Working People's Cultural Palace (Royal Ancestral Temple)
Originally called the Royal Ancestral Temple, it is now a "school and amusement park". In the Ming (1368~1644) and Qing (1644~1911) Dynasties it was used by royal family members to offer sacrifices to their ancestors. On May Day 1950, Chairman Mao opened it to the public and the name was changed to the present. Now it is a place for local people to entertain themselves. Exhibition halls, libraries, and stadiums are built inside. Various activities like lectures and movies are held here.
It is situated on the east side of Tiananmen Square and occupies 197,000 square meters (48 acres) surrounded by three red walls with pines and cypresses inside. It will make you feel solemn and respectful. It is the most complete and best preserved imperial ancestor sacrifice temple.
Part of the Forbidden City, its construction started in the 18th year of Yongle (1420) under the reign of Emperor Zhu Di (Ming Dynasty). Like many imperial buildings, it is symmetrical with the Glazed Gate, stone bridges, Halberd Gate and three halls arranged on the central axis
Inside the glazed gate of the second wall, there are seven single-arched stone bridges stretching above the Golden River. The marble-white railings of these bridges are engraved in the shape of dragons and phoenixes. Originally, the middle bridge was for the emperor and the side bridges were for princes and officials.
Passing the bridges, you can see the Halberd Gate on the third wall, which is the only important relic that has never been altered. As is typical in Ming Dynasty official architecture, there are three openings for the gate. Its single-eave hip roof is covered with yellow glazed tiles and white marble railings.
After the gate, there are three halls arranged in a line. The first one, the Front Hall, also called the Ancestor Worship Hall, is the principal place for sacrifices. The hall is about 33 meters (108 feet) high and inside its beams are adorned with gold. The main beams and sixty-eight columns are made of Phoebe zhennan wood. The Front Hall is 2 meters (6 feet) higher than the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City. This kind of design shows respect to their ancestors.
Behind the Front Hall is the Resting Hall in which the tablets with ancestors names inscribed on are placed in different chambers. The hall is furnished with beds, pillows, chairs, desks and other daily things that symbolize the daily life of the ancestors.
The Back Hall (also known as the Remote Ancestral Shrine) was used to store sacrificial tablets of the imperial ancestors. The hall is in a courtyard circled by red walls. Built in 1491, the layout of furniture is the same as the Resting Hall. In the first month of every season, the emperor would order an official to hold sacrificing ceremonies in this hall. At the end of each year the tablets were moved into the Front Hall. There are also some other chambers on west and east sides, in which some princes and officials are worshiped by people.
In 1999, the China Peace Chimes were placed in the Front Hall. The chimes have three layers. The 34 bells on the top layer stand for China's 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The bells in the second layer represent China's 56 ethnic groups. In the middle of the third layer, there are 16 bells for the sixteen periods in Chinese histories. The two bells on each side represent Peace and Development.
There are hundreds of old pines and cypresses in the park. Of particular note is the cypress planted by Emperor Zhu Di (the third emperor of Ming Dynasty). It is 13.5 meters (44 feet) high and 5.5 meters (18 feet) around.
Take Bus 10, Zhuan 2, 90, 52, 1, 728, Zhuan 1, 22, 205, 599 to Tianamen West Station, or take subway to Tiananmen East Station.
Beijing Bus / Subway Search