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Ritual of the Worship of God of Heaven

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Discover the ritual of the worship of God of Heaven

Temple of HeavenThe emperor came to Zhaigong (Hall of Abstinence) three days before the ceremony of praying for good harvests. During the reign of Emperor Yongzheng (1723-1735,) a new hall of the same capacity was built inside the Forbidden City so that the emperor was able to come to the Temple of Heaven only on the last day of abstinence, sometimes even at the last hours of it.

On the day of the ceremony, the emperor would leave the Hall of Abstinence before sunrise with the chinning of the supreme Harmony Bell. He entered the tent on the way to the altar and put on his ceremonial garment. Incense, twigs of pine and cypress trees was burned to cause the flame and smoke to rise high and permeate all over the altar. Drums began to be struck up in company with other musical instruments thus inaugurating the ceremony.

Then the tablet of God of Heaven in the hall, placed in a dragon pavilion, was to be carried away directly to the Hall of prayer for good Harvests in front, and placed in a shrine while other tablets were to be placed on the stone platform. The emperor would also go to the kitchen and storehouse to make sure that everything was ready for the rituals. Then he would be back to the Hall of Abstinence.

The ceremony took place early in the morning. After putting on his ceremonial garment on a dressing platform, the emperor went solemnly to the hall where he would stand on the Stone of Dragon and Phoenix to announce the inauguration of the event and kneel down three times to kowtow, which is the highest Chinese salute in ancient times. Outside the hall and below the steps stood royal members as well as civil and military officials who followed suit as the ceremony went on. It was really a grand view when twigs cut from pines and cypress trees were burned in censers in the courtyard. The flames rose up into the sky while light smoke curled around gently. Then music and dance began to accompany the on-going ritual performance and usher in the climax of ignition of sacrificial items. The emperor watched the fire and bid farewell to the God of Heaven.

The formal procedure consisted of the following steps:

1) The emperor burned incense and kowtowed to greet the descending of the God of Heaven;
2) The emperor laid offerings three times;
3) The emperor bade the ascending of the God of Heaven and saw Him off by burning off all the offerings.



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