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Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China

The Temple of Heaven (Chin. 天壇) is one of the largest historical monuments of China. It is situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing, to the southeast from the Imperial Palace. The temple of Heaven was completed in 1420 during the reign of the Ming dynasty, when the Yongle emperor transferred the capital of China from Nanjing to Beijing. Initially it was built as the temple of Heaven and Earth and served as venue for ceremonies dedicated both to Heaven and Earth. The separate temple of Earth was built in 1530 in the northern part of Beijing and thereafter the temple of Heaven became the emperor’s special place of worship for Heaven only and the place for praying to gods about the abundant harvest. The complex consists of several buildings of religious worship and the three principal structures are built in one line stretching from the north to the south. The terrace, which passes through this axis, is 360 m in length, 2.5 m in height and 28 m in width. It connects the basic structures of the temple of Heaven: Qiniandian (The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests), Huangqiongyu (The Imperial Vault of Heaven) and Yuanqiutan (The Circular Mound Altar). All circle forms in the temple design symbolize Heaven, including dark blue roofs. Square shaped structures represent Earth. The whole temple complex is surrounded by two cordons of walls; the outer wall has a taller, semi-circular northern end, representing Heaven, and a shorter, rectangular southern end, representing the Earth.

The southernmost building of the complex is the Circular Mound Altar Yuanqiutan. It was built in 1530 and reconstructed in 1749. Here, in the center of the upper platform is located a round rock plate, which has an unusual feature. If you stand on it and pronounce the words of prayer in a low voice, sound will amplify. In the northern part of the temple is located the splendid hall Qiniandian- the symbol of the Temple of Heaven. It was built in 1420, but in 1889 building burnt down after being struck by a lightning and was subsequently restored in the previous design. Temple is an example of symmetrical architecture and symbolizes the achievements of the Chinese technology and skill. No one nail was used when building 37.5 meters high temple! The Hall of Qiniandian is a round building with a triple cone-shaped roof topped with a gift ball and represents the zenith of architectural achievement in ancient Chinese timber buildings. The temple has 4 inner, 12 middle and 12 outer pillars, representing the four seasons, twelve months and twelve traditional Chinese hours respectively. Combined together, the pillars represent the 28 celestial constellations. The temple of Heaven is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By Ruzanna Mkrtchyan,


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