Beijing’s Sacred Gem of Symbolic Architecture
In southeast Beijing an empyreal gem of history is to be experienced that is a superb example of Classic Chinese Sacred Architecture as well as beautiful examples of Ming and Qing Dynasty artistry and craftsmanship, Tiantan Gongyuan. Tiantan - The Temple of Heaven, sits in 263 hectares of parkland with thousands of ancient trees of cypress and pine, gentle Chinese classical music, serene dancers, thai chi practitioners, and chinese brush stroke water painters, whose temporary masterpieces evaporate rapidly from the warmth of the morning sun.
The original temple complex was built in 1420 by Ming Emperor Yongle, who also founded the smaller Forbidden City, but changes have been made by various Emperors throughout the ages. The main ceremonial structures, The Circular Mound Altar and The Altar of Prayer for Grain, linked with a 360 meter road, were used by the “Sons of Heaven” (the Emperors) in elaborate rituals to pray for abundant harvest.
Upon entry into the park from the south, the one line axis, which joins the
temples, ascends slightly, giving one the feeling of moving toward heaven. The temples are round, but their bases are square. This represents the ancient belief that heaven is symbolically round, and earth square, thus creating a place where heaven and earth meet. The northern end of the park, representing heaven, is bound by a semi-circular wall, whilst the southern end, representing earth, is square. There are also gates at each of the cardinal points surrounding the temple. The numbers three and nine, amongst other symbolic expressions found within the layout of this sanctuary, are predominant throughout Tiantan - odd numbers were considered heavenly, and nine is considered to be a master number.
The philisophic designers of Tiantan applied an ancient and universal understanding of mathematics and geometry imbuing the temple complex with a resonance to create harmony in form and place, reflecting a congruent relationship between man, nature, and Heaven during that period of time.
Caroline Davies, Editor, Lifestyle and Culture
Photographs: Caroline Davies © 2004
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.
There are three tiers of stairs to reach
the entrance of the Temple, each tier
with nine steps.
One of the two side halls known as the East and West
Side Hall which housed the Tablets of the Matching Gods
such as God of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, the Wind, etc
after worshipping ceremonies.
Red Stairway Bridge: This is the 360 meter long
road between the two main temples.
Dragons and Phoenix' are a main theme.