Temple of heaven

Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven (Tiantan), completed in 1420 during the reign of the Ming Yongle Emperor, was the most sacred space in which the emperor—also known as the Son of Heaven—performed the most important sacrifices and rites.

The gods of earth, water, war, and civilian affairs were all honored, but it was the god of agriculture who received special attention. On the winter solstice, the emperor, after ritual fasts and purification, would beseech Heaven for bountiful harvests.

The temple's layout reflects the Confucian worldview that anchored the imperial order. The square base represents Earth, the circular temple represents Heaven, and the emperor symbolically serves as intermediary between human beings and the divine order.

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