The Temple of Earth (also referred to as the Ditan Park) was constructed in 1530 by Emperor Jia Jing during the Ming Dynasty. The park covers a 40 hectares space outside of Beijing’s second ring road. This places the park in the middle of a heavily populated area. The park features lush gardens and tree lined paths. During the Cultural Revolution of China, the temple was damaged; however, the site has been restored and renovated since then.
The Altar of the Earth is the last remaining altar for worshipping the God of the Earth. From 1531 to 1911, 14 emperors used this alter 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.
For thousands of years, the Chinese have believed that important cosmic things could be symbolized using common shapes and directions. Because the Temple symbolizes the Earth, its footprint is square in shape. The square is a powerful symbol in Chinese culture and mythology which can mean Earth or the ground. The Temple’s construction mirrors these beliefs with its many square walls and altars. The Temple of Earth is also located in the north of Beijing, north being the direction associated with the Earth. In contrast to this, the much larger Temple of Heaven is circular in shape, symbolizing the heavens and sky, and is located in the south of Beijing. These two temples, along with the Temples of the Moon and Sun (located in the west and east, respectively), interact with each other in spiritually important ways. The Chinese government has listed the Earth temple as one of the most important historical monuments under special preservation.
Ditan Park Today
It is rare to see foreign people or tourists in the actual Temple of Earth in the park. The Temple itself is actually a very small (and underwhelming – when comparing with the Temple of Heaven) portion of the park. Aside from the Temple, the park offers a children’s play arcade, water calligraphy (where tourists can purchase over sized brushes and “paint” with water on the cement.), food, and other attractions.
The park is frequented by joggers and runners, and is a very popular place to do Tai Chi. Since the 1980s, traditional temple fairs have been held regularly during the Chinese lunar new yea