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Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is one of several worship sites in the capital where the emperors offered sacrifices. Its location in the city derives from the notion that yang,the mal vital principle,is located n the south;and as Heaven is yang,it should be worshipped in the southern suburbs of the capital.

The Temple of Heaven was constructed between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of Ming Emperor YongLe (reign: 1403-1424), who also oversaw the creation of the Forbidden City during the same period.

The Temple of Heaven was originally established as the Temple of Heaven and Earth, but was given its current name during the reign of Ming Emperor JiaJing (reign: 1522-1567), who built separate complexes for the earth, sun and moon. The Temple of Earth (DiTan) can be found in north Beijing. The temples of the sun and moon are in the east and west of Beijing.

The emperor's primary imperial palace (Forbidden City) lies not just in the center of the city, but also between the temples of earth and heaven, symbolising the role of the emperor connection to heavenly rule. One will notice the representation of heaven as round and the earth as square in the layout and design. One approaches the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests along a long raised walkway that almost imperceptibly increases in height.

At the winter solstice offerings were made to heaven. And in the spring, prayers for a good harvest. It was one of the emperor's most important tasks to choose the dates for sowing seeds and bringing in the harvest.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a strikingly beautful building; round, three-tiered and with blue tiled roofs (as it is essentially a Taoist temple). It is 38 meters tall and sits on a three-tier marble terrace. The cleverly constructed building relies only on carpentry, with no nails employed. This design, what we see today, was commissioned by Qing dynasty emperor QianLong (reign: 1736-1795) in 1751.

You will notice the numbers 3 and 9, in particular, recurring in the layout and design; these are important or 'lucky' numbers in Chinese numerology. The number 9, being the highest value digit is associated with the emperor. Its square root, 3, has a natural resonance in terms of beginning, middle and end; introduction, development and conclusion.

In 1998, the Temple of Heaven was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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