The Temple of Agriculture is a complex of temple buildings located at the southern end of the central axis in Beijing, the turf where ancient emperors personally farmed. It is now also the location of the Beijing Ancient Architecture Museum.
Situated on the west side of Yongdingmen Street, facing the Temple of Heaven to the east, Temple of Agriculture was first built in the 18th year of the Ming Dynasty’s Yongle reign and was originally named “Shanchuan (Hill and River) Altar”. In the 10th year of the Jiajing era (AD1531), the Altar of the Gods of Sky and the Altar of the Earth Spirits were built on the south side of the inner wall, forming the current layout of Xiannong Altar. In the fourth year of the Ming Dynasty’s Wanli era (AD1576), it was renamed Xiannong Altar. While at that time, the Xian Nong Tan Ancestral Hall was established, and the Xian Nong Tan Ancestral Hall seal was cast. During the Qing Dynasty, it was extensively renovated in the 19th year of the Qianlong era (AD1754), when the Xiannong Shrine, the altar platform for worshipping the Xiannong God, was rebuilt.
The altar is square, one-story, facing south, and made of brick and stone. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, on a special day of mid-spring every year, the emperor would personally offer sacrifices to Xiannong here, or send officials to do so, and then go to the registered fields to perform the “Ji Tian” ceremony and personally plow the land.