Suitcase and World: Temple of Heaven.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Temple of Heaven.

fter spending quite a bit of time *people watching* in the park that surrounds the complex of Temple of Heaven, we strolled over to visit the buildings that comprise the complex.

The Temple of Heaven is a complex of buildings that was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual prayer ceremonies for good harvest. The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century.

In ancient China, the Emperor of China was regarded as the Son of Heaven, who administered earthly matters on behalf of, and representing, heavenly authority. To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important. The temple was built for these ceremonies, mostly comprising prayers for good harvests.

The Temple of Heaven complex is enclosed by a long wall. The northern part, within the wall, is semicircular symbolizing the heavens and the southern part is square symbolizing the earth.

The main buildings of the Temple of Heaven complex lie along a north to south running axis.

The most well know of these buildings is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. The Hall is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 32 metres in diameter and 38 metres tall, built on three levels of marble stone base. The building is completely wooden and no nails were used to construct it.

The Imperial Vault of Heaven is a single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone base. It is located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and resembles it, but is smaller. It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall, that can transmit sounds over large distances. Supposedly you can stand in one place, whisper and another person, standing a distance away an hear you. Unfortunately, it was too crowded to put this to test.

And then there is the Circular Mound Altar which was used on during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 A.D. - 1911 A.D.)....the Emperors would offer sacrifice to Heaven on the day of the Winter Solstice every year.

As we were standing on the mound, Jenny explained to us that the number nine represents the Emperor because it is the largest single digit number and represents the ultimate sovereign power of the emperor. The number nine is evident in the
design of the Circular Mound Altar: a single round plate is surrounded by a ring of nine plates, then a ring of 18 plates, and so on for a total of nine surrounding rings, the outermost having 9×9 plates.

Oh, skeptical Jackie decide to see if this was really true so she walked around one of the rings and counted 43 plates.....didn't add up.

So, she decided to try again. As she started her walk, the group moved up 3 plates so by the time she end back up with us, she had counted 46 plates. How could that be? The quizzical look on her face was priceless! Took her a few seconds to realize what we had done. Of course, our giggling at her was what gave us away!

From the northern end of Circular Mound Altar, you can look back and see the other two buildings.

On the way out of the complex, Jackie wanted a group shot of us doing Jackie what we called the *Crane* - a pose that we saw martial artists performing.

It was a short visit to the Temple of Heaven but I really had a wonderful time there...especially watching the people of Beijing entertaining themselves and in the process, entertaining us!

By now, my stomach is telling me it's lunch time. Luckily, that's the next thing on our agenda for today!