Deciphering city codes: the Central Axis of Beijing

The Imperial Ancestral Temple and Altar of Land and Grain: Embodiment of the capital design principle

Updated: Jun 7, 2022 Print
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The name plaque hanging on the main building of the Imperial Ancestral Temple [Photo/VCG]

An important component of the Forbidden City, the Imperial Ancestral Temple was the place where emperors in the Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifices to ancestors. According to the ancient principle of capital design, the ancestral temple should be located on the left (east) side of the imperial palace.

Built at the same time as the Forbidden City, it is now one of China’s relatively complete and large-scale imperial ancestor worship complexes.

The Altar of Land and Grain contains soils of five colors. It is a symbol of the state territory and its agricultural yield. [Photo/VCG]

The Altar of Land and Grain was where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifices to the gods of land and grain. Located to the southwest of the Forbidden City, its main buildings include the altar, the temple of worship and affiliated structures including the kitchen that prepared for animal sacrifice.

In 1928 and 1950 respectively, the Altar of Land and Grain and the Imperial Ancestral Temple were opened to the public as parks, and were given the names of Zhongshan Park and the Cultural Palace of Working People. Former forbidden areas reserved to imperial activities became venues of relaxation for ordinary people.

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