Embarking on a journey through the Mingtang, one can unravel the profound cosmic symbolism embedded in Chinese architecture. As you navigate through these sacred spaces, here are some key cosmic symbols and their meanings to observe:
The central axis running through the mingtang complex represents the Axis Mundi, connecting heaven and earth. It symbolizes the cosmic order and the emperor’s role as the intermediary between the celestial and earthly realms. This vertical alignment signifies the harmonious relationship between the heavens and the imperial power on earth.
Four Cardinal Directions:
Each cardinal direction holds specific cosmic associations. The north, representing the highest point of power, is associated with the emperor and the celestial realm. The south signifies the mundane world, while the east symbolizes birth and beginnings, and the west represents death and endings. The spatial arrangement of buildings and courtyards reflects these cardinal directions, establishing a harmonious balance within the mingtang complex.
Ying-Yang and Five Elements:
The principles of yin and yang, representing complementary opposites, and the Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) are integral to Chinese cosmology. Mingtang architecture incorporates these concepts to achieve cosmic balance. The elements and their associated colors, materials, and symbolic representations are woven into the design and decorative elements of the buildings, reflecting the interplay of cosmic forces.
Celestial Beings and Mythical Creatures:
Mingtang spaces are adorned with intricate carvings, paintings, and sculptures featuring celestial beings and mythical creatures. Dragons symbolize imperial power and celestial forces, while phoenixes represent harmony, renewal, and the empress. Other creatures like qilin and xiezhi, known for their auspicious attributes, are also depicted. These symbols evoke the celestial realm and its influence on earthly affairs.
Celestial Patterns and Astrological Symbols:
Mingtang structures often incorporate celestial patterns and astrological symbols. Circular shapes symbolize the heavens, while squares and rectangles represent stability and earthly realms. Decorative elements such as stars, clouds, and sun motifs reflect celestial movements and cycles. Astrological symbols, such as the Eight Trigrams and Twelve Animals of the Chinese zodiac, may also be integrated into architectural details.
Water and Reflection:
Water features, such as ponds and lakes, are common in mingtang complexes. Water represents the cosmic element and the flow of energy. It symbolizes purity, abundance, and vitality. The tranquil surface of the water acts as a mirror, reflecting the heavens and fostering a connection between the earthly and celestial realms.
Numerology and Symbolic Counts:
Numerology played a significant role in mingtang architecture. Numbers such as three, five, and nine were considered auspicious and were often incorporated into the design. For instance, the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City consists of 9×5 bays, reflecting the auspicious nature of the number nine.
As you journey through the Mingtang, pay close attention to these cosmic symbols and their interplay within the architecture. They provide a glimpse into the ancient Chinese worldview, their reverence for cosmic harmony, and the profound interconnection between the human realm and the celestial realm.