sites of public execution


Built between 1406 and 1420, The Forbidden City, now renamed the Palace Museum, starts at the north end with the huge Tian An Men Gate which houses the iconic portrait of Mao Tse-Tung. Passing through the Tian An Men and Duan Men gates, the visitor comes upon Wumen or Meridian Gate, a giant gate with five pavilions guarding the main entrance to the once private compound. Wumen, also known as the Gate of Five Phoenixes, has played an important role in Ming (1368-1644), and Qing (1644-1912) history. It was the site of official imperial announcements, inspections of troops by the Emperor, floggings of officials who had incurred the emperor's disfavor, and the execution or pardon of prisoners at his behest. The emperor would stand high up on the terrace of the Wumen gate and sentence the prisoner below. The prisoner would either be pardoned, beaten to death on the spot in front of the emperor and the population of the Forbidden City, (which numbered some 9,000 women and 100,000 eunuchs at the end of the Ming Dynasty), or taken to be executed at the public market nearby, outside the Palace walls.


Site of Sentencing and Public Executions by Beating
c. 1420 - 1912

(Wumen Gate, Forbidden City, Beijing)

20 x 21", 2007