Imperial worship site dating back 1,500 years excavated

HOHHOT, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) — Archaeologists in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region have excavated a 1,500-year-old imperial worship site resembling the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

The site, where Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557) prayed, is part of a set of ruins on Daqing Mountain in Wuchuan County of the regional capital Hohhot, said Zhang Wenping, deputy head of the regional research institute for cultural relics and archaeology.

The ruins were discovered in the 1980s but archaeologists did not determine their usage until the excavation, which began in 2019.

During the excavation, a round-shaped building with an inner diameter of 15.5 meters was found, with pottery used for worship discovered inside.

Outside the structure were two platforms, where officials and generals stood while the emperor was praying. Also unearthed were the bones of horses and goats, which are believed to have been sacrifices.

Historical documents show that Emperor Xiaowen visited the Yinshan Mountains in 494 to worship heaven before he relocated the state capital to Luoyang in central China. According to Zhang, the site on Daqing Mountan — part of the Yinshan Mountains — was where he had prayed.

Zhang said the structure’s shape resembles the round Temple of Heaven in Beijing, where emperors of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties prayed to heaven for good harvests. But the Temple of Heaven’s worship area was in the open air, while the newly discovered worship site is a round-shaped building, said Zhang.

He said the excavation has provided precious evidence for the study of imperial heaven worship as well as the ritual system of the Northern Wei Dynasty.

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