Temple of Heaven
Location: 1 Tiantan E. Rd, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China
Reasons to visit: UNESCO World Heritage Site; China's existing largest structure for sacrifice to heaven
Our Ratings: ★★★★★
Opening Hours: Entrance door: 6:00am - 10:00pm
Interior Attractions: 08:00-17:30 (April to October);
08:00-17:00 (November to March)
The Temple of Heaven is an imperial complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. It is located in the south-east of the Forbidden City. It covers an area of 273 hectares which is four times larger than the Forbidden City. It was used to hold an annual ceremony in Winter Solstice Festival and to pray for good harvest by the emperors in Ming and Qing dynasties. It is China's existing largest structure for sacrifice to heaven.
History of Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven (used to be named Temple of Heaven and Ground) in Beijing was originally built in the 18th year of Ming Yongle (1420). It was built in the form of the Nanjing City. In the 9th year of Jiajing (1530), after the implementation of the four-suburban branching system, another altar was built in the northern suburbs. The original Temple of Heaven and Ground was dedicated to worshiping heavens, praying harvest, and praying for rain, and changed its name to Temple of Heaven. In Qing Dynasty, the system of Ming Dynasty was still basically followed and used. During Qianlong period in Qing Dynasty, large-scale reconstruction and expansion were carried out instead of Year Gate and the Emperor's Hall.
When Eight-Power Alliance attacked Beijing in 1990, they even set up the headquarters here, and set up cannons on the Qiuqiu altar to attack the Zhengyang Gate and the Forbidden City. Eight-Power Alliance swept away almost all the things in Temple of Heaven.
After the founding of the Republic of China in 1912, instead of the Heaven Worshipping Ceremony in winter solstice held by the Republic of China's President Yuan Shih-kai in 1913, the Temple of Heaven no longer carried out any sacrifices. It was officially opened to the public as a park in 1918.
The Temple of Heaven covers an area about 2.73 million square meters which is four times the size of the Forbidden City. With rigorous layout, unique architectural structure, magnificent decoration, and mechanical principle, Temple of Heaven is the largest and most ethical ancient ritual building complex in China. The acoustics and geometry are skillfully applied in Temple of Heaven with high historical, scientific and cultural values. It has an important position in the history of Chinese architecture.
Main Highlights to See in Temple of Heaven
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 36 m (118 ft) in diameter and 38 m (125 ft) tall, built on three levels of marble stone base, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. The building is completely wooden, with no nails. The original building was burned down by a fire caused by lightning in 1889. The current building was re-built several years after the incident.
Circular Mound Altar
Located in the south of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, Circular Mound Altar is a place that the emperor uses for holding the Heaven Worshipping Ceremony in winter solstice (one of the Chinese twenty-four solar terms, usually on September 9th of the Lunar Calendar). So it is also known as Worship Altar. The main buildings here include a circular mound, Imperial Vault of Heaven and its side halls, Shenchu, Sanku and slaughter pavilion.
Imperial Vault of Heaven
The Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huang Qiong Yu) is a single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone base. It is located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and resembles it, but is smaller. It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall, that can transmit sounds over large distances. The Imperial Vault is connected to the Hall of Prayer by the Vermilion Steps Bridge, a 360-meter-long (1,180 ft) raised walkway that slowly ascends from the Vault to the Hall of Prayer. The dome for this building also has no crossbeams to support the dome.
Echo Wall is a round wall outside the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is 3.72 meters high, 0.9 meters thick, 5.2 meters in diameter and 193.2 m in circumference. It has sound transmission effect. If one speaks inside the wall, the sound will echo for many times, which made people confused in ancient time. People could not scientifically explain this phenomenon for a long time.
How to Get to Temple of Heaven
By Subway: Take subway line 5 to Tiantan Dongmen Station. (Near the east gate of the Temple of Heaven)
By Bus: Bus 6, 35,36, 39, 41, 43 will take you near the east gate of the Temple of Heaven.
Bus 36, 120, 122, 800, 803, 958 will take you near the south gate of the Temple of Heaven.