Temple of Earth (Ditan Park)

The Temple of Earth, aka the Altar of the Earth,  is located on Andingmenwai Street, in the Dongcheng District, Beijing. The altar is a square, two-storied building enclosed by a square ditch. Hence, originally it was called Fangze Altar (Fangze meaning 'square ditch'). The Fangze Altar was built in 1530 during the reign of the Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). This was the sacred place used by the emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties to worship the God of the Earth.

The Temple of Earth is the last remaining temple for worshipping the God of the Earth. From 1531 to 1911, 14 emperors used this as a place of sacrifice. At that time, worshipping the gods of Heaven and Earth was a very important part of religious activity. This practice dates all the way back to prehistoric agricultural production.

The Fangze Altar is the best-preserved piece of architecture used for worshipping the God of the Earth. Its original design imitated the altar of the earth on the Purple Mountain in Nanjing. When the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) reigned, the Temple of Earth went through large-scale reconstruction and enlargement.

The Temple of Earth covers a square-shaped plot of about 92.4 acres (37.4 hectares). All of its architecture was designed according to the Chinese ancient Five Elements Theory, Round Sky and Square Earth Theory and the symbols of 'Dragon & Phoenix' and 'Heaven & Earth'. Today, in addition to the altar, visitors can see a number of ancient buildings such as Huangqishi, Zaishengting, Zhaigong and Shenku.

Huangqishi (Earth God Worship House) is one of the major buildings in it. Throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties, this was used as a spot for worshipping the God of the Earth and many other Chinese gods. In 1986, it converted into an exhibition room of cultural and historical relics.

Zaishengting (Slaughter Pavilion) is the place in which bulls, pigs, goats and deer were slaughtered. Animals were killed on the day before the worship ceremony, and then prepared as the sacrificial offerings.

Before participating in a worship ceremony, emperors would fast in Zhaigong (the Hall of Abstinence). Zhaigong was used by emperors Shunzhi, Kangxi, Yongzheng, Qianlong and Jiaqing of the Qing Dynasty. It is made up of three palaces, which were built in 1530 and then rebuilt in 1730.

Shenku (Holy Storehouse) stores the sedan chairs used to carry the spirit tablets of the gods. The storehouse was also used to temporarily house the spirit tablets when Huangqishi was under repair. Three other large halls and two well pavilions surround Shenku. Shenchu (Holy Kitchen) was the west hall, and functioned as a preparation area for sacrificial food.  The east hall stored the utensils used in worship. The south hall held the musical instruments used for the worship. The two well pavilions provided water for the ditch surrounding the Fangze Altar and the Holy Kitchen.

In addition to the cultural and historical architecture and relics, the ancient trees in it are also well worth seeing. The park is home to 168 ancient trees, many of which are more than 300 years old. Arborvitae, juniper, elm, ginkgo and locust are among the most common ones.

Ditan Park Temple Fair

1985 marked the debut of this fair, which is now held annually around the Chinese New Year and has become one of the most popular temple fairs in Beijing . Here tourists can witness spiritual rituals, watch Chinese operas, and taste Chinese traditional snacks. As a unique part of the temple fair, the Earth God worshipping ceremony of the Qing Dynasty is held 10 a.m. every day. Bianyifang Roast Duck and other time-honored local snacks are introduced to the fair. People can enter the fair by charging Beijing Transportation Card. The opening hour of the temple fair is 09:00-17:00. The admission ticket costs CNY 10.

Transportation:

 By Subway:
Take Subway Line 2 or Subway Line 5 Yonghegong (Yonghe Lamasery) Station and get out from Exit A. Then you can see the south gate of Ditan Park.

 By Bus:
 Take bus 18, 75, 104, 108, 113, 119, 124, 125, 301, 426, 430 or Special Line 11 to the Ditan Ximen Station (the west gate of Ditan Park).
 Take bus 117 to Ditan Dongmen Station (the east gate of Ditan Park).
 Beijing Bus / Subway Search

 

Admission Fee

CNY 2 per person
CNY 10 per person for the Chinese New Year Cultural Temple Fair (Dec. 30 to the next Jan. 7 on Chinese Lunar Calendar)

Opening Hours May 1 to October 31: 06:00 - 21:30
November 1 to next April 30: 06:00 - 20:30

* The Earth God Worship House is open from 08:00 to 17:00. Visitors need to pay extra CNY 6 for visiting the house.

 Related parks in Beijing
 Temple of the Sun        
 Temple of the Moon

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