|Dongbian Men 东便门 (Dōngbiàn Mén) was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1564 by Emperor Jiajing 嘉靖 (1521-1567) as further defense against the Mongols who persisted in raiding south of the Great Wall. The city walls were extended into the suburbs after Mongol raiders made it to the outskirts of Beijing. You can see the location of Dongbian Men on the map below. In a picture taken in 1895, you can see the moat that surrounded the extended city walls and one of the archery gates.
Just because the Ming Dynasty had supplanted the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty in 1368 didn't mean that the Mongols gave up entirely. They won several major battles against the Ming Dynasty but were never able to gather the men and resources to mount a complete takeover. They were a constant and real threat that prompted not only increased defenses in the city, but the most extensive strengthening and expansion of the Great Wall since the Qin Dynasty.
When workmen renovated the watch tower gate in 1981, they found bricks and tiles from previous renovations marked with the era names of Jiajing, Longqing, and Qianlong among others. They also found the remains of a mortar shell and bullets - the shell was probably from the Eight Powers during the Boxer Rebellion and the bullets could have been from that period or from the normal course of defense.
The name of the gate means "east" 东, "convenience" 便, and "gate" 门. It may have been called that originally to refer to the fact that the people in the eastern suburbs were saved the trouble of going to the main south gate, or it may have originally been called "pian" meaning partial, since it was halfway along the wall. "Pian" and "bian" are very close in pronunciation and over time one may have substituted for the other with a switch in meaning to make it logical.
The Dongbian Men 东便门 was renovated in time for the 2008 Olympics. It is pictured here from the Second Ring Road. The walls that served to guard Beijing since the Ming Dynasty were torn down in the 1960s and the Second Ring Road was built instead.
Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009