Thursday, March 31, 2011

China Adventures: Tian Tan

Our first day in China was a Sunday. Because of wanting to try to keep the Sabbath day holy as much as possible, I thought that visiting Tian Tan was the most appropriate activity. Tian Tan was the place where the Emperor would go to make yearly sacrifices to "Shang Di" (Supreme Creator). He followed special rituals that included fasting, washing himself, and keeping himself pure from worldly influences. So much of what the Emperor did reminds me of our own LDS temple worship, and I can't help but wonder if at some point in China's history they had the temple ceremonies in their pure form. Of course it is obvious that most of it was lost over time, but even the blood sacrifices that the Emperor made are a reminder of the blood sacrifices made by the tribes of Israel in the ancient temples. The Emperor's goal was to maintain the "mandate of Heaven". This meant that he would have the approval of Shang Di, or God, upon his works as emperor. If crops were bad, or other problems plagued the country, the people would believe that the Emperor had lost the mandate of heaven. So his regular sacrifices were to ensure that he maintained that mandate. The temple of heaven was constructed in a precise, and symbolic way. It is a beautiful compound! Here is a picture of me in front of the main hall.

At one point in our walk across the grounds, we saw a young chinese man go to the spot where the Emperor would pray to the four compass points, and he himself knelt down on the mound and gave "obeisance" to each compass point. I highly doubt he really knew what he should do in the moment, but it was touching that he made the attempt. :)

This is a picture of what they referred to as "scripture". I think it might be something like a prayer inscribed on each wooden board.

Here are a few random pictures that I took while there.

Only the emperor was allowed to walk (or be carried) over this carved relief of dragons.

And finally, a bit of comic relief. Here is my husband trying to make it on to the "funny photographers" website. :)


Grannymar said...

The wonderful thing about blog reading is that I get to travel the world from my chair!

Nene said...

It made me wonder if the young chinese man that was praying to the four compass points was just going through a ritual or do you think he was praying for himself or another person? Just thinking...

Delirious said...

Nene I actually think he wasn't sure what to do. I think it was more of a bow, than a prayer. He had probably seen this kind of thing on television in movies about the olden days, but when it really came down to it, I don't think he knew how to do it.