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Taimiao Imperial Temple

Beijing Working People,s Cultural Palace(also called Taimiao) is situated on the east side of Tian'anmen. It used to be the imperial ancestral temple for offering sacrifices to Heaven and the Earth in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Built in 1420 (the 18th year of Yongle in the Ming Dynasty), it covers a total area of 197,000 square meters, and is circled by three red walls. The three halls inside the Halberd Gate, which are the central structures, are imposing and solemn, with roofs covered with yellow glazed tiles. The front hall, called Sacrificial Hall, was for holding grand sacrificial ceremonies. It stands on a tri-tiered sumeru base made of white marble. Inside the hall, the sixty-eight columns and the wooden components are all made of expensive golden-silk nanmu wood; the floor is paved with golden bricks, and the ceiling is adorned with colored gilded paintings.

The former imperial forbidden compound was turned into Beijing Working People,s Cultural Palace after 1949, with its name inscribed by Chairman Mao. It was officially opened to the public on May 1, 1950. Over the past 50 years, it has become a 'school and amusement park' for working people, and a national 'model cultural palace for workers,. Various activities held here throughout the year attract many visitors and tourists; its artistic training and vocational education programs have yielded a large number of persons qualified for various jobs; its performing troupes enjoy a long-standing reputation and popularity. The cultural palace is also a center for the Party and the state to host important political, economic and cultural events, both domestic and international, for instance, such grand, exciting occasions as Yanni's concert and the opera Turadot—the latter was voted as the top ten entertainment events in China in the 20th century. Currently, the Sacrificial Hall houses the Chinese Peace Bell, the largest two-note set-bells for stage performance in the world, whose name was inscribed by former president Jiang Zemin, who struck it for the first time on January 1, 2000. As a municipal park, a historical and cultural garden, and a major tourist attraction in the neighborhood of Tian'anmen, the Working People's Palace leaves an unforgettable impression on tourists both at home and abroad by perfectly integrating traditional and modern culture.

Sacrificial hall

Also called Front Hall, this was where Ming and Qing emperors held ceremonies for offering sacrifices to their ancestors. Built in 1420 (the 18th year of Yongle in the Ming Dynasty), it is the principal part of the ancestral temple. Though it was renovated many times in the Ming and Qing dynasties, it has largely retained its size and layout in the Ming Dynasty. It has a double-eave hip roof covered with yellow glazed tiles, and a plaque with nine dragons and gilded words for Taimiao (Imperial Ancestral Temple) in Chinese and Manchu. It is eleven-bay wide (68.2 meters), six-bay deep (30.2 m) and 32.46 meters high, sitting on a tri-tiered 3.46-meter-high sumeru base made of white marble. Inside the hall, the beams are adorned with gold plates and the floor is paved with golden bricks; the sixty-eight columns and the main beams are made of golden-silk nanmu wood, making the hall the largest existent palace with such wood in China.

      In the Qing Dynasty, imperial sacrificial ceremonies were held here in the first month of the four seasons respectively, at the end of every year, and for such great events as marriages, funerals, accession to the throne, assuming power, conferring noble titles, or wars. The hall is furnished with thrones for the emperor and empress, which are painted with golden-lacquer carved dragons and phoenixes, and with incense-burner tables and offerings. At the end of the year, the ancestors’ sacrificial tablets would be moved from the Resting Hall and Ancestral Shrine to this hall before a grand ceremony was held. The hall is imposing, solemn and magnificent. In the past, when a ceremony was held here, it would be an epitome of the Chinese ancestral worship, with ministers standing in perfect order, classical music played with drums and bells, and graceful ritual dances.

Vermilion paths 
 
These are patterned stones in the middle of the steps of the sumeru base under Sacrificial Hall and the steps of Halberd Gate. They are believed to be the path of gods, while the emperor took the steps on the eastern side. The one at Sacrificial Hall is the most magnificent. It is divided into three parts, each made of an entire block of granite, and adorned with carved patterns that symbolize high honor—dragon in clouds, lion rolling a ball, and sea animals. With exquisite workmanship, it is a masterwork among Ming stone carvings.

China Harmonious Chimes           

This age old and unique place displays a set of grand chimes named china harmonious chimes, a symbol of the ancient Chinese culture. Chimes were musical instruments used in the ancient imperial court. Its history could be traced back as early as the 13th century BC. The oldest chimes of ancient china were produced in the early warring states period, named Zenghouyi Chimes which were unearthed in 1978 in Suizhou, Hebei province. The whole set was made up of 65 chimes, hung on a three-tiered rack. It is 2.67 meters high and 10.79 meters wide and 2.5tons in weight. The high techniques of making  the chimes and greatness of its music shocked the whole world and they were then regarded as the "eighth wonder of the world." July 1st, 1997, on the ceremony of Hong Kong's return back to china held at Hong Kong exhibition and convention centre, the performance of the Zenghouyi chimes replica caused a great sensation. The later performance on September 2nd, 1999 at the UNESCO headquarters auditorium in Paris also achieved great success. Thus, these ancient Chinese chimes had established its worldwide reputation.

To welcome the new millennium, china harmonious chimes were specially made and designed with the 2,400-year-old Zenghouyi chimes as its prototype. They were completed by November 1999 with the help of modern science and technology. On the morning of January 1st 2000, President Jiang Zemin struck the first blow here in this temple.

