9;Complex of Circular Mound Altar of the Temple of Heaven
Ladies and gentlemen:
It’s a pleasure for me to be your guide. First , let’s have a look at the
thCircular Mound Altar. It was built in the 9 year of Ming Jiajing(1530).the
altar was for worshipping heaven on Winter Solstice by emperors. There are two walls encircling the altar. The outer wall is square while the inner one is round meant the heaven was round and the earth was square. There are four gates , called heavenly gates around the outer and inner walls. There are three doors of each heavenly gate in large and small sizes. The door in the middle is the biggest one, which was only reserved for the God of Heaven; the left side gate was for the emperor only. The smallest on the right was the passage for royal family members and officials. there are four gates encircling the Circular Mound Altar, they are Taiyuan Gate, Zhaoheng Gate, Guangli Gate and Chengzhen Gate. The four characters “Yuan, Heng, Li, Zhen” originated from the “ Book of
Changes”. In English, the words are respectively: great and originating, penetrating, advantageous, correct and firm. Ancient architects used the ultimate Yang number 9 to endow the Circular Mound Altar with the sublime idea. The flight of stairs up to the alter contains nine or a multiple of nine steps. The diameter of each terrace reflects the highly-exalted status of the emperor. At the center of the upper terrace lies a round stone surrounded by nine concentric rings of stones. The
number of stones in the first ring is 9, in the second 18 and so on, up to
th81 in the 9 ring. The middle and bottom terraces also have 9 rings each. The total numbers of the marble slabs paved on the altar’s surface are
multiples of 9. When you stand in the center of the upper terrace and speak in a low voice , your echo will sound much louder to yourself than to others.
During the ceremony for worshipping heaven in the Qing Dynasty, seven temporary wood-structure canvas tents were put up, to represent the seven groups of tablets of God. In front of the tables, many offerings of sheep, ox, pig, fruits and other dishes ere place before the tablets of God. The south of the second layer of the Circular Mound Altar was the area where the emperor worshipped heaven, and according to the usual practice since the Qing Emperor Yongzheng, the emperor had to fast before the Winter Solstice Worshipping Ceremony. He fasted two days in the Palace of Abstinence of the Forbidden City, and the third day in the Hall of Abstinence in the Temple of Heaven. After everything had been ready, the Worshipping Heaven Ceremony began. The emperor would leave the tent of the Dressing Platform and go to the Altar. Then the bell would stop ringing. The emperor waited at the south side of the middle terrace, listening to the master of ceremonies to announce the ceremonial procedure. The grand ceremony of Worshipping Heaven also gave prominence to the ultimate Yang mumber 9, where the ceremonial
process was divided into three stages, nine items. The music and dance for the ceremony was also in nine chapters.
There are two dressing platform s in the Temple of Heaven. There are the Dressing Platform of the Circular Mound Altar and the Dressing Platform of the Altar of Praying for Grain. Here , a temporary wood-structure canvas tent was set up when the time for a ceremony drew near. This is where the feudal emperor changed his dragon robe for a ceremonial one (in reddish black color) and washed his face and hands.
Southeast of the Circular Mound Altar stands a round oven built of green glazed tiles, 3 meters high, 2.3 meters in diameter. When the ceremony began, an ox, freshly cleaned and slaughtered, would be roasted on the oven with pine twigs. When the ceremony was over, all the sacrificial objects would be burned inside the stove. The emperor watched the process, which was known as the (Burning Viewing).
Yi Kan(Burying Pit) is located east of the oven. It was used to bury the ox tail, ox hair and ox blood after the ceremony. The ancients used this to symbolized that they did not forget their ancestors who drank animal blood and ate live animals.
Liao Lu (Burners): The Circular Mound Altar has 12 burners scattered in three different places. Sacrificial offerings were burned in each burner after the worshiping ceremony.
There were three tall stone platforms ( Lantern Viewing
Platforms)located at the southwest of the Circular Mound Altar. The tall pole on the plat form is the Lantern Viewing Pole(the only one that has
thbeen repaired ). Lantern Viewing Pole was first built in the 9 year of
Ming Emperor Jiajing(1530), totally 29.9 meters high. During the ceremony, a lantern of 1.3 meters in diameter and 2.15 meters high was hung on the Lantern Viewing Pole. There were five pieces of huge candles inside the lantern. The Lantern Viewing was the sign of the location of the worshiping heaven ceremony, and also the time of the beginning and the ending of the ceremony.
Then let’s enter the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It was built in 1530. Originally, its name was the Hall of Taishen. The Imperial Vault of Heaven was a circular structure , covered with blue glazed tiles and topped by the gilded ball. This majestic building is like a huge umbrella parachuting from the sky. The hall is 20 meters high, 16 meters in diameter. The structure is supported by 16 pillars. The hall used to house the tablets of the God of Heaven and tablets of the eight Qing emperors. The wall around the building is the famous Echo Wall. The interesting thing is that if one person speaks or even whispers at one side, another person would be able to hear rather clearly on the opposite side. Because the wall and eaves are hermetically laid, thus makes human voices travel along the wall easily. In front of the marble terrace of the Imperial Vault of Heaven is the Triple Sound Stone. If one person stands on the first stone and calls
out, the echo can be heard once. If he does the same thing on the second stone, then his voice will be echoed twice. If the person speaks on the third stone, three echoes can be heard.
Well, that’s all for our tour. Thank for your attention. I look forward to your next visit. Good luck and nice trip.