Thursday's Child: Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China

Thursday, April 30, 2015


Beijing's Temple of Heaven, originally built in the fifteenth century during the Ming Dynasty, was an important religious site in Chinese culture. The emperor visited the Temple of Heaven once a year to pray that the following year's harvests would be fruitful.

Traditional Chinese lore held that the earth was square and heaven was round. Thus, the Temple of Heaven was built according to those rules: the buildings are round, but the layout of the complex is linear. Because the emperor was considered to be the divinely-appointed Son of Heaven, the Temple was the site of important religious rites connecting the earthly and the divine.


The main and most impressive building in the complex is the three-tiered Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. Not a single nail or beam was used in its construction; the entire building is supported by a series of intricately-painted wooden pillars. A set of marble stairs leads to the entrance to the hall, and the blue tiles in the roof are meant to echo the colour of heaven.

Once a year, the emperor and his staff moved from the Forbidden City, his usual residence, to the Temple of Heaven. Here, an elaborate ceremony of rituals was carried out, deviation from which would threaten the balance between heaven and earth. The prayers the emperor offered were designed to guarantee a good harvest the following year.

Interior of Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Gates leading to the Temple of Heaven
The entire complex is over 3.4 million square yards, four times as large as the Forbidden City. One of the most impressive sights on the grounds is the 500-year old grandfather tree. It is also known as Nine-Dragon tree, because it looks like nine dragons are wound around its trunk, each with his tail wrapped around another. This cypress is just one of 60,000 species of trees that populate this vast and lovely park.



12 comments:

Julie said...

My bonus son is studying in China this year. He's a senior in college and studying international business, hopes to teach ESL in China or Japan when he graduates. If so, we'll be making a trip to see him for sure.. This looks like an amazing trip. Have a great week!

Tricia Buice said...

What a lovely and interesting park - thanks for sharing - love the tree!

Gloria Baker said...

What kovely and peaceful place!!

Marcela said...

What a lovely place! Thank you so much for sharing! I'm learning sth new each time I visit your blog! I love it! You had an amazing trip!

Have a lovely weekend, dear!

Laura Dembowski said...

It's so cool that you travel so much! It must really be something to see all these places. Great pic of you and your family.

Catherine said...

Dear Beth, A wonderful and exciting trip to enjoy with your family. Such beautiful memories you continue to make.
xo Catherine

Liz Berg said...

China is on my bucket list. Bill isn't so sure! We have friends heading there tomorrow, so maybe their reviews will convince him (I can dream!!). Thanks for sharing some of your memories.

Andrea_TheKitchenLioness said...

Beth, my husband has travelled to China, I have not and he is still raving about that experience. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories and pictures from your trip.
Andrea

Mary @ The World Is A Book said...

This was a great read, Beth. I loved reading about the Temple of Heaven and the other structures. The Prayer for Good Harvests is very impressive with not using a single nail or beam. That 500-year old grandfather tree is amazing.

Joanne said...

The buildings are all so beautiful!

CQUEK said...

we have been there and is a big walk.. interesting history

Abbe Odenwalder said...

My husband worked in china for years. My son is now living in Shanghai. We are probably going in the fall. Can't wait!

Post a Comment