The Meridian Gate is the southern (and largest) gate of the Forbidden City. It has five arches. The three central arches are close together; the two flanking arches are farther apart from the three central arches. The center arch was formerly reserved for the Emperor alone; the exceptions were the Empress, who could enter it once on the day of her wedding, and the top three scholars of the triennial civil service examinations, who left the exams through the central arch. All other officials and servants had to use the four side arches.
Above the arches are a series of buildings. The central one is the palace of nine bays wide, with double roofs. In each side, the 13 bays-wide building, single roof, connects the two pavilions on the top. The Emperor of China reviewed his troops from this location during the Ming and Qing dynasties.