Performers prepare for the Chinese Year of the Rabbit

As part of the run up to the Chinese New Year on 3 February, performers donned brightly coloured silks to reherse their recreation of the Sacrifice to Heaven ritual, which dates back to the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The performers portray an imperial entourage in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, which was founded in the first half of the 15th century.

The troupe will perform the ritual for an audience at the start of next month to help welcome in the Year of the Rabbit.

The elaborate ritual was performed 682 times by 23 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties, which together spanned from AD1368 to AD1911. The first Sacrifice to Heaven ritual began in the year AD1420 when the Temple of Heaven was completed.

The practice was meant to usher in wealth and security for the emperor and his nation.