This page was last updated on: July 6, 2017
Welcome to The Beijing Report's Digital Introduction to Ritan Park  (Ritan GongYuan) and the Altar of the Sun.
Ritan Park, ChaoYang District
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This page was last updated on: July 6, 2017
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*) South Embassy District - Introduction / Index
1) Ritan Park (Altar o/t Sun) - Introduction, Directions, Maps
2) Ritan Park (Altar o/t Sun) - Sun Mural Monument and Sun Altar Enclosure
3) Ritan Park (Altar o/t Sun) - Adnex Structures
4) Ritan Park (Altar o/t Sun) - Central Park Pavilions
5) Ritan Park (Altar o/t Sun) - Muslim Tomb Memorial
M) Central Chaoyang District - Overview Map
The sacrificial utensil storehouse, the musical instrument storehouse and the mat storehouse are the other pavilions that remain inside what are the original grounds of the historic Altar of the Sun sacred Imperial Temple complex. Visitors will find them lined up a neat row inside one of the still remaining thick scarlett chalked walls that have also been preserved. Altogether, it is a quite little corner of the park allowing for some moments of refelection and the recapturing of moments of yesteryear when the Altar was still in function.

As their names suggest, the storehouse were built on site in order to be used mostly in the many months between Imperial Ceremonies when virtually no one visited the Temple and its grounds and there thus was little need for the many mats, instruments and other necessities involved in the proper fulfilling of the rites to please the gods.
As according to the ancient theory of Li and Yue inherited from millenia earlier and the early rule of the Chinese Shang Dynasty (1766 BC - 1121 BC), music was an important element necessary for bringing groups of people close together in a state of harmony required for such things as rites (or during the Shang Era also Diplomacy) to succeed and thus a large group of musicians was required for each ceremony. Accordingly, they needed instruments and proper
The slaughter pavilion (Zai Sheng Ting) is quite literally the place where the many sacrificial animals were ritually slaughtered and prepared for the proper offerings to be made to the Gods (or better the powers of Heaven) by the Emperor in person.
According to a notice on site the slaughter pavilion used to have access to its own fresh water which was drained from a well which sat inside the building. Today however, this well and its dangerous hole have long been filled in. All that remains to be seen on site is basicly the empty pavilion with its double layered roof, angled eaves and inside a complex design of interconnecting beams and patterns of decorations.
Walkway along the three ritual storehouses which have also survived the turbulent centuries in order to be able to give us some idea of what the former Temple must have been alike. Scarlett walls and green tiled roofs and gates remind us of the former grandeur of the Altar Temple.
seating to carry them through the lengthy process.

Altogether, no thrilling details can be given about the storehouses, nor any special historic events or tales related about their existence. As is well known, although the maintaining of the various altars of being was a practice directly related to primitive religious idea's which faded in relevance somewhat during the Ming Dynasty, the various rites and practices of the Ming were generally copied by the Manchu Qing Dynasty who eventually made sure that the altars remained active places of worship almost up till the end of their Dynasty in the year 1911 AD.
A view through the ritual slaughterhouse structure which stands very near the Gate leading away to the three sacrifical storage houses that also remain. The slaughterhouse pavlion provides collness and shade on hot days and evenings and is a location where Mahyong or card game players love to pass their time.
Roof beams and fading decorations inside the slaughterhouse structure at the altar of the sun park. As an original structure of imperial importance, considerable effort was spent on the decorations even of lesser pavlions. It is wortwhile to have a good look and study the complex interconnections.
Apparently, during the Reign period of the Daoguang Emperor (1620 AD - 1650 AD) two of the storage houses were destroyed by fire. Rather spectacularly, during the rescue some of the precious ritual items also stored inside were stolen.
In the aftermath of this fire, the remaining one and half building left standing was redubbed as the 7 room palace.
Exterior and Front of one of the storehouses found in the Altar of the Sun Park. With dark colors, various plaquards pronouncing Imperial names and messages and tiny white framed windows which appear to still have paper coverings, the storehouses turn out to be unexpected architectural gems hidden away and prserved within the park.
In the original setting of the Altar of the Sun Temple grounds, the Bell Tower, as is customary within
Chinese Temple complexes, was a southward facing building which stood near the ritual south gate and main entrance into the altar complex. Inside of such a Belltower was a large bronze bell. Opposite this bell tower stood a drum tower, balancing the Feng Shui of the architectural arrangements and providing the necessary ritual time keeping involved in the progress of ceremonies and offerings at the Altar and Temple.

