Example Of Temple Of Heaven In Beijing, China Essay
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China’s history is an interesting one that represents one of the greatest civilizations in the world. It constitutes a lot of dynasties comprising monarchical rules that helped in shaping Chinese culture and heritage today. The temple of heaven is probably one of the most significant artifacts and structures that bear great historical significant not only in China but also in the world today. This structure is of great importance because it tells a lot about the ancient Chinese and the culture of the people. It represents a Chinese way of worship, their respect of deities and piety. This paper addresses the architectural design of the temple of heaven and takes a look at when it was built, its significance and so forth. In addition, it evaluates the similarities of Temple of Heaven with Stonehenge
Historical Relevance and Essence
The Temple of Heaven, Tian Tan, was built in the 15th century during the Ming Dynasty. It was built in Beijing, China and strategically located at the outermost part of the city close to the Forbidden City. The famous temple is well decorated in gold having red walls. The temple represents the Ming Dynasty in a great way and, therefore, tells a lot about the prevailing architectural designs and styles at the time it was built (Beijing, 2009).
The temple of heaven is a symbol of the relationship between heaven and the earth as well as the human world, and the world of the Gods. This is considered one of the masterpieces in the Chinese study of the Universe. The structure is simply arranged in axially formation with circular mound altar to the south as shown in figure 1. It is opened to the sky with an imperial vault of heaven roofed conically (UNESCO, 2005).
Figure 1 View of Temple of Heaven, Source adapted: UNESCO (2005)
Chinese emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties have a great duty to attend to the temple. They serve as mediators between the realm of the Gods and the realm of humankind. They do this by offering sacrifices and rituals to heaven. The main essence of offering sacrifices and for the rituals during the Ming and Qing dynasties is to ensure a good harvest of crops.
In the 1420, the Alter of Heaven and Earth located to the south of the Forbidden City was constructed; this corresponded to the 18th year of the Ming Emperor Yongle reign. Further, in the 1530, a decision was made to offer sacrifices separately for heaven and earth. As a result of this, the circular mound altar was then dedicated for sacrifices to heaven and renamed the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven and Earth covers a total of 273 hectares, and this total area was not formed until 1749 that is after the constructions by the Guangxu and the Qing emperors Qianlong.
This is imperative to consider that in the Chinese tradition, the emperor was regarded as the Son of Heaven. The entire architectural designs, planning and siting and so forth were founded on the fundamental beliefs of numbers and spatial organizations of the ancient Chinese. This goes a long way to reflect Chinese Cosmogony in a large way and shows how wonderful Chinese culture is. The historic temple contained lots of sacred objects and artifacts that are used for rituals and worship. The emperors fast and bathe three days before the ceremony of offering sacrifices to the Gods in the Sacrificial Palace located inside the western gate. The emperor and his followers perform their sacred duty twice a year as they move from the Forbidden City through Beijing and then camp inside the temple complex. During the ceremony, they do not eat any meat and wear special robes. Moreover, the procession or ceremony is done in such a way that ordinary Chinese are not allowed to view. The emperor and his followers ensure perfect and complete celebration of the ceremony because they believe that even a small mistake can bring bad omen on the entire nation in the coming year. (Ministry of Culture, 2015; UNESCO, 2005).
However, a lot has changed about the religious worships and activities in the temple of heaven today. The Temple of Heaven was transformed to a public park after the Communist revolution in 1949 (Beijing, 2009). The temple now serves a great tourist attraction purpose in China today. Thousands of people from different countries of the world come China to view the precious cultural relics of architectural art (Ministry of Culture, 2015).
The Temple of Heaven and the Stonehenge
Many similarities can be drawn between the Temple of Heaven and the Stonehenge. Essentially, both structures are of great cultural relevance. The Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument that is located in the Salisbury Plain in the southwestern England (Stonehenge, 2009). There is great uncertainty regarding the actual time of its construction as well as the person or people responsible for building it. However, different sources give their view of the origin of the structure. Some sources attribute it to Merlin the wizard while some others believe that it was built by Celtic high priests known as the Druids and so forth.
It is significant to note that both structures, the Stonehenge and the Temple of Heaven, characterize the cultures of the ancient Briton and Chinese respectively. Archeologists show that the Stonehenge was probably built between 3000BC and 1000BC which shows that the Stonehenge is older than Temple of Heaven.
There are also differences to be observed between the both structures. The A&E Television Networks, (2015) pointed out that structure serves ceremonial purposes, and it is a destination for religious pilgrimage. Furthermore, it is believed that the Stonehenge is a final resting place for royalties or probably it was erected as a memorial to honor or connect with ancestors spiritually. Here, the difference between the two structures is underscored. Furthermore, the structure is said to be relevant in determining astronomical phenomena such as equinoxes, solstices, and eclipses. This is also a great difference between the Temple of Heaven and the Stonehenge. In conclusion, both structures are part of the register of UNESCO for the World Heritages.
In conclusion, the temple of heaven is a very vital architectural feature in China. This artifact extended over hectare is located in southern part of Beijing, and it bears great religious Significance in China. China's history will be incomplete without mentioning the Temple of Heaven, and the high priests perform duties in this temple. The Temple of Heaven has many similarities with the Stonehenge especially because both structures are of archeological importance. Here, the importance of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing China was carefully considered, and the duties performed by the emperors, known as the Son of Heaven, to the temple. However, the temple merely serves as a tourist destination feature today as thousands of people travel from different countries of the world to behold the magnificent structure.
A&E Television Networks, (2015). Stonehenge - British History. HISTORY.com. Retrieved 12 April 2015, from http://www.history.com/topics/british-history/stonehenge
Beijing. (2009). In Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia
Ministry of Culture, (2015). Temple of Heaven. Chinaculture.org. Retrieved 12 April 2015, from http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_travel/2003-09/24/content_34649.htm
Stonehenge. (2009). In Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia
UNESCO, (1998). Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing - UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 12 April 2015, from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/881
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