Temple Heaven | Temples symbolize the long history and rich culture of China and are regarded as valuable art treasures.
There are many different religions in China, such as the Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam introduced from other regions, as well as Taoism and Confucianism, the native-born religions. Of course, temples or houses of worship of different religions differ.
Buddhist temples include a temple, pagoda, and grotto, which are called Si, Ta, and Shiku in Chinese respectively.
Taoist architecture is variously called Gong, Guan or An in Chinese. Confucian temples, such as Kong Miao, Yonghe Lamasery (Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery) and the Temple of Heaven are called Miao, Gong, or Tan in Chinese.
An Islamic house of worship is referred to as a Mosque. Christian churches have also added some Chinese flavour to them.
Temple of Heaven
Founded in the first half of the 15th century, is a dignified complex of fine cult buildings set in gardens and surrounded by historic pine woods.
In its overall layout and that of its individual buildings, it symbolizes the relationship between earth and heaven – the human world and God’s world – which stands at the heart of Chinese cosmogony, and also the special role played by the emperors within that relationship.
The Temple of Heaven is an axial arrangement of Circular Mound Altar to the south open to the sky with the conically roofed Imperial Vault of Heaven immediately to its north.
This is linked by a raised sacred way to the circular, three-tiered, conically roofed Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests further to the north.
Here at these places the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties as interlocutors between humankind and the celestial realm offered sacrifice to heaven and prayed for bumper harvests.
To the west is the Hall of Abstinence where the emperor fasted after making the sacrifice.
The whole is surrounded by a double-walled, pine-treed enclosure. Between the inner and outer walls to the west are the Divine Music Administration Hall and the building that was the Stables for Sacrificial Animals.
Within the complex, there is a total of 92 ancient buildings with 600 rooms.
It is the most complete existing imperial sacrificial building complex in China and the world’s largest existing building complex for offering sacrifice to heaven.
The Temple of Heaven is considered the holiest of Beijing’s Imperial temples. It has been described as “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design”.
The Temple of Heaven has also been listed as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
In ancient China, the Chinese people regarded the Emperor of China the Son of Heaven.
They believed that he administered earthly matters on behalf of, and representing heavenly authority.
Showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important.
The temple was built for those ceremonial prayers, mostly consisting of prayers for good harvests.
Twice a year the Emperor and all his retinue moved from the Forbidden City through Beijing to encamp within the complex, wearing special robes and abstaining from eating meat.
Only Chinese royalty and nobility were allowed to view that procession or the ceremony following.
In the temple complex, the Emperor personally prayed to Heaven for good harvests. the Emperor performed the highpoint of the ceremony at the winter solstice on the Earthly Mount.
The ceremony had to be perfectly completed; it was widely held that the smallest of mistakes would constitute a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year.
Although in imperial times commoners were not allowed to enter the enormous park, now for a minimal fee everyone can enjoy it all day long. Early morning is the best time to visit The Temple of Heaven. It is well worth waking up for; you will have an interesting experience watching local people doing morning exercises.
Next, to an older person practising the slow and flowing movements of tai chi, there might be a youngster performing vigorous karate-like punches and kicks; one group might be learning the ancient martial art of sword fighting, while another would be practising a traditional dance.