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The Temple of Heaven
This is the most important temple in China. Its' name refers to a group of ceremonial buildings inside a walled park, built in the 15th century. The most important building is the Hall of Prayer, which is set on a triple marble terrace. These terraces are intersected by eight flights of stairs.

The temple itself is round, with three roofs of glazed blue tiles, with the top crowned by a golden ball. It is 123 feet high and is built entirely of wood without any nails being used. This makes the temple one of the architectural wonders of the world. Its' exterior is lavishly decorated in red, blue, and green, with gilt overlay. There is only one door.

Inside, there are 24 wooden columns arranged in a double circle around four central ones. These columns were made from the trunks of trees brought from the south of China, and support an elaborate system of pillars that hold up the three roofs. This is what has attracted the admiration of architects throughout the ages.

On either side of the temple are two blue-roofed pavilions with exterior walls decorated in red and gold, and which blend perfectly with the style of the temple itself.

Opposite the temple is the Gate of Prayer For Good Harvests. Pass through this gate and walk along a path to another gate to a round-walled enclosure housing the Temple of the Gods. It is a small circular temple built entirely of wood. Stand close to the inside of the circular wall and whisper a message and your voice will come back to you from the opposite direction.

Farther south of this temple is the Round Altar, where the emperor came to make a sacrifice to heaven. This ceremony was one of the most important of the year, because it was believed that the destiny of the whole nation depended on this sacrifice and accompanying rites. The Round Altar has three terraces, one above the other, each surrounded by a white marble balustrade with 360 pillars.

When the emperor came from the Forbidden City to The Temple of Heaven, all windows and gates along the way had to be closed. No noise was permitted, and no one was allowed to set eyes on the emperor during this procession.
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Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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