China is a country with thousands of temples to be explored. One of them is the Temple of Heaven, also called The Altar of Heaven. This temple is in Beijing and is regarded as the most sacred temple of imperial Beijing. The Temple of Heaven was built during the Ming Dynasty by the Yongle emperor and then renovated by the Jiajing emperor in the 16th century. During the Qing dynasty, the temple was extended and renovated again by the Qianlong emperor. The temple grounds comprise an area of 273 hectares, surrounded by pine forests. The Temple of Heaven is as the world’s largest religious building complex. The layout of the buildings symbolize the relationship between the earth and sky and man and God.
In ancient China, the Chinese emperor was considered the Son of Heaven because he administered earthly matters for the gods. They would come to the temple to pray for a good harvest for their kingdom, because a poor harvest would also affect the stability of the government. In the Ming dynasty the emperor would do this ceremony once a year, while in the Qing dynasty the emperor did it three times a year. The building structure is divided into several sections:
- Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest
This is where the emperors prayed and gave offerings for good weather and abundant harvests. The building is triple-gabled and round with a roof made of pure gold covered with glazed, blue tiles.
- Imperial Vault of Heaven
This place was used to maintain the memorial tablets of God used for the worship of heaven ceremony. This building is also round and has blue-tiled roof crowned with a gold ball.
- Circular Mound Altar
The Circular Mound Altar is the actual altar, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is made of marble, is circular, and is lavishly decorated with dragons. The altar is 534 m in diameter. It was used by the emperors to ask for rain during droughts.
There were 9 processes done by the emperors to pray for a good harvest, namely:
Welcome the Heaven Great
Give the final ritual
Lay Jade and Silk
Withdraw the sacrifices
Offer up sacrifices
Sent the Heaven Great
Give the first ritual
Watch the burning of the offerings
Give the second ritual
For more details about this process, you can visit this link http://www.globaltimes.cn/ content/836370.shtml.
In 1918, The Temple of Heaven was turned into a tourist park which attracts visitors from all over the world. The Chinese government spent 47 million Yuan to renovate the temple. In 1998 the temple became an UNESCO World Heritage Site.