Skip to main content

Heaven and earth, sacrifices to

Heaven and earth, sacrifices to. The most important rituals of the Imperial Cult in China from most ancient times down to the 20th cent. In the earliest historically known period (late Shang dynasty, c.1300–?1111 BCE), the high god was called Ti, or Shang-Ti. He dwelt in Heaven where he presided, so to speak, over the council of ancestors of the incumbent king. The high god of the succeeding Chou dynasty (?1111–256 BCE) was called T'ien, which means Heaven. Shang-Ti and T'ien gradually became assimilated as the supreme ruler, by whose mandate (t'ien ming) every ruling dynasty was legitimated. In Chinese philosophy Heaven was the embodiment of yang, one of the two basic forces (yin-yang) in the universe. By the same token Earth, mother of all and source of their nourishment, as well as ultimate devourer of their physical forms, was the embodiment of yin.

In worshipping Heaven and Earth, therefore, the emperor was on the one hand acknowledging the subordination and dependence of all humans in relation to the supreme powers of the universe, and on the other hand demonstrating his own supremacy as ruler of all, who alone had the right to act as their intermediary with those powers. Hence, these rituals were the sole prerogative of the emperor.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Heaven and earth, sacrifices to." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . 20 Feb. 2019 <>.

"Heaven and earth, sacrifices to." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . (February 20, 2019).

"Heaven and earth, sacrifices to." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved February 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.