Oh boy! Are the Chinese religion and mythology so complicated? Indeed it is! So I won’t pretend to be an expert here, neither an amateur historian.
Still, guys, I would like to give you some interesting information about those amazing parks and temples filled with ancient religious acts and rituals through time.
Welcome to the temple of Earth, commonly known as 地坛 (Dìtán) or the Altars of Earth. What the heck? Yes, this temple is full of altars all over the place for it’s been a place of sacrifices and offerings to the Superior Entity.
The temple is located outside of the 2nd ring of Beijing, not that far from its center, in the northerner part of Beijing. This is kind of important, because Chinese people thought that every element had its specific place due to the 4 cardinal points. Ancient beliefs tell us North is actually linked to the symbol of the Earth. On the opposite side of the city, in the southerner part, is located the opposite symbol of Earth, the Temple of Heaven, symbolizing itself the Heavens and the Sky. Notice that both of them are the biggest parks in the city (after the Summer Palace of course!) and both of them also have a different shape: as the temple of Heaven is a circled-shape park, the Temple of Earth is represented on a map as a squared-shape park. Again, the shape isn’t a coincidence in the traditional Chinese myths. Kind of important and sacred, the square is powerful symbol of Earth or Ground.
Ok, enough about the shape and the symbols behind it! Still, I mentioned something quite interesting if you ask: the numerous amounts of altars inside the temple.
In this old temple/park (it is actually more a park but you can check my next post about it next time) you will encounter a lot of altars in different… shapes! Rounded-ones, high ones, big or small, squared-shape too. Dìtán Park offers a collection of nice altars all representing the main aim of this park: sacrifices and offerings.
Built during the Ming Dynasty (in the 16th century),this Park was the witness of many offerings to the Gods up there and a place to pray and ask for good rations during the harvest period happening a bit after the Chinese New Year.
It is actually, nowadays, a special place where people can come enjoy a sunny day in Spring after hibernating a long time. As you may know, winter is kinda hard on people due t the pollution, so Spring is the perfect season transiting from bitter harsh days to sunnier and fresher days. This park, along the altars, is a perfect natural space to come have a peaceful afternoon surrounded by flowering gardens and trees.
To be honest, and talk about my experience there, I was going through a really really bad time. And on that Sunday, as much as the air was good, I got slapped by words and all alone to deal with that. So, after consideration, I left my apartment and went to the subway, not knowing where to go to try not to cry but clear my head. I ended up in the Temple, early spring (still winter for us, so not that blossomy yet). Still hurt, I started my walk and… I started to feel a tiny little bit better. The quiet, the warm sun in this freezing day, the gardens, the architecture, the birds singing, all of it made it bearable for a little while as the sun set on the main altar in the heart of the Temple. My tears didn’t come and my heart eased down a little. Those greened and treed hallways made the path to the different parts so refreshing.
Hence, I highly recommend you, if you come or live in China, to visit one of the greatest temples in the heart of the historical but modern city of Beijing.
History lesson dismissed folks! My historian side is going to sleep now until the next temple I visit.
See you soon guys!
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