The Emperor's residence
In olden days, China was divided into nine provinces: a central one and eight at the four compass points and four intermediary points. This division made in the image of nine squares is attributed to Yu the Great (Ta Yu) who would have travelled the world over to “measure Earth” with the help of a square with equal branches.
The Emperor lived in the central province called “Middle Kingdom” 1. This denomination underlined both his geographical and spiritual central position. It was afterwards spread to all of China which became the “Middle Empire”. The country would represent, in the image of the central province, a secondary spiritual centre in comparison to the supreme spiritual Centre of the primeval Tradition 2. It is a matter of reflection of the spiritual Light of the supreme Centre symbolized by the ideogram “ming”. Composed of two characters representing the Sun (yang) and the Moon (yin), it depicts at once the direct light of the supreme Centre and the reflected light of the secondary centre.
Built in the middle of the central province, the residence of the Emperor (Ming Tang) rested on a square base representative of Earth and covered by a circular stubble roof symbolizing Heaven and sustained by eight pillars. As the country, it was oriented according to the compass points and composed of nine rooms of which a central one. Every facade of the Ming Tang was associated with a season and had three openings related to the season months. The body of the twelve openings represented the terrestrial square projection of the circular celestial Zodiac 3. The Temple constituted an image of the Cosmos, considered as the domain of the light manifestation, in its double spatial (compass points) and temporal (seasons) aspects.
As the sun in its apparent movement, the Emperor undertook a circumambulation in the Temple, starting from the centre and returning to it at the end of the cycle. During the twelve months of the year, he stood in front of each of the twelve openings to promulgate the orders destined to regulate the country according to the seasons. This resulted in the denomination of the “Calendar House” sometimes given to the Temple. The Emperor appeared as the terrestrial regulator of the celestial order. This meant taking measures in all meanings of the word. In the literal sense, it was a matter of measuring the Temple rooms surrounding the central one with the help of squares. Now, four squares, differently arranged, are sufficient to carry out these measures. These arrangements will help us to further clarify the symbolism of the Light Temple.
1 back The middle province evokes, in the tradition of ancient Ireland, the kingdom of “Mide” (“Middle”) surrounded by four kingdoms associated with the compass points (for more details, see the Celtic cross).
2 back Such examples exist in other traditions. In the Hebraic tradition for example, the Holy Zion (Jerusalem) is the centre of Israel Land and Israel Land the centre of the world.
3 back All the same, the quadrangular celestial Jerusalem has twelve openings and represents the achieved form of the circular terrestrial Jerusalem (for more details, see the flag of United Kingdom).