Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 together with the Forbidden City and Ming Beijing. It is the best preserved and largest ancient sacrificial complex in the world! Temple of Heaven was the place where emperors of the Ming (1420 -1644) and Qing (1644 -1911) Dynasties came to worship the God of Heaven and pray for good harvests on behalf of their people and country. They came to the temple twice a year, on the 15th day of the first lunar month and on winter solstice respectively.
Chinese emperors usually paid religious respect to Heaven, the Supreme Being that governed the universe, which is the only entity above the emperor himself! The emperors considered themselves to be “sons of Heaven” and showed great respect to the rituals of Heaven worship. In early Ming Dynasty, both Heaven and Earth were worshipped here. After the Temple of Earth was built in 1530, The Temple of Heaven was dedicated to worshipping Heaven alone. The worship of Heaven first took place in the western Zhou Dynasty (1040 BC-770BC), and became a routine during the Han period (206BC-220AD). One of the latest events of Heaven worship was held in 1915 by a famous Warlord named Yuan Shikai, who briefly seized power and declared himself emperor for 100 days. In 1918, however, the Temple of Heaven was turned into a park and opened to the public.
Occupying an area of 273 hectares (675 acres), the Temple of Heaven is three times the size of the Forbidden City! The temple of Heaven is a masterpiece of Chinese Ming architecture. Its layout and landscape design simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance; the harmonious relationship between Heaven, Earth and Human! A gorgeously blue palace, standing on top of layers of white marble terraces, with the perfect background of thousands of pine trees! The whole set is a picture of blue sky with white clouds, which gives you a picture of Heaven so to create a holy place closest to Heaven! It provides a harmonious atmosphere for sacrificial ceremony as if Heaven and Earth are integrated into one.
The architecture and layout of the temple of Heaven is based on elaborate symbolism and numerology. According to traditional Chinese philosophy, the Heaven is round and the Earth is square. That is why the buildings in the Temple of Heaven are round, representing the Heaven, while the foundations and axis of the complex are square, representing the Earth.
Everything about the overall layout or the individual buildings of Temple of Heaven, symbolize the relationship between Earth and Heaven – the human world and God’s world – which is deeply rooted in thousands of years of Chinese culture and history! The essence of this cosmogony played a key role between the emperor and his people, which shaped the unique Chinese culture interwoven with Chinese feudalism! With its profound influence, the Temple of Heaven is a must-see not only for being the epitome of Ming architecture, but also for the spiritualism ingrained in every aspect, garnered from the soul of an ancient Oriental civilization!