Chinese archaeologists have discovered an imperial ritual complex, the Altar of Heaven, in Shaanxi Province in central China. Scientists date the building to the beginning of the Qin dynasty (221-207 BC), it was used for sacrifices performed by the emperors of China. It is the oldest and largest Altar of Heaven found so far. News.youth.cn reported the find and was briefly reported in a press release from the Institute of Archeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The ancient Chinese revered the Eternal Blue Sky as the supreme deity. It was believed that the rulers of China for their virtue earned the "trust of Heaven" and each of them received a Heavenly mandate from the deity, allowing them to rule the Celestial Empire (China) on his behalf, and serving as a proof of the legitimacy of the ruling dynasty. The ruler bore the title "Son of Heaven", and to maintain contact with his "father", he had to hold an annual ceremony in a specially designed complex, the Altar of Heaven. Accompanied by an orchestra playing religious hymns, the ruler barefoot climbed the steps of the Altar, prostrated himself before the deity and prayed to Heaven. Apparently, in ancient times, during the ceremony, animals were still sacrificed to Heaven. The effectiveness of the "Son of Heaven" as a ruler depended on the correct performance of the ritual. If the next year there was a crop failure or natural disasters in the country, their culprit was the ruler who failed to "appease" the deity.
Archaeologists discovered the ritual complex during excavations carried out from April to November this year. The structure is located on a hill 15 kilometers from the ruins of the ancient capital of the state of Qin Yongcheng. To date, scientists have more than 2,000 objects, in particular the bones of horses, cattle and sheep, which, apparently, were sacrificed, as well as artifacts: jade plates, bronze spearheads, a wooden cart. In addition, pits were discovered where livestock were kept, a place for sacrifices, and the residence of the complex manager.
One of the most important finds was concentric circles of compressed earth, one above the other; the diameter of the lower one was 31 meters. According to archaeologists, the description in ancient literature and location of the ruins is similar to the Altar of Heaven, where the emperors of the Qin (221-207 BC) and Han (206 BC-220 AD) dynasties performed religious ceremonies.
According to the head of the excavation Tian Yaqi, the total area of the complex is about five million square meters. Until now, scientists have excavated only a small part of it, an area of 2000 square meters. The researchers also confirmed the presence of more than 3,200 objects related to the complex, including buildings, roads and pits for sacrifices.
The Altar of Heaven, the oldest until recently. It was found in the city of Xi'an, the ancient capital of the empire
Until now, the most ancient altar of Heaven was considered to be a structure built at the end of the 6th - beginning of the 7th century in the city of Xi'an (now the Shaanxi province), consisting of several concentric platforms about eight meters high. The most famous and well-preserved Altar of Heaven remains the ritual complex in Beijing, built in the early 15th century.
In 221 BC, the ruler of the Qin kingdom conquered six neighboring states and founded the first unified empire. He adopted the name Qi Shi Huangdi ("First Qin Emperor") and founded the Qin Dynasty, which disintegrated a few years after his death. The Qin was replaced by the Han dynasty, whose emperors, thanks to a wise domestic policy, were able to hold out in power for over 400 years.