With an area of 273 hectares, Beijing Temple of Heaven was used by emperors for offering sacrifice to Heaven for a good harvest during the Ming and Qing dynasties, which creates a symbolic link between Man and Heaven, playing an important role in enhancing feudal hierarchy, and its cultural values are represented by the followings.
1. Displaying Chinese Cultural Accumulation
From site selection to architectural design to etiquette of sacrifice and then to sacrifice rites, everything in Beijing Temple of Heaven is arranged based on the theory of light and shade principle and five elements (metal, wood, water, fire and earth), through which the ancient people fully expresses their understanding of the Heaven and their relationship with Heaven as well as their inner desires.
2. Displaying Ancient Allegory through Profound Symbolization
The number “9” is repeatedly employed and measured in the size of the Circular Mound Altar, which symbolizes the Heaven and emphasizes much on the relationship between man and nature (according to traditional Chinese philosophy, the number “9” conveys a meaning of eternity). The Hall of Praying for a Good Harvest is blue with a round roof, and it symbolizes the blue sky, inside of which 28 scarlet columns are placed, symbolizing 4 seasons, 12 months and 12 Shichen (one Shichen is equal to 2 hours in ancient times) respectively. The whole design of Beijing Temple of Heaven is modeled on the Heaven and Earth, making it a carrier of traditional Chinese culture and philosophy.
3. Combining Ancient Chinese Philosophy, Aesthetics with Ecology
Beijing Temple of Heaven integrates ancient Chinese philosophy, history, mathematics, mechanics and aesthetics with ecology as one, boasting a masterpiece of ancient Chinese architecture.
The Imperial Heavenly Vault is wood-structured with delicate design and royal decoration, creating a solemn and awe-inspiring atmosphere. The harmonious relationship between man and nature is reflected by the old lush green trees in Beijing Temple of Heaven, making it a hotspot for ecologists to study the relationship between ancient architecture and ecological system. The Hall of Praying for a Good Harvest is magnificent in style and delicate in structure, which is dynamic as well as steady, and it seems as if you were walking in the clouds when walking into it.
Above all, Beijing Temple of Heaven is of high historic, scientific and aesthetic value as well as profound cultural connotation, and it was listed on the World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1998.
Author: Yang Qingwei