The architecture design of the Temple of Heaven as well as the sacrificial ceremony and associated music were based on ancient tenets relating numbers and spatial organization to beliefs about Heaven and its relationship to people on earth .Other dynasties built altars for the worship of Heaven but the Temple of Heaven in Beijing is an masterpiece of ancient Chinese culture and is the most representive work of numerous sacrificial building in china .
Built in 1420 ,Temple of Heaven is located in southeast of Beijing city .It was the place where emperors worshiped the God of Heaven at winter solstice and Prayed for good harvest at the fifteenth of the first lunar month in the Ming and Qing dynasties.There are 22 emperors had the sacrificial ceremony here for 654 times.It covers an area of 2,700,000 square metres.
The Temple of Heaven was a sacred place in the minds of ancient Chinese.People believed that it was the place to convey the people’s wishes to Heaven.In ancient China , the traditional consideration was as follows :everything , no matter good fortune or bad fortune , happiness or disaster , stablility or troubled times, was all related and controlled by Heaven.All the Chinese emperors paid strong respect to Heaven. For they believed that Heaven could dominate everything in the world.In order to tell people that their imperial divine power was conferred on them by Heaven , they showed great concern over the rituals of the Heavenly worship .At the time, the emperor was regarded as the ‘Son of Heaven’.Any natural disasters,bad harvests or instability in society were signs that the emperor had lost favor with Heaven or was being punished by Heaven.Therefore,ceremonies for sacrifices to Heaven were extremely important to the imperial rulers.
In 1911, the Heaven Worshiping System was abolished .In 1918, The Temple of Heaven was opened o the public and turned into a park.Now hundreds of local people exercise here like dancing ,singing ,playing cards ,practicing the Taiji ,water brush writing.
Two main attractions in Temple of Heaven :
1) The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests It is located on the north end of the Temple , and it is one of the Beijing’s symbolic structures and also the most famous temple structure in the world. It was the place where the emperors prayed for a good heavest on 15th of the first lunar month every year. It is a cone shaped wooden structure with triple eaves and gilded ball on the top , which symbolized of the supreme power of the emperor .The roof of the building is covered with dark blue glazed tiles , which symbolize the color of the sky.
This wooden structure is completely made of wood without any use of steel ,cement or even the use of a single nail.It is supported by 28 massive wooden pillars and all the pillars inside the hall have special significance.The 28 wooden pillars symbolize 28 constellations in the sky.
The 4 pillars with 18.5 meters high and 1.2 meters in the diameter in the center are the ‘Dragon-well Pillars’ and the space between each of the four pillars symbolizesthe four seasons of the year .Encircling the 4 Dragon-well Pillars are the 12 pillars known as the ‘Golden Pillars’. Each space between the 12 pillars represents 12 months of the year.
Another 12 pillars outside as named’ Eave-pillars’ ,and the spaces between these pillars symbolize the 12 divisions of day and night. (the 12 two-hour periods in the old Chinese way of calculating time).
2) The Circular Mound Altar On Winter Solstice , emperor he himself offer a solemn sacrifice to worship the God of Heaven.The Altar is about 6 meters high with a three-tiered white marble terrace and is enclosed by double walls .The inner wall is round and the Earth is square.Because Heaven is round , the Altar is round;because Heaven is vast and open , the Altar is open without any superstructural building on it .
In the old days , people believed that the God of Heaven lived in the nineth–tier sky, which symbolized the supremacy of Heaven .The number nine was considered the most powerful and auspicious number;so this Altar shows nice or multiples of nice everywhere.