TEMPLE OF HEAVEN, Introduction

Audio File length: 2.18
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, my name’s Scott, and I’m your personal guide. Along with MyWoWo, I’d like to welcome you to one of the Wonders of the World: the Temple of Heaven.

The Temple of Heaven is a huge complex of magnificent buildings, erected between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming dynasty, who also ordered the building of the Forbidden City. It was reserved for nobility and members of the imperial court, and was destined for the cult of Taoism, a Chinese religion based on philosophical doctrines.

The complex was later expanded and given the name Temple of Heaven during the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming dynasty in the 16th century, and renovated again in the 18th century under Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty.

Since its foundation, all the Chinese emperors have come here to pray. In ancient China, the Emperor was considered the Son of Heaven, and his power was closely linked to religion, so twice a year, he and his court moved from the Forbidden City to the Temple of Heaven, wearing special clothing and abstaining from eating meat. The public was not allowed to attend the procession or the ceremony. The emperor in person prayed to heaven for plentiful harvests throughout the year. The ceremony, which also included sacrifices, had to be carried out flawlessly, because even the smallest of errors would have been a bad omen for the whole nation.

In order to reflect an old Chinese saying, “heaven is round and earth is square”, part of the temple is semicircular symbolizing heaven, while another is square, representing earth. Other elements, such as walls or stairs around the buildings, are circular or square for the same reason. 

After the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912, the temple was abandoned and suffered damage, but in 1918, it was turned into a park and opened to the public for the first time so today you can visit it and be awed by its beauty.

 

 

An interesting fact: the complex covers an area of 270,000 square meters, and is larger than the emperor’s residence in the Forbidden City. As “Sons of Heaven”, the emperors were forbidden to build a residence larger than the Temple of Heaven.

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