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The Temple of Heaven
This amazing complex is a perfect fusion of art and architecture. It was the most impressive imperial temple of the Ming and Qing dynasties in China. The temple is actually made from three separate parts. The northernmost part is the Hall of Players for an Abundant Harvest (Qiuian Dian [shown]). This building is over 110 feet tall and 100 feet in diameter. Originally, its three roofs were blue, yellow, and green. But in 1751 renovation, they were all made blue -- to symbolize the color of the sky, and make a political statement about the unification of the country. The second section is known as the Huangquiongyu -- a small circular building which used to house the Tablets of Heaven and the bodies of deceased emperors. The final part is the Altar of Heaven. There are also a number of smaller service buildings including the Zhai Gong, which was used by the emperor before a sacrifice. Those sacrificial animals lived within the temple complex, which is surrounded by a four-mile-long wall. The temple exists to pray to the Heaven (Air), then considered the dominant one of the four elements (Earth, air, fire, water) and it decided whether fortune would smile upon you or not. Originally, the temple was nothing more than a square mound and a circular mound built on orders from Emperor Zhu Yuan-zhong and used for sacrifices to earth and heaven. These functions were consolidated into the Great Sacrifice Hall in 1377. The ancient Chinese are well known for their mathematical prowess, which they expressed through their architecture. The number nine (9) has special significance because it is the highest single-digit number, and was used to represent both the sky and the Emperor. The uppermost terrace of the Temple of Heaven is 90 zhang in diameter, which is 3 (heaven) x 30. The second terrace is 150 zhang, representing 5 (man) x 30. And the bottom terrace is 210 zhang, or 7 (earth) x 30. The number of flagstones in the terraces are all multiples of nine, as are the balustrades surrounding the terraces.
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The Temple of Heaven is an amazing sight, a pristine and beautiful structure. Astounding when one realizes the age. Looking inside from the edges I ponder the Ming Dynasty. I really enjoyed this place as an excursion along with the Forbidden City. Highly recommended.
JJ - Sunday, January 20th, 2013 @ 8:05am
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