The Temple of Heaven complex in the Chinese capital of Beijing is renowned for its splendid architecture and numerous historical attractions. The compound has the distinction of being the largest and the most authentic existing imperial sacrificial complex in the nation. Emperors of the Qing and Ming Dynasties undertook prayer directed to heaven here, entreating the divine powers for a bountiful harvest.
This complex was initially constructed in 1420 by decree of Emperor Yongle of the Ming era, and was substantially rebuilt and expanded during the rule of emperors Jiajing and Qianlong of the Ming and Qing dynasties, respectively. Reflecting Chinese cosmology, the northern section of the wall, representing heaven, is semicircular, and the southern section, representing the Earth, is square. Many interesting buildings may be seen within the temple compound. The splendid Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests takes pride of place at the compound with its impressive architecture and unique design. This building, 38m in height and 36m in diameter features a base of three-tiered marble, and contains no less than 28 pillars, which symbolize the constellations of the heavens. A noteworthy aspect of the construction is that it is entirely wooden, with no metal nails used in the assembly. Visitors will notice a number of plaques honouring the emperors who prayed here.
The actual altar is located at the Circular Mound Altar, a secluded circular raised area positioned on three levels of marble, each adorned with meticulously carved figures of dragons. At its centre you will see a circular podium where the monarch would conduct the prayer. The Imperial Vault of Heaven is another magnificent edifice at the venue. It is linked with the Hall of Prayer through an extended elevated walkway along which the monarch would walk before the prayer ceremony. In imperial times the emperor was considered to be the ‘Son of Heaven’ who administered worldly matters on behalf of the divine powers. Therefore these ceremonies were crucially important for the emperor as well as the Chinese nation.
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