The Front Gate, also known as Zhengyangmen, once formed a very important part of the old walls of the city. Standing 42 metres tall and with a characteristic Chinese rounded roof, it is an impressive sight. More than that, the gate is also an important symbol of Beijing’s history and culture, connecting the imperial heart with the suburban area.
Originally built nearly 600 years ago, in 1419, the gate was restored and returned to its former glory at the beginning of the 20th century. The Gate of True Sun and its accompanying Arrow Tower (or Jian Lou) are the only surviving parts of the walls on view here.
Indeed, the Front Gate is one of the oldest enduring examples of the former battlements that surrounded the city. Pay the small fee on entry and examine the historical display on the ground floor containing fascinating artifacts and images outlining the progression and development of the city.
Then climb the stairs for views over present-day Beijing, enjoying the uninterrupted vistas of the cityscape afforded by the lack of tall buildings in the vicinity. Peer down at the multitudes in the enormous open space of Tiananmen Square below you.
Gaze at the Arrow Tower alongside you and marvel at the forbidding obstacle it must have represented to enemies seeking to attack the city. The tower’s name comes from the many arrow slits in its walls, allowing defenders to assault those below from a position of safety. A return visit after dark will be well rewarded with beautifully illuminated views over the two structures.
When you’ve finished your tower visit, take a stroll down pedestrianised Qianmen Street to pick up some memorabilia, shop for stylish contemporary clothes or enjoy some traditional Chinese dumplings or noodles for your lunch.
The Front Gate sits on the southern edge of Tiananmen Square. It is a short walk from the Forbidden City, and can also be reached by bicycle or your choice of public transport options, including via the Qianmen subway station.