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Home >> China City Guide >> Beijing >> Temple of Heaven - Beijing tour information
 
 

Temple of Heaven

 

Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven, Beijing

The Temple of Heaven is the most holy of Beijing Imperial temples. It is much bigger than the Forbidden City and smaller than the Summer Palace with an area of about 2,700,000 square meters. The Temple was built in 1420 A.D. during the Ming Dynasty to offer sacrifice to Heaven. As Chinese emperors called themselves 'The Son of Heaven', they dared not to build their own dwelling, 'Forbidden City' bigger than a dwelling for Heaven.

The temple of Heaven was where the Emperor came every winter solstice to worship heaven and to solemnly pray for a good harvest. Since his rule was legitimized by a mandate from heaven, a bad harvest could be interpreted as his fall from heaven's favour and threaten the stability of his reign. So, it was not without a measure of self-interest that the Emperor fervently prayed for a very good crop.

In line with the Confucianist revival during the Ming dynasty, the sacred harvest ceremony was combined with the Emperor's worship of his ancestors. This embellishment was also, in effect, self-interested. For according to the Confucian pattern of social organization, just as the Emperor respected his ancestors, so a younger brother should respect an elder brother, a wife her husband, a son his father, and a nation's subjects their ruler. Incorporating ancestor worship within the most solemn ceremony of the Imperial ritual calendar indirectly reinforced the social philosophy that perpetuated the Emperor's power.

The Temple is divided by two enclosed walls into inner part and outer part. The main buildings of the Temple lie at the south and north ends of the middle axis line of the inner part. The northern part within the wall is semicircular symbolizing the heavens and the southern part is square symbolizing the earth. The northern part is higher than the southern part. This design shows that the heaven is high and the earth is low and the design reflected an ancient Chinese thought of 'The heaven is round and the earth is square'.

The design of the Temple of Heaven complex, true to its sacred purpose, reflects the mystical cosmological laws believed to be central to the workings of the universe. Hence, complex numerological permutations operate within its design. For example, because the number nine was considered to be the most powerful digit, you will see that the slabs that form the Circular Altar have been lain in multiples of nine. Similarly within the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the interior twenty-eight columns are divided into four central pillars to represent the seasons, twelve inner columns to represent the months and twelve outer columns to represent the two hour tranches that make up a day. There are many such examples of this intense numerology at play.

The most magnificent buildings are The Circular Mound Altar (Yuanqiutan), Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu) and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian) from south to north. Also, there are some additional buildings like Three Echo Stones and Echo Wall. Almost all of the buildings are connected by a wide bridge called Vermilion Steps Bridge (Danbiqiao) or called Sacred Way.

Beijing Travel Attractions
Beijing
Badaling Great Wall
Forbidden City
Tian'anmen Square
Summer Palace
Temple of Heaven
Ming Tombs
Mutianyu Great wall
Beijing Hutong
Beijing Roasted Duck
Yonghegong Temple
Beihai Park
Beijing Zoo
Beijing Opera
Confucian Temple
Jinshanling Greatwall
Simatai Great Wall
Fragrant Hills
Shichahai & Hutong
Tanzhe Temple
White Cloud Temple
 
 
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