Hall of Abstinence - the Temple of Heaven Introduction - Beijing Destination Guide
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Hall of Abstinence

The Hall of Abstinence is located near the western entrance of the Temple of Heaven. It is encircled by two walls. The Inner wall is called Brick City, and the outer wall is called the Purple Wall. To further ensure the safety of the emperor, a moat was built to surround the Purple Wall.

A bell tower, two stone pavilions and a beamless hall are the main structures here. The bell tower is in the northeast corner of the Hall of Abstinence. Before each ceremony. bells would be struck when the emperor left for the Circular Altar Mound and would not stop until the emperor arrived, After the ceremony, the bells would be struck again.

Of the two stone pavilions, the right pavilion kept time while the left one has a bronze plate with the word "fasting" engraved on it as a constant reminder to the emperor to observe fasting rules. The beamless hall was one of the most famous buildings in Beijing. A blue-tiled roof atop the hall symbolized that the emperor must always acknowledge the Supremacy of the Heavenly Emperor.

Before each ceremony, emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties held a three-day fast during Spring, Summer and Winter. The emperors spent two days fasting in the Forbidden City and completed the three-day fast in the Hall of Abstinence.

During the three days, the emperor could not drink wine. He could only eat vegetables, but not garlic or onions. The emperor couldn't have any entertainment, nor could he handle any state affairs. Also, he had to be away from women. Naturally, such restrictions could be difficult for any emperor who was accustomed to all these luxuries.

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