Friday, July 27, 2012

Earth's Altar at Beijing - Temple of Earth


Temple of Earth, which is considered as a time-honored and solemn imperial garden with elegant environment, is located to the east of Waida Avenue, Anadingmen, Dongcheng District of Beijing. Here, the main tourist attractions include Square Water Altar, the Bell Tower, Holy Horse Hall, Earth God Worship House, Fast Palace and Slaughter House and Holy Storehouse. As a place for Emperors to offer sacrifices to God of Earth in the Ming and the Qing dynasties, Square Water Altar is surrounded by a square-shaped ditch, which was initially built in the 9th year of Emperor Jiajing's reign in the Ming dynasty, and it was reconstructed in the 15th year of Emperor Qianlong's reign in the Qing dynasty with the original yellow glazed bricks on the surface of the altar replaced by light gray slab stones. The present altar was re-constructed in 1982 according to the Qing-style when it was in reign of Emperor Qianlong. 


The Temple of Earth is square-shaped with the outer layer and the inner layer, symbolizing the ancient Chinese philosophical idea of 'Round Heaven and Square Earth.' Initially built in 1530, the Bell Tower is roofed by green glazed tiles, and it consists of three side by side rooms with 12 meters in its total width, which was demolished in 1965 owing to long being out of repair, and it was rebuilt in 2000 by following its style when it was in the Ming dynasty. The Bell is 2.58 meters in height, 1.56 meters in diameter and 2,324 tons in weight, on whose body is inscribed, 'Made in the Reign of Ming Emperor Jiajing'. The sound of the bell is sonorous and can be heard from miles away. Roofed by green glazed tiles and covering an are of 19.55 meters in width and 7.5 meters in depth, the Holy Horse Hall was firstly built in 1530 with five side-by-side rooms of the same size, which was renovated thoroughly in 1999 and takes a new look now. 


Firstly built in the 9th year (1530) of Emperor Jiajing's reign in the Ming dynasty, the Earth God Worship House is the place for enshrining the spiritual tablets of God of Earth and the other side Gods, and it has functioned as a room for storing cultural relics of Temple of Earth since 1986. The Fast Palace was built 1530 as a place for the emperors' fasting prior to the ceremony for offering sacrifices to God of Earth, where Emperor Shunzhi, Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong and Jiaqing of the Qing dynasty once lived. Facing east, the main architecture in the palace is made up of Southern Hall, Northern Hall and Western Hall. The Slaughter House is where the animals such as pigs and cows were slaughtered before the sacrificial ritual day in the Ming and the Qing dynasties. 


In addition, a number of gardens are built in the Temple of Earth Scenic Area, including Chinese Rose Garden, Peony Garden and Collecting Flower Garden, adding much luster to your Beijing travel. In 2006, as a holistic artifact of ancient architecture, Temple of Earth was approved to be the sixth batch of cultural relics under the state protection. In ancient China, the ideology of Round Heaven and Square Earth was very largely accepted. Hence, as the architecture for worshiping the earth, the most highlighted point is the use of square, which is the symbol of the earth. The use of color also shows the strong tradition. The symbolic colors, the builders just use four kinds, which are yellow, red, brown and white. The whole architecture system of the Temple of Earth presents the exquisite, dignified, grand and special and ancient architectural characteristics. 
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