Built in 1420 AD at the dawning of Beijing as the Imperial Capital designed and constructed for the Yongle Emperor, the 3rd Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, The Fasting Palace at the Temple of heaven Park in Beijing is one of the original structures of the Park. Since it's very beginning it functioned as a retreat for the Emperor where he could prepare in advance of ceremonies, purifying himself while abstaining from such imperial delights as eating (red) meat, drinking alcohol, having music and entertainment and ofcourse from the distractions caused by women.
It was not specifically a place of deep meditation as the Emperor locked himself away in the Palace, as servants and guards were right next door literally. Furthermore, the Emperor would continue to handle State Affairs during his three day stay at the Palace. In all practically, it could not be any way else as the Emperor was truely at the head if the entire nation. Each decision had to be approved by him personally and dispatched back. The early Ming Emperors who took matters of state very seriously would always keep themselves available for urgent matters which arose continuously.
The Fasting Palace is also known under the name Palace (or Hall) of Abstinence.
It lies in the West of Temple of Heaven Park, approximately halfway between the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest to it's North-East. The Front of the square (symbolising Earth) Fasting Palace faces due East to the Central Axis of the Complex thereby symbolizing the Emperors obedience to Heaven (Heaven is
symbolized in the Altars as well as the Central Pathway, which culminates at the Dragon Stone
inside the Hall of Prayer for Good harvests). The Palace is surrounded by it's own
peculiar double moat and double exterior wall, it's grounds covering a total area
of over 40.000 square meters. It can only be entered using bridges coming in from
the four directions.
The Fasting Palace is covered by green glazed tiles instead of the Imperial Yellow
Tiles of the Imperial Palace, another sign of solemnity and respect for the
Ceremonies and the Gods of Heaven. Inside the Palace are several Halls used for different functions. It's most interesting architectural feature is the so-called
"beamless hall", a large and open hall which has neither supporting beams nor crossbeams to support it's ceiling. Or so it seems. The exact construction details are
as yet unknown to us.
There are further bed rooms, ritual chambers and a bellfry. Outside, on the white
marble platform in front of the Fasting Palace stands a stone pavilion housing a
bronze statue symbolizing Justice and Righteousness. Exterior of the Palace but immediatly attached are a number of quarters for Guards and Servants to protect and tend the Emperor at all times.
Last but not least the Fasting Palace has it's own small garden withing it's double walls, enabling the Emperor to stretch his legs and go for a stroll preparing for Rites. He even had his own small arched bridge to marvel at.
The Fasting Palace had been a neglected and lesser attraction of the Temple of Heaven Complex and fell into disrepair in the process. However, during recent renovations of the entire Temple Park started in the fall of the year 2005 and ending in summer 2006, the fasting palace was completely repaired, overhauled and restored to it's original splendor.
It is currently once more open to the Public after extensive works.