Tian Tan – The Temple of Heaven
In my readings on mudras I found other information on the Tian Tan, or Temple of Heaven, that I thought was interesting.
The Tian Tan is a Taoist temple in Beijing, China, and its construction dates back to the fifteenth century when it was originally named the Temple of Heaven and Earth. This temple has been used for Chinese worship in year-rites, prayer ceremonies, harvest ceremonies, and sacrifices for several centuries.
A description of some of the traditional ceremonial activities that took place here is interesting:
In ancient China, the Emperor of China was regarded as the Son of Heaven, who administered earthly matters on behalf of, and representing, heavenly authority. To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important. The temple was built for these ceremonies, mostly comprising prayers for good harvests.
Twice a year the Emperor and all his retinue would move from the Forbidden city through Beijing to encamp within the complex, wearing special robes and abstaining from eating meat. No ordinary Chinese was allowed to view this procession or the following ceremony. In the temple complex the Emperor would personally pray to Heaven for good harvests. The highpoint of the ceremony at the winter solstice was performed by the Emperor on the Earthly Mount. The ceremony had to be perfectly completed; it was widely held that the smallest of mistakes would constitute a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year. ((http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_of_Heaven))
In these practices I see a belief in priesthood-like vicarious authority, temple prayer worship, cosmology, special ceremonial clothing, esotericy, worthiness requirements, perfect performance of rites, and even a practice which recalls the Word of Wisdom. Could this all be coincidence? Or did these things stem from something more ancient?