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Temple of Heaven Beijing
2017.12.02475
The Temple of Heaven is considered the most holy of Beijing's imperial temples. It has been described as "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design".
The Temple of Heaven has also been listed as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
History
The Temple of Heaven was built in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1420) by the emperor Zhu Di in the royal garden. Once a year, at winter solstice, the emperors came here to worship Heaven and to solemnly pray for a good harvest.
 
Since his rule was legitimized by a perceived mandate from Heaven, a bad harvest could be interpreted as his fall from Heaven's favor and threaten the stability of his reign. So, it was not without a measure of self-interest that the emperor fervently prayed for a very good crop.
Ancestral Worship
In line with the Confucianist revival during the Ming dynasty, the sacred harvest ceremony was combined with the emperor's worship of his ancestors.
According to the Confucian pattern of social organization, just as the emperor respected his ancestors, so a younger brother should respect an elder brother, a wife her husband, a son his father, and a nation's subjects their ruler.
Incorporating ancestor worship within the most solemn ceremony of the imperial ritual calendar indirectly reinforced the social philosophy that preserved the emperor's power.
The Mystical Design
The design of the Temple of Heaven complex, true to its sacred purpose, reflects the mystical cosmological laws believed to be central to the workings of the universe. Both the overall arrangement and the buildings themselves reflect the relationship between sky and earth, the core of understanding of the Universe at that time.
 
Hence, complex numerological permutations operate within its design. For example, because the number nine was considered to be the most powerful, the slabs forming the Circular Altar have been laid in multiples of nine.
 
Similarly, within the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the interior twenty-eight columns are divided into four central pillars to represent the seasons, twelve inner columns to represent the months, and twelve outer columns to represent the two hour sections that make up a day. There are many such examples of this intense numerology at play. Another interesting fact is that the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is built completely without nails.
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