China’s Altar of Heaven–A Relic of Ancient Truth?
Why do we find parts or rudiments of Christian truth in heathen philosophies and religions? As John Henry Newman writes, “…we think that Scripture bears us out in saying, that from the beginning the Moral Governor of the world has scattered the seeds of truth far and wide over its extent; that these have variously taken root, and grown as in the wilderness, wild plants indeed but living…”
Sacred Strands, the Story of a Redeemer Woven Through History, brings to life some of that ancient history foretelling the coming of Christ. One of the seeds of truth known to ancient man was the rite of sacrifice. The sacrifices which were made to worship God were no longer needed after Jesus Christ gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The Chinese had a border sacrifice (so called because it took place on the southern border of the imperial city). This sacrifice was a very important event at which the emperor officiated and sacrificed animals and also gems and silks at the Altar of Heaven three times a year. It was a beautiful and elaborate ceremony which is detailed in the book, Finding God in Ancient China, by Chan Kei Thong. The current Altar of Heaven complex was built in 1421, but China’s historical records show that sacrifices were performed by many ancient rulers and continued until the collapse of the last dynasty in 1911. Here is a prayer written by the Emperor Jia Jing, who reigned from 1522-1566:
“O awesome Creator, I look up to You. How imperial is the expansive heavens…Therefore will I observe all the rules and statutes, striving, insignificant as I am, to be faithful. Far distant here, I look up to Your heavenly palace. Come in Your precious chariot to the altar. Your servant, I bow my head to the earth reverently expecting Your abundant grace…”