Stairway to Heaven, Beijing, China

Bejing…one of my favorite spots in the World !

I cant tell you exactly why but Bejing has a very special mystical place in my heart – I love this city – probably because it has such a deep and long history and culture which is always so impressive and as it is so different .

Bejing is the political , economical  and cultural centre and capital city of China with the awesome complex of the Forbidden City in mid of the town supposed to be the center of the world . Bejing, built in the 15th century, means “northern capital” and was the second capital after Nanjing which was the former “southern capital” of China.

To understand China it is a Must to know Bejing.

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To see the Tianamen Square which is the biggest square all over the world  , to visit the Forbidden City ,to walk along the old grey Chinese hutongs with their red roof decorations and the streets in the historical center , to eat some Bejing Duck , to walk on the Great Wall , adore it and look into the wide countryside  – it is unbelievable , it is awesome and not comparable with anything else in this World and a trip to Bejing is always worth a visit.

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I have been several times there and always enjoyed it and learnt so much .

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During my visit to Bejing in 2011 I had the opportunity to visit the Temple of Heaven and was so impressed of what I could experience and it gave me some nice memories .

It is a sunny day in Bejing and my plan for that day is to visit the historical site of the Temple of Heaven.

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I enter the site via one of the huge gates and the first thing that I recognize are the Chinese people, especially the elderly , in the morning standing under the trees in the royal garden and exercising their Tai Chi  – it looks amazing .They are moving very slowly and so elegant. I just silently pass by listening to the traditional music from a little radio they play and watching them.Even this event alone gives you the feeling that you are in good old China – so impressive !

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The Temple of Heaven is built in the 15th century like the Forbidden City and has a special arrangement of architecture and symbols .

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The Temple of Heaven was a part of the Forbidden City, located approx 5 km southeast to the Palace Museum.The construction of the temple was finished in 1420 together with the Forbidden City and is the greatest complete sacrificial altar in China and the World . It consists out of 3 main buildings which are standing in a line ie the Hall of Prayer ,The Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Circle Mound Altar .Within the whole complex there are 92 ancient buildings with 600 rooms.

The Hall of Prayer ( Quinian Hall ) is a wooden triple gable pavillion with a height of 38 meters and a three level marble base and awesome colorful pillars and paintings inside . It is the most impressive building of all.Here the Quing and Ming dynasty emperors gave their sacrificies to heaven and prayed for a good harvest .At the western end there is the place of the stables of the animals that were sacrificied.

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The Imperial Vault of Heaven ( Huangquiongyu Hall ) is smaller and has just 1 circular gable and one marble base . This hall has also nice pillars and marvelous paintings and wooden carvings inside .

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The Circle Mound Altar is an empty circular platform with three levels of marble stones.

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Everywhere you will recognize dragons carved into stones which symbolize the emperor and his power and you will recognize the animal figures on the roofs which are for the protection of the building .

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Th Temple of Heaven and Earth was a place where the emperors who were supposed to be the sons of Heaven were praying twice a year on behalf of their followers for a smooth wintertime and a good harvest.The cerenomy was very serious and perfectly organized .

This temple complex was built between 1406 and 1420 and was reflecting chinese cosmology and astronomy on which the chinese imperium was based on .The Temple of Heaven was also called Tian Tian .Due to the traditional chinese mythology the believe was that the universe is round and the earth is flat .These details are reflected in the iconic architecture of the temple since the buildings which are representing heaven are round while the building which is representing the earth is square . In the temple construction the number of nine is often used as nine stands for the nine levels of heaven in chinese mythology eg there are 9 steps between the different platforms .

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Another speciality is the connection between the arcitecture of the building and the chinese calendar .In the middle of the Hall of Prayer are 4 columns around which there are 12 pillars in the inner circle and another 12 pillars in the outer circle .

The 4 colomns symbolize the 4 seasons , the 12 pillars inside are standing for the 12 months and the outer 12 pillars for the 12 hours of a day .The 24 pillars also represent the solar term while all 28 together symbolize the 28 Chinese heavenly stars which are comparable to the astronomic system in the Western world.

You will also find the number eight in the architecture as eight is the symbol for the endless unity of the universe, rebirth and kind of blessing.The number eight also stands for the eight directions – north , northwest, west,southwest, south , southeast, east and northeast.

The colors of the temple also have special meanings and functions eg the red color is standing for the Chinese royalty and can just be used in royal buildings .In the temple the walls , the pillars and the gates are in red color . All roofs are in dark blue color which is representing the color of the sky and heaven.

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The combination of blue , yellow and green in the building that can be seen in the wall paintings is symbolizing the heaven , the emperor and the earth connected in one .

I walk on the raised sacred way, the Red Stair Way Bridge. This is the way which is about 360 m long and leads you directly to the Hall of Prayer and the other main buildings .It is the way that the emperor was using to get to the Hall of Prayer .The left path of the bridge was reserved for the emperor , the middle path was reserved for the God of Heaven and the right path was used by the ministers.This path is constructed in a way that it is gradually increasing in height – it is set in a north -south axis . In the southern part the way is 1 m high while at the north part where you arrive at the Hall of Prayer the height is about 4m .It means that you are walking slowly and slightly upwards .While walking this path the intention is to give you the feeling that you walk towards heaven .The bridge was used to set  symbolically a distance between the earth and heaven . At the north end there is also a terrace with a size of about 150 m2 which was reserved for the tent of the emperor. He was using his tent to have some privacy and changing his clothes for the ceremony .There was a throne and his incense sticks for the ceremony inside . The animals that were on the way to be sacrificed were actually walking under the red stair bridge to the Circle Mound Altar. Close to the red stair bridge there are rows of cypress trees which count about more then 600 years of age and which are witness of the last centuries in this park.  I am watching and admiring all the architectural details , the nice colorings , the animal carvings everywhere- all of them are so beautiful. When I take the steps up the marble stairs I just try to imagine how the royal ceremonies took place here for centuries -how magnificent it should have been.

I admire the power and the might that is shown while walking around .

The Temple of Heaven is also one of the biggest parks in Bejing and while I am leaving the park I pass by the long corridor with the nice trees around where I observe many people sitting there in the sun and playing games or chatting with each other and enjoying the day.

It is very peaceful over here.

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In 1998 the Temple of Heaven was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage as a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design .

I leave the site having enjoyed marvelous chinese architecture and history and learnt about the walk of the emperors to the Hall of Prayer and take my modern rikshaw to go back to my hotel .

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