Altar of Heaven, the 1920s

Chinese emperors were traditionally regarded as the representatives of the celestial authority on earth.

The Altar of Heaven in the south of Beijing Forbidden City, built 600 years ago during the early Ming Dynasty, was a venue for the emperor in the guidance of Daoists to pay personal respect and conduct a private dialogue with higher forces above.


Eric Horrobin:

What is the chinese concept of heaven??

All Things Chinese:

The traditional Chinese concept of the heavens is the realms with purer yang qi than human worlds that are filled with 50/50 yin qi and yang qi. Of course, the exact yin-yang balance in each individual and each nation during each historical period varies.

The domains below the humans’ are dominated by yin qi, such as the ghost worlds, animal kingdoms and hells.

Lower domains are the shadowy reflections of the higher realms. The events on earth are the delayed replays of the occurrences in heavens, which is why it is possible to foretell coming incidents on earth by observing the movement of the sun, the moon, the planets and the constellations in the sky. The same applies to the words below that of humans.

Because of a time-lapse, in the Chinese yin world – a ghostly land accommodating the deceased Chinese who are obsessed with their old way of living when alive thus unable to see other options of life through reincarnation – the beings there are all wearing ancient Chinese costumes.

Josh Libenirok:

Is it true that Chinese oldest religion was based on one god worship like the Israelites God?

All Things Chinese:

No, not at all, Josh.

Native Chinese “religion” is Daoism, but I don’t think it can be considered as a religion in a conventional sense as the term “religion” is commonly defined.

It does not believe there is a single almighty God that created the world, and does not worship any external entities or forces as gods.

It considers the universe was born from Nothingness when a split took place that gives rise to yin-yang dual forces which are the bases of all things in the universe and the driving forces to all occurrences in the world as the result of the yin-yang forces trying to keep balance in motion.

So it recognises that the universe is a place exquisitely structured with strict order. There are worlds above us and the worlds below, there are beings more powerful than humans and there are beings less powerful. And you have an opportunity to climb up to a better realm and face the risk to fall down to a worse domain, depending on what you do in the present.

You enter a certain lane on a certain motorway with a certain speed limit at the moment you came into life, not randomly but based on your previous journey, which is why a good Chinese fortune-teller can foretell your life path according to the year, the month, the day and the time of your birth.

But it is really up to you how to manoeuvre your journey. You can drive carefully and train yourself to be a better driver and when approaching an intersection to choose the direction consciously and wisely, then you may arrive on a better road toward a more desirable destination; or you follow the old path and repeat the previous journey; or worse, you speed, you drink-driving and engage in road rage then, alas, you found yourself involved in a car accident and have been thrown out of the road.

It’s not any god but yourself who decides your fate.

Of course, there are many powerful individuals and groups living in better worlds somewhere in the universe and like to recruit followers on earth to expand their influence with a promise to grant you a permanent residency in their world after your service, very much like what the US army did. ~_^

Are these promises all fake? Not necessarily. As for whether their world is your perceived paradise, that’s another story. Maybe yes, maybe not.

Some kids in the schoolyard are willing to join the gangs led by big boys. They do dirty jobs for the big guy in exchange for protection.

But some kids prefer to train themselves to be kung fu masters so one day they can live a life of their own choice instead of being under someone else’s mercy.

So, should we become a player of the chess game or a piece on someone else’s chess board?

Beijing City Wall, the 1930s

The left side of the city wall: farmlands
The right side of the city wall: urban Beijing


Plautus Satire:

This structure could well be the reason the Chinese built a city there

All Things Chinese: 

Actually, it was Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty who decided to build a capital there then the structure of the two layers of city walls was built.

Plautus Satire:

From my recent research it seems the “outer city” walls are poor copies of the much older “inner city” structure.

All Things Chinese: 

The old city of the Mongols’ Yuan Dynasty was destroyed in the wars. The new inner city was built in a new location deliberately away from the Mongols so as to void the lingering qi of the violence and destruction typical of the Mongol culture

The inner wall of the Ming was to protect the vicinity of central government buildings and facilities. Apart from the immediate royal family and the guards and the servants and the duty officials, everybody lived in the outer city within the outer wall.

Toan Nguyen:

In feudal times, the wall could protect the people from the city from the enemy.

All Things Chinese:

In fact, a feudal system ended in China long before the Ming Dynasty. Ming was a united and centralised kingdom like Song, Tang, Sui, Han and Qin.

However, you are right, a wall could protect the city before the WMDs were invented.

Map of Beijing, 1937

Map of Beijing, 1937
The map was produced by the Japanese military force in a preparation for a full-scale invasion of China. That year on July 7, the Japanese armies stationed outside Beijing bombarded and broke into the former Chinese capital (by then the capital was moved back to Nanjing). 

In 1421, the third Ming emperor Yongle relocated the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, 19 years after he usurped the throne through military campaigns.

His usurpation encountered fierce opposition from scholar-officials, not only due to its illegitimacy but also because the second Ming emperor Jianwen was a very popular young man.

Unable to win the loyalty of a sizable number of officials, Yongle decided to return to his old basin, along with the government.

Thus he built a new Forbidden City, a new Temple of Heaven, a new capital city and a new city wall in Beijing, based on the original design for Nanjing, which is what we see today in the Chinese capital.

Culture Gate (Congwenmen), 1950

It was one of the nine gates to the Inner Beijing City and located in the east of the inner city wall, facing the direction when the sun is rising and all things on earth get nourished and grow.

During the Ming era, it was the gate for the prized scholars who passed the state-level academic exam to get into the city to receive cheers from the public and attend a lavish banquet hosted by the emperor prior to being appointed a position in government.

Opposite the Cultural Gate in the west inner city wall is Xuanwumen, the Gate of Declaration of Military Action, where the troops marched out to the war.

Sunny Gate (Chaoyangmen), 1955

It was one of the nine gates to Inner Beijing City and located in the east of the inner city wall. During the Ming era, it was the gate for food to be transported into the city.

West Gate (Xizhimen), 1951

It was one of the nine gates to inner Beijing City and located on the west of the inner city wall. During the Ming era, it was the gate for fresh water to be transported into the city on daily bases.

Opposite the West Gate in the east inner city wall is Dozhimeng, East Gate, from where firewood was brought into the city.


Serhiy Dovbnya:

Is that the Closed City?

All Things Chinese:

All traditional Chinese cities were enclosed with city walls and closed at night.
Most city walls were demolished in the 20th century, including the Beijing city wall.

You are welcome to share your thoughts here