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Tian'anmen Square
Archery Tower 箭楼

The Archery Tower 箭楼 (Jiàn Lóu) was added after the Ming Beijing was finished. The decision to move the capital from Nanjing to Beijing was made in 1403 and construction of the city lasted from 1407 until 1420, at least officially. There were many additions after that, including the archery gate. The Archery Tower 箭楼 (Jiàn Lóu) wasn't built until 1439 during the Zhengtong, 正統 (Zhèngtǒng) era, the name of the reign of the sixth Ming emperor.

The interior of the gate included rooms for storage of munitions, living quarters for the troops, and offices. When the emperor received visitors or left the city in procession, he used this gate. It marks the major north south axis of Beijing.

Notice that on the north side there are no windows. The windows were on the south side for archers, and later, riflemen to mount the defense. If the enemy were to overrun the gate, there were no windows for easy entrance into the Inner City - only a few small doors that could be defended or barricaded.

Below, a picture of the Archery Tower in 1900 after the Eight Allied Armies answered Empress Cixi's declaration of war and freed the legations during the Boxer Rebellion. Interestingly, a German designer was hired to refurbish the tower in 1915-1916. He added the white balustrades.

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Last update: January 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2009