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The Temple of Heaven


The Temple of Heaven , built in 1420, is one of the most impressive imperial temples for its perfect fusion of art and architecture. It is located in southeast Beijing and served as the place where emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifices to their heavenly gods and prayed for a good harvest. The Temple of Heaven , literately the Altar of Heaven in Chinese, is one of the World's cultural heritage site and one of China 's AAAAA first-class scenic spots.

The Temple of Heaven is a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which had a profound influence on the architecture planning in the East for many centuries. The design of the Temple of Heaven symbolized many theories of feudal system which dominated ancient China for centuries. The round design of the halls and the dark blue tiled roofs symbolized the harmony of the Earth and the Heaven. Legend said it is the exact meeting point of Heaven and Earth.

The layout of the Temple of Heaven

The temple contains there main parts the Hall of Prayers for an Abundant Harvest, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Earthly Mount.

The Hall of Prayers for an Abundant Harvest is a triple-gabled circular building which is over 110 feet tall and 100 feet in diameter. The building was built on three levels of marble stone base and was used for the Emperor to pray for good harvests. The three roofs on the building were originally blue, yellow, and green. In 1751, they were renovated to all blue roofs to symbolize the color of the sky and the unification of the country. It is completely wooden structure with no nails.

Located south of the Hall of Prayers for an Abundant Harvest is the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is a single-gabled circular building which built on a single level of marble stone base. The building resembles the Hall of Prayers for an Abundant Harvest but in smaller scale. It is surrounded by a smooth circular Echo Wall that can transmit sound over long distances. It is used to house the Tablets of Heaven and the bodies of deceased emperors.

The Earthly Mount is located to the south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones where the Emperor prayed to the heaven.

Symbolism

Heaven and Earth

Circle symbolized Heaven, while square symbolized Earth. The outer wall surrounded the temple has a taller, semi-circular northern end, representing the Heaven, and a shorter, rectangular southern end, representing the Earth. The Hall of Prayers for an Abundant Harvest and the Earthly Mount are round, both standing on a square yard. Again the symbolism of the Heaven and Earth, and the harmony connection of the Heaven and Earth.

The Magic Nine

The number of nine plays a magic digit in the design of the temple. Ancient Chinese believed that the number nine is a special number since it is the highest single-digit number. It is often connected with the idea of rationality and prosperity of life. One could find this intense numerology at play in the design of the temple. Fore example, there are nine steps in each of the three tiers of the staircases made of white marbles when you walk up the circular altar. The slabs that form the circular altar are in the multiples of nine. The Temple of Heaven is where you could get a sense of rich meaning of the magic number nine in ancient China .

Time presentation

There are four inner, twelve middle and twelve outer pillars in the Hall of Prayers for an Abundant Harvest. They represent the four seasons, twelve months and twelve traditional Chinese hours respectively.

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