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Temple of Agriculture (Xiannongtan)

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Temple of Agriculture (Xiannongtan)

Beijing, China
15th century
At the start of the agricultural season every spring, emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties performed rituals to ensure that nature provided a bountiful harvest. In Jufu Hall, emperors literally put on new clothes; there they changed into farming costume to conduct ritual plowing to show respect to the god of agriculture. The two Well Pavilions of the Divine Kitchen in Xiannong Alter, a complex of sacred buildings and storehouses, supplied water for emperors to draw when making sacrifices to the sacred forces of agriculture. These pavilions at Xiannong, both built in 1420, are distinguished by hexagonal roofs and a variety of dougons (intricately carved brackets supporting interior beams). Center roof openings allowed the energy of the gods to penetrate the well water. The temples are in great disrepair from inappropriate use as factories and because of the elements. The roofs are overgrown with weeds and rainwater penetrates the interiors. Unless appropriate restoration materials are secured--and installed--the temples will collapse.