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Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is one of the most beautiful and sublime buildings in all of Beijing. Located south of the Forbidden City of Chinas capital, it is surrounded by an extensive park giving every visitor the possibility to stroll around and feel the natureâ€™s balance and harmony.
The Temple of Heaven or â€žTiantan Gongyuanâ€œ as the Chinese would say, was built by the emperor Yongle of the Ming-dynasty. The templeâ€™s grounds are four times as large as the ones from the emperorâ€™s palace. After its completion in 1420, Yongle and the following emperors of China visited the temple many times throughout the year to consult with the heaven and pray for good harvests, seek divine clearance and atone for the sins of the people.
Chinese people have always believed that heaven and earth are connected with each other and in order to achieve harmony for everything existing on earth, heaven has to be harmonious as well. As the temple presents the connection between heaven and earth, the Temple of Heaven was considered sacred ground and it was here where Chinaâ€™s emperors performed the major ceremonial rites.
Chinaâ€™s emperor left the emperorâ€™s palace in a grand procession towards the South and passed down Qiananmen Dajie to the Imperial Vault of Heaven in total silence every year right before the winter solstice. No one else except for the emperorâ€™s entourage was allowed to watch this happening.
The emperor stayed and fasted one night in the Hall of Abstinence in the western part of the grounds. The next day the emperor changed his clothing in a tent at the southern gate while officials were preparing the ceremonial rites. He then walked barefoot North through the Gate of Prayer for Good Harvests and into the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests where the prayers and sacrificial rituals took place.
The garden grounds have six entrances all leading up to the most important ritual places, the Round Altar, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests which have all been arranged on a central north-south axis. The Hall of Prayer for good Harvests is mounted on a three-tiered marble terrace and its four inner pillars support the roof and represent the four seasons.
The Hall was burnt down in 1889 and was fortunately rebuilt following the original architectural blueprints from the Ming-dynasty only a year later. The grounds of the Temple of Heaven were regarded as sanctuary and therefore forbidden to the public until 1912. And as so many other landmarks in China, the Temple of Heaven has also been listed as a world heritage by the world heritage committee since 1998.