Temple of Heaven is located in the southeast of Beijing and existed for more than 500 years. Temple of Heaven was built for emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties to worship the heaven.
Temple of Heaven, large religious complex in the old outer city of Beijing, considered the supreme achievement of traditional Chinese architecture. Its layout symbolizes the belief that heaven is round and earth square. The three buildings are built in a straight line. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (1420) has three concentric circles of massive wood columns symbolizing the four seasons, 12 months, and 12 daily hours; in a remarkable feat of engineering, they support the three roof levels and, in succession, a huge square brace (earth), circular architrave (heaven), and vast interior cupola. The Imperial Vault of Heaven (1530; rebuilt 1572) is a smaller circular building constructed without crossbeams; its dome is supported by complicated span work. The Circular Mound Altar (1530; rebuilt 1749) is a triple-tiered white stone terrace enclosed by two sets of walls that are square outside and round inside.
The Temple of Heaven was