Posted by Imperial Harvest on 09 October 2020

The Temple of Heaven – The Two Altars

Estimated Reading Time: 4mins

Millions of visitors flock to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing every year, drawn by its mystery, mystique and magnificence. Larger than the Forbidden City, the vast Temple of Heaven is still the largest building in Beijing, and known as the home of Imperial Feng Shui.

The Temple of Heaven has two altars – the Circular Mound Altar and the Hall of Prayer.

The Circular Mound Altar (圜丘坛)

It was at the Circular Mound Altar that the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would offer sacrifices to thank Heaven and pray for the future of their empire.

As you first enter through the southern gate, the Zhaoheng Gate, you are greeted by a white marble road leading directly to the Circular Mound Altar.

But to reach the Altar, you first have to pass through the outer and inner walls. The outer wall forms a square, representing Earth, and the inner wall forms a circle, representing Heaven.

At the foot of the Altar, you are struck by its majesty and lavishness. It stands five meters high, and built on three concentric platforms. Each platform is surrounded by marble balustrades decorated with intricately carved dragons.

The Circular Mound Altar was built in accordance with the ancient Rites of Zhou (周禮), and Imperial Feng Shui principles can be found throughout the building. Odd numbers were considered heavenly. And the highest single-digit odd number, 9, represented eternity and imperial authority. As such, the number of balusters, steps, and slabs are all found in multiples of 9.

As you ascend the Altar, you will climb 9 steps for each level. The top level is paved with fan-shaped stones forming concentric circles. The innermost ring is formed by 9 stones, followed by 18, 27 and so on. And this extends to the lower levels. In total, there are 9 rings of stones on each level.

Right in the middle of the altar is the Heart of Heaven or Supreme Yang. This is a smooth stone that protrudes slightly from the middle of the altar. During sacred rituals, the Emperor would stand on the stone, and the circular construction of the altar would help their words echo all the way to Heaven.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (祈年殿)

The main building within the Temple of Heaven is the circular, three-tiered Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. It is a grand, impressive, circular building with a visually harmonious three-tiered roof representing the cosmic trinity of Heaven, Earth and Human luck. The idea of a round Heaven and square Earth is also represented here, with the round building standing in a square yard.

It was here during the winter solstice that the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped Heaven and prayed for good harvests.

The Hall of Prayer lies directly north of the Circular Mound Altar, connected by the majestic Vermilion Steps Bridge (丹陛桥), which happens to be the oldest bridge in Beijing. It is an arched stone walkway, elevated 4 meters high, 30 meters wide and 360 meters long. The Vermilion Steps Bridge forms the main axis of the Temple of Heaven, with the middle stone-paved path considered the “sacred road” for the exclusive use of the Emperor.

The three-tiered roof of the Hall of Prayer used to be painted blue, yellow and green to represent Heaven, the Emperor, and the People respectively. But these were all painted a beautiful rich blue during the reign of Emperor Qian Long to symbolise the sky.

The entire building was meticulously constructed without the use of any nails and is supported by 28 large pillars. There are 4 inner dragon pillars representing the seasons, 12 middle pillars representing the months, and 12 outer pillars representing the traditional Chinese hours. They hold up a stunning caisson ceiling, the centrepiece of which is a striking relief of a dragon and phoenix, representing the emperor and empress.

Our homage to the Hall of Prayer

To commemorate 600 years since the building of the renowned Temple of Heaven in Beijing, Imperial Harvest is proud to present the new generation of our Bliss of Harvest ring collection showcasing our highest level of skill and craftsmanship.

The Bliss of Harvest ring is arguably our most iconic collection, paying homage to the famous Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests in the Temple of Heaven. It exemplifies the historic links between Imperial Harvest and our imperial Feng Shui traditions.

Ref: BOH6001

(Singapore Design Patent No.30202109016U)

Design notes:

  • Yin-Yang matte and mirror finish providing a tasteful contrast
  • Accented by four handcrafted screws representing the four innermost pillars of the Hall of Prayer

Ref: BOH6002

(Singapore Design Patent No.30202109013S)

Design notes:

  • An elegant ring defined by a glamorous diamond-studded inner band that catches the eye and the imagination
  • Four structural pillars representing the four innermost pillars of the Hall of Prayer

Ref: BOH6003

(Singapore Design Patent No.30202109015T)

Design notes:

  • Hand-burnished mirror finish
  • Eight round brilliant cut diamonds forming four structural pillars representing the four innermost pillars of the Hall of Prayer

Ref: BOH6004

(Singapore Design Patent No.30202109011Q)

Design notes:

  • Yin-Yang matte and mirror finish providing a tasteful contrast
  • A distinctive geometric design that echoes the perfectly circular Hall of Prayer standing in a square yard, representing Heaven and Earth

Ref: BOH6005

(Singapore Design Patent No.30202109010V)

Design notes:

  • Matte finish
  • Minimalist and abstract tri-band design that is robust, discerning, and conveys a restrained sense of power

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