Circular Mound Altar, which was built in 1530 and enlarged in 1740. There are two walls
encircle the altar. Both walls are painted red and surrounded by blue tiles; however, each
wall represents something different. The round inner wall represents heaven while the
square outer wall represents earth.
After the Emperor
signed the declaration that would be read to heaven outside the square wall, he proceeded
to the terrace.
In the southeast
corner, pine and cypress branches were burned in the green-tiled oven to welcome the gods
from heaven. To bid farewell to the gods, human sacrifices were burned in the oven. Next
to the oven is a special pit called the Pit of Hair and Blood because the hair and blood
of the sacrificial victims were buried here.
In the southwest
corner, a platform to hold a lantern pole can be seen. The pole was built in 1530 but its
length changed several times. Originally, a golden dragon was painted on the pole on a
blue background, later, the color of background was changed to red. The pole was finally
furnished when Yuan Shikai, a warlord made the last sacrifice to Heaven.
The Circular Mound
is comprised of three round white marble terraces and each one is edged with a marble
balustrade. The bottom marble terrace represents Hell, the middle terrace represents the
Mortal World and the top terrace represents Heaven.
And a kind of
ancient yardstick was used to measure the length in "Zhang" (one
"Zhang" is a little less than 3.5 metres), the Upper terrace is 9
"Zhang" (30 metres) in diameter, the middle terrace is 15 "Zhang" (50
metres) in diameter and the bottom terrace 21 "Zhang" (70 metres) in diameter,
and the numbers 1X9=9; 3X5=15; 3X7=21, include all the so called "Heavenly
number" 1, 3, 5, 7, 9; and the total number of the three terraces is 45, the result
of 9X5, which is in complete conformity with "the Supreme number of nine and
five" in the "Book of Changes". The arrangement of putting number nine and
five together was used exclusively in China by the ancient emperors, that's why it was
In the center of
the upper terrace is the Heaven's Heart Stone which is surrounded by concentrically
arranged flag-stones. There are 9 stones in the first circle, 18 in the second, 27 in the
third. It continues in this manner up to the ninth circle, which has 81 stones. The middle
and bottom terraces also have 9 circles each. The total number of the marble flagstones on
the surface is 3,402, and each terrace has four entrances and a flight of nine steps
leading down in every direction.
The total number
of the carved balustrades on these terraces is 360, which is also the multiplies of 9. It
stands for the 360 degrees of circumference of heaven.
ceremony, the shrine of god was placed on the central Supreme Stone, which symbolized that
god lived above the "nine heavens".
terrace produces a curious acoustic effect. If you stand in the center of the upper
terrace and speak, you will hear your voice echo back because the balustrades send the
sound back to the center.
The altar has
withstood the test of time for nearly 500 year and stands perfectly preserved without any
cracking or sagging.
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