now see was rebuilt in 1889 after it was destroyed by fire the year before. Three sets of stairs lead up to the 3.4 meter high white marble terrace. In front of the gate are symbols of legitimacy to rule: four bronze ding
tripods, a miniature stone pavilion and a stone case standing for the documents and seals of imperial authority. Completing the assemblage is the huge pair of cast-bronze lions which aimed to inspire awe and respect.