Temple of Heaven
the Temple of Heaven is the place where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) worshipped heaven and prayed for good harvests. It is an axial arrangement of the Circular Mound Altar to the south with the conically roofed Imperial Vault of Heaven immediately to its north. This is linked by a raised sacred way to the circular, threetiered, conically roofed Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests further to the north.
To the west is the Hall of Abstinence where the emperors fasted after making sacrifice. The whole park is surrounded by a double-walled, pine-treed enclosure. Between the inner and outer walls to the west are the Divine Music Administration Hall and the building that was the Stables for Sacrificial Animals.
Within the complex there are a total of 92 ancient buildings with 600 rooms. It is the most complete existing imperial sacrificial building complex in China and the world’s largest existing building complex for offering sacrifices to heaven.
Located south of the Forbidden City, the original Altar of Heaven and Earth was completed together with the Forbidden City in 1420. In 1530, the decision was taken to offer separate sacrifices to heaven and earth, and so the Circular Mound Altar was built to the south of the main hall for sacrifices particularly to heaven. The Altar of Heaven and Earth was thereby renamed the Temple of Heaven.
The siting, planning, and architectural 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, mediated by the emperor as the “Son of Heaven.” Similar altars for the worship of heaven were also built in other dynasties, but the Temple of Heaven in Beijing is a masterpiece of ancient Chinese culture and is the most representative work of numerous sacrificial buildings in China.
Temple of Heaven