Ancient Chinese temples are unique in architecture and design portraying the magnificence of one of the oldest civilizations and cultures of the world. Chinese temple architecture impacted designs and forms in other parts of the world as well. Designs were primarily horizontal without sacrificing on symmetry and the diversity in Chinese religious practices come out starkly in the temple architectures.

Ancient Chinese Temples

Temple of Heaven

The Temple Of heaven, 5 miles southeast of the Imperial Palace in Beijing, was built in 1420 by Emperor Yong Lee during the Ming dynasty. The emperor used to come during the first summer month to pray to the gods for a good harvest. The area of the temple covers 2 square miles and is nearly 4 times the size of the Imperial Palace. All Chinese emperors considered themselves sons of heaven and the temple architecture were regarded as the abode of gods.

Ancient Chinese temples were constructed in a way to resemble the very concept of heaven as it was described in Chinese culture and folklore. It was believed that the heaven was round and the earth square. Since the way to heaven from earth was fairly long, along pathway was constructed as well. Ancient Chinese belief rested on the idea that the halls of worship were heaven and the road to the temple had to belong.

Many ancient Chinese temples were damaged at the time of the Cultural Revolution, but there are records of some magnificent architectural skills used top construct places of worship. The temples embodied the three main religions of China, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Usually, all Chinese temples were red in color and minutely decorated with shades of gold.

Temples built during the Qing and Ming dynasties

Large temples had compounds and three main shrines with Chinese sculptures and paintings as well. There are many sacrificial temples in and around Beijing including the places for ancestral worship constructed during the Qing and the Ming dynasties. There is also the famous altar of the Land and Grain where sacrifices were offered to the gods for land and grain.

To integrate humanity and heaven, most ancient Chinese temples were built in the mountains and inside lush green forests. Pillars and forms were erected in such a way that devotees can literally feel the harmony. The two storied spike shaped Jokhang temple in Lhasa was built in 647 AD. The Ta-er temple in Qinghai province is over 600 years old and has a butter flower colored fresco.