Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Highlights of Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Introduction to Temple of Heaven, Beijing
Dynasties throughout the history of China built temples devoted to the glorification of heaven, but Beijing’s Temple of Heaven is the only one to remain wholly conserved. The organization, site and architecture of the Temple of Heaven have their foundations in the theory of the five-elements of the Book of Changes and the philosophy of yin and yang. It was built specifically for use by the Emperors of China and as such, is of great cultural consequence.
Heaven symbolism is found throughout the temple. The Circular Mound Altar contains repeated references to nine in its measurements and number of elements. This shows the importance of the connection between the celestial sphere and human beings. The Hall of Prayers for Abundant Harvests is blue and round in shape, which denotes heaven.
The Hall of Prayers and Imperial Vault of Heaven are excellent works composed entirely of wood. Their setting in a lush forest emphasizes the importance of the peaceful integration of nature and mankind in Imperial Chinese architecture.
The Hall of Prayers for Abundant Harvest is also a significant building in the Temple of Heaven complex. The floors of the hall diminish in size as they go up with an even variation of color. This conveys a feeling of ascending into the majesty of heaven.
Temple of Heaven, Beijing Gallery
Guide to Temple of Heaven, Beijing
The Temple of Heaven is situated to the southeast of the Zhengyang Gate of Beijing and occupies an area of 3.5 kilometers. The space is nearly square in shape with the north corner rounded and the dual southern corners having right angles. This configuration is in accordance with the Chinese theory that the earth is square and heaven is round. For more than 2,000 years, this arrangement of space within the precepts of Chinese cosmogony was the source of political authority and lawful relevance for dynastic emperors.
The “Outer Altar” which is defined by the outer wall, has dimensions of 1725 meters to the east-west and 1650 meters to the north-south. The “Inner Altar,” or inner enceinte, has measurements of 1243 and 1046 meters. The 3 primary cult buildings are positioned on the middle north-south axis in a line.
Within the Inner Altar are a majority of the sacrificial structures, which is further divided into dual parts by an east-west wall. The bigger Altar of the God of Grain occupies an area of 72.34 ha, while the smaller Circular Mound Altar is 44.66 ha in area. The brick Red Stairway Bridge links the two altars and is 360 meters in length.
In order to gain access to the Temple of Heaven, one must pass through the Lingxing Gates that are composed of white marble. Within the balustrades are 360 pillars that stand for the 360 days of the Chinese lunar year in antiquity. The Circular Mound, which is the primary Temple of Heaven, has a square compound that represents the earth, which surrounds a circular area that symbolizes the heavenly bodies. In previous days, the throne of the emperor would have been in the middle of the highest podium to emphasize the emperor’s position as the Son of Heaven, and therefore the figure that connects earth with heaven.
The Imperial Vault of Heaven is situated to the north of the Circular Mound. It is also round in shape and covered with tiles of blue glaze and ornate internal and external paintings. This place is important because the emperor would give oblations prior to withdrawing to the Palace of Abstinence, also known as the Fasting Palace. In the confines of the Circular Mound Altar are also the Divine Kitchen, Divine Storehouse, and Sacrificial Butchering Pavilion.
Located at the northern compound is the Altar of the God of Grain. This is the focal point of the Hall of Prayers for Abundant Harvests. The Long Corridor connects this hall with the Temple of Heaven and has dimensions of 25 meters in width and 440 meters in length.
Video of Temple of Heaven, Beijing
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History of Temple of Heaven, Beijing
In 1420, the 18th year of the Ming Emperor Yongle’s rule, the Altar of Heaven and Earth and the wall enclosing the garden were completed. The structure in the middle used to be a sizable rectangular sacrificial hall. This was where offerings were given to earth and heaven. Another building, the Fasting Palace was constructed in the southwestern area.
In 1530, the Emperor Jiajing decided to create distinct offering places to earth and heaven. For gifts to heaven, the Circular Mound Altar was constructed to the south of the primary hall. The previously built Altar of Heaven and Earth was thereafter called the Temple of Heaven. At the same time, there were temples constructed to the sun in the east, to the moon in the west, and to the earth in the north.
15 years after this building project, the circular Hall of Daxiang was built to take the place of the big sacrificial hall. Around Beijing, there was an exterior city built in 1553 that encompassed the Temple of Heaven.
The high point in the history of the temple was in 1749 during the rule of the Qing Emperor Qianlong. At this time, the Circular Mound was expanded and the blue tiles were exchanged for white marble. The Temple of Heaven occupied an area of 273 ha during this time.
Up until ceremonial offerings were disallowed by the Republic of China in 1911, there had been 654 actions to glorify heaven that were performed by 22 Ming and Qing Emperors. In 1918, the Temple of Heaven was made a park that is available to the public.
Getting to Temple of Heaven, Beijing
The park of the Temple of Heaven takes a few hours to explore. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance gate.
Visitors can fly into the Beijing Capital International Airport, which is situated at the northwest of the central areas, approximately 26 kilometers from the center of the city. There is an Airport Express train that goes on a one-way circle from T3 to T2/T1 and then to Sanyuanqiao and Dongzhimen. The trip lasts approximately 20 minutes from Dongzhimen to T3 and 30 minutes to T2. There is a free shuttle bus that goes from T3 to T2. Another way to get to the city is on the airport shuttle which is a little bit cheaper. The Beijing Railway Station is at the center of Beijing and is connected to Subway Line 2. In addition, 20 bus stations are situated at the outer parts of the city going in different directions. To reach the Temple of Heaven, take Line 5 of the Subway to Tiantan’s East Gate, also known as the Tiantandongmen Station. Buses 2, 7, 17, 20, 110, 120, 803, 814 and 826 go to the West Gate. Bus numbers 35 and 106 go to the North Gate.
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