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The Temple of Heaven

\The Temple of Heaven (TianTan) is situated in the southern part of the city. It was built in l420, covering an area of 273 hectares. The Temple is regarded as one of the greatest architectual structures in the world. Some environmental artists and gardeners describe the temple as a place where people can talk to the heaven. In Beijing, four imperial temples were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368- 1911), the Temple of Heaven is the most important of the four. The other three are the Altar of the Earth (DiTan) in the north, the Altar of the Moon (YueTan) in the west, and the Altar of the Sun (RiTan)in the east just behind the Beijing Friendship Store. All of them are still standing, but the Temple of Heaven is the largest group of temple buildings of its kind in China, nearly four times larger than the Forbidden City. The whole building complex was designed in a way that makes you feel close to heaven.

\The Temple of Heaven was built on a central axis. At the southern end is a square wall representing the earth, and at the northern extreme is a semi-circular wall representing the heaven. The design was based on the primitive belief that heaven was round and the earth square. Along the axis are three main structures. The southern structures the Round Altar, where emperors used to present sacrificial offerings to the god of heaven. Stone slabs on the altar are arranged in a pattern based on the number nine. The middle structure, 19.5 meters tall, is called Temple of the Gods, where memorial tablets representing various heavenly gods were kept. After completing worshipping ceremonies on the altar, emperors came here to pay respect to the gods. The northern structure, called Qi Nian Dian, or Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests, is the best known and most magnificent. Emperors would go inside the hall each year to spend the night fasting and in prayer. \The temple is round with three roofs of glazed blue tiles, the color representing heaven. The temple is 38 meters high and is constructed entirely of interlocking wood pieces without a single hail.Inside the temple are 24 wooden columns arranged in a double circle around four central ones. The four central columns are said to represent the four seasons of the year, the inner circle of 12 the months of the year, and the outer circle of 12 two-hour periods of the day. All these columns support an elaborate system of struts that holdup the three roofs, an arrangement that has attracted the admiration of architects throughout the ages.

\At the round Altar, visitors can amuse themselves by listening to echoes of whatever they say. If a visitor standing at the center of the altar, where three stone slabs lie, gives out a shout, he or she can hear loud and deep echoes, which seem to come from deep in the ground or from above. The slabs are, therefore, called the Three Echo Stones. Also, if visitors stand close to the inside of the circular wall and whisper a message, they can hear their voice come back along the wall from the opposite direction.

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Jing ICP Record No.08105532-2