December 11, 2011

The symmetrical TianTan of Beijing

Location: TianTan, Beijing, China(39° 52′ 56.07″ N, 116° 24′ 23.29″ E)
Date: 18 October 2010, 9.50am
Camera: Canon 500D with Sigma 17-70/f2.8-4.5

To most people, the Great Wall of China with the most accessible portion situated on the outskirts of Beijing, is the most recognisable icon of China. However as far as Beijing is concerned, its icon is actually the TianTan or loosely translated as the Temple of Heaven; more accurately Altar of Heaven. This is where the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties came to make offerings and pray for bountiful harvests every year. In the psyche of the Chinese, TianTan held another significance as it represented a symbol of an era of shame when China was forced into signing away sovereignties in unequal treaties with the West under the barrel of canons. The temple complex was occupied and used as a command centre by the Eight Nation Alliance during the Boxer Rebellion resulting in serious desecration and damage to the temple, buildings and gardens. Many temple artefacts were also looted by the Alliance soldiers. the temple and buildings were constructed during the Ming Dynasty but underwent large-scale renovation during the Qing Dynasty. As a result, Qing decorations and adornments predominates in the temple. Today TianTan is a major tourist destination.