China Harmonious Chimes, 108 pieces in total, 17tons in weight, are hung on three-tiered racks which are 3.8 meters high, 21 meters wide. 34 Niuzhong (chimes with semi-circular knob) on upper tier represent china's provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions, Hong Kong Macao and Taiwan; 56 Yongzhong (chimes with cylindrical handle) on middle tier represent china's 56 nationalities; on lower tier are 18 Bo zhong (chimes with plane opening and circular knob), of which 16chimes in the middle represent china's 16 historical period, while two bells on both ends symbolize "peace" and "development".Weighting 320kg, the biggest of Bo zhong was inscribed with gilt characters of "Zhong Hua He Zhong ,Wan Nian Yong Bao"(keep the china harmonious chimes forever) written by President Jiang Zemin. The cinnabar carved-lacquer racks were decorated with 12000 modern designs. On both side of the chimes stand drums, sonorous stones and sonorous jades. With wide compass the china harmonious chimes may produce melodious sound when Chinese or Western music is played with them. They have been included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest group of chimes in the world.

The west chamber of sacrificial hall
This chamber houses the sacrificial tablets of meritorious ministers. Built in the Ming Dynasty, it has a single-eave gable and hip roof covered with yellow glazed tiles and is fifteen-bay wide. It has a front porch, where the columns curl and incline inwards at the top; with a gradually upturned roof, it is a typical Ming official structure. In the Qing Dynasty, it housed thirteen meritorious Manchu, Mongolian and Han civil and military ministers, such as E'ertai, Zhang Tingyu, Fu Heng and Senggelinqin. There is one niche in each bay, which contains a red-lacquer wooden tablet with golden Manchu and Chinese words.

The east chamber of sacrificial hall 
  
This chamber houses the sacrificial tablets of meritorious princes. Built in the Ming Dynasty, it has a single-eave gable and hip roof covered with yellow glazed tiles and is fifteen-bay wide. It has a front porch, where the columns curl and incline inwards at the top; with a gradually upturned roof, it is a typical Ming official structure. In the Qing Dynasty, the chamber housed the tablets of thirteen meritorious Manchu and Mongolian princes, such as Daishan, Duo'ergun, Duoduo, Yunxiang and Yixin. There is one niche in each bay, which contains a red-lacquer wooden tablet with golden Manchu and Chinese words.

The furnace 
This was used to burn silk used at the west side chamber of Sacrificial Hall. Built in the Ming Dynasty with plain bricks, it is modeled on a wooden structure, with a single-eave gable and hip roof, a bracket architrave beneath the eaves, and a round column at each of the four corners; the furnace door is adorned with carved ribbon patterns, and the other sides have carved rhombus patterns. Under the furnace is a sumeru base. It is of high artistic value.

There was another yellow-glazed furnace east of this one, which was used to burn paper (with prayers written on it) and silk used at sacrificial ceremonies in Sacrificial Hall and its eastern side hall. It was removed in the modern times.

Halberd gate 
Built in 1420 (the 18th year of Yongle in the Ming Dynasty), the gate has a gradually upturned single-eave hip roof covered with yellow glazed tiles, with large brackets under the eaves. It has a railing made of white marble, a sumeru base with a vermilion path in the middle, and two side gates on both sides. A typical Ming official structure, it is the only important relic that has not been altered since the imperial ancestral temple was built. There used to be a small golden wooden hall in the east bay outside the gate, where the emperor would change clothes and wash before a sacrificial ceremony. There were 120 golden-dragon halberds with red handles and silver end caps mounted on eight red-lacquer racks outside and inside the gate, in accordance with its status as the highest-grade ceremonial gate, before they were pillaged by the Eight Power Allied Force that invaded Beijing in 1900.

Ancient cypress wood 
There are two species of ancient cypresses—Chinese Arborvitae and Sabina chinensis. Most of them were planted shortly after the imperial ancestral temple was built in the Ming Dynasty, and the rest were planted in the Qing Dynasty. The oldest among them age over 500 years, and the youngest age over 300. Nearly 800 cypresses surround the central complex in contrast with the yellow tiles and red walls, creating a solemn, serene atmosphere. Before the temple was opened to the public, the woods were dwelled by many common cranes

Ancestral shrine 
Also called Back Hall, this hall houses the sacrificial tablets of the imperial ancestors. Built in 1491 (the fourth year of Hongzhi in the Ming Dynasty), it has a single-eave hip roof covered with yellow glazed tiles, being nine-bay (61.99 meters) wide and four-bay (20.33 meters) deep. It is furnished in the same way as the Resting Hall. In the Qing Dynasty, it housed the tablets of four ancestors—Zhaozu in the middle, Jingzu on the right, and Xingzu and Xianzu on the left. In the first month of each season, the emperor would order officials to offer sacrifices here. At the end of a year, the tablets would be moved to Sacrificial Hall for the sacrificial ceremony. The hall is in a courtyard circled by red walls. There used to be an iron furnace in the southeastern corner for burning sacrificial silk.

The bridges of halberd gate 
Built in the Ming Dynasty, the seven single-arch stone bridges span Gold River before Halberd Gate. Each bridge is eight meters wide, with white marble guardrails on both sides and columns alternately adorned with dragon and phoenix motifs. The middle bridge was for the emperor, and the bridges on both sides were respectively for princes, officials and ordinary people, reflecting the
feudal hierarchy.

Glazed Gate 
The gate is in the middle of the southern wall of the imperial ancestral temple. Built in the Ming Dynasty, it is a three-bay-wide archway, a three-bay-wide main tower, three arches beneath, and one square gate on either side of the main gate. It has a roof covered with yellow glazed tiles, an architrave with yellow- and green-glazed brackets, and a white marble sumeru base under the vermilion wall. The general appearance is graceful and magnificent.

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