Introduction to Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven was once the place of worshipping for the emperor’s of the Ming and Qing Dynasty. The temple was located in the southeast of Forbidden City’s wall and on the east of Zhengyangmen. Constructed between 1420, the Temple was constructed under the reign of the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty.
The Temple of Heaven covers an impressive 2.72 million square meters. It is larger than the Forbidden City as the Emperor’s once considered themselves Son’s of the Heaven, naturally the Temple should be larger than their palace. The temple is made up of Yuanqiutan (Earthly Mount), Huangqiongyu (Imperial Vault of Heaven) and Qiniandian (Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest). The temple demonstrates the accumulation of Chinese culture and religion. The architecture and décor of the temple are truly breathtaking.
One of the most important events at the Temple of Heaven during the imperial reign was the Winter Solstice where animal sacrifices would be performed and ceremonies were planned intricately to the last detail. It was believed that should any details be missed bad omen would be brought upon the entire year.
Yuanqiutan (Earthly Mount)
Yuanqiutan was the altar where the emperor’s prayed to the heavens. It is made up of three tiers and located to the south of the Temple of Heaven. The Yuanqiutan dates back to 1530 and was built under the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty. In 1749 under the reign of Emperor Qianlong the Yuanqiutian was expanded. The three tiers are made of marble and symbolize heaven, earth and man. Each tier is also built of block in multiples of nine which was considered the most potent number that represented heaven and emperor.
Huangqiongyu (Imperial Vault of Heaven)
The Imperial Vault of Heaven is situated north of Earthly Mount and is where the memorial tablets of God were kept. The structure of the Imperial Vault of Heaven is entirely supported by the eight pillars and the entire building is constructed using wood and bricks only with no supporting beams. The vault is surrounded by the famous Echo Wall is 6 meters in height and is known for its resonating voices where a person at either end of the wall can hear each other.
Qiniandian (Hall of Prayers for Good Harvest)
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is one of the most magnificent structures where no nails were used in the process of building the hall. The exterior of the building consists of three tiered round building that sits upon a three tier marble base. The interior of the Hall of Prayers is colorful with brightly decorated and is quite a spectacular. The construction of the Hall of Prayers involved a lot of numerological symbolism the building has four inner pillars, representing the four seasons, 12 middle pillars, symbolizing the 12 months, and 12 outer pillars, representing the 12 two hour periods used to tell the time during ancient China.