Unfortunately, the same fire that layed waste to the storehouses of the complex, at some time during the Daoguang Reign of the Qing Dynasty also involved the Bell Tower and the wooden upper floors of the building wer reduced to ashes.
After the time of the fire, the bell somehow went missing and as a result bell remains inside and today, the building has been renovated and in ways turned into a modern studio of some sort.
The ruined base of the historic but fire swept Bell Tower which today remains on site as renovated studio which seems to be in use with park services. Although this is an especially large Bell Tower, many other examples may be found in the various historic temple complexes of Beijing.
As one can tell after but a brief review, considerable elements of the ancient Sun Altar Temple have been preserved inside of the current day Ritan Park. Not least among these are the now renovated remains of the outer Imperial Gates of the complex. Find the most wortwhile gate at a location due east of the sun altar proper.
This is an original three doored gate, of a type that more experienced travelers may recognize from other locations within the city, most noteably the location of the other ancient altars in the city. As one may find, similar gates may be found and admired at the Tiantan Gongyuan - Temple of Heaven Park. Other known locations are the counterpart Altar of Ritan, the Ditan Park of the former Altar of the Eart (Fangze Tan) and also the Xiannong Tan, the former Altar and Temple of Agriculture. The Xiannong Tan, the park of the former Altar of Agriculture, in current times the location of the Sports Venue and Stadium that goes by the same name although far less preserved that the Ritan Park and Altar, has at least one such gate remains today at the Xiannong Tan Sports Park.

Browse about the gate for a while to appreciate its grandeur colorful ensemble and various details.  For those already very familiar with traditional Chinese architecture in Beijing, it usually is nothing much more than one of many, however for anyone who has not had the pleasure priviledge to come across such a structure, this gate is a good location to have a start at it.
Newcomers may note the expensive colored ceramic tiling, which is a clear sign of Imperial Dignity (and overlordship). As one may also appreciate, although the decorative patterns may have their own individual meanings, the collective has been so applied as to enhance the esthethic balance and harmony of the structure. Even the colors of the immediate surroundings, the trees and shrub contrasting with it by grace of their natural appearance, seem to concur with the little architectural marvel and so complete the scene.

An inscribed set underneath the central archway of the Gate gives some information. Scribled in unclear Chinese signs it speaks of the year 1530 AD, when the Temple was first constructed and opened to exclusive Imperial worship and service. In the absence of the Emperor of course, Monks would tend to the daily offerings and rituals needed to keep the Gods happy and the Temple empowered.

As an original historic remains of glorious bygone days, the solid yet welcoming gate is one another one of those elements that help lift the Ritan Park from the level of being just a Park above and into the much more romantic realms of a mysterious and possibly romantic pleasure garden. And this is certainly what Ritan Park is, or could be given the right circumstances.
Naturally, most current day visitors to the park prefer not to dwell on the past but on the contrary live today and concentrate on the future. A steady, a interesting mix of folks visits the park each day. Romantic lovers, grannies, moms and dads with their baby, dwelling tourist and business and office types. No need  to be bored by the available parade of faces and scenes.
Depending on time of year and time of day, one may find many lively scenes near the coolness provided by the solid walls and structure of the Gate, in its shade, or near and around in other parts of the park.
Along with various other details, the three doors of the Gate at Ritan Park identify it as off Imperial Importance and function. Only the Emperor and no other person might pass through the central gate. Restored prior to the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the gate also boast the fill green and blue ceramic rooftiles, with dragon stones at the corners.
With the thick wooden, metal plated and 9 times 9 studded doors of the Gate gone, one is allowed a rare look at some of the (simple) mechanisms supporting them. A wide hole served to fit te large bar fitted when the gate was closed and locked down.
View through the Imperial Gate eastward towars the enclosure of the Sun Altar proper, the so called Lingxing Gates and opning of which can be seen in the distance, as it was intended.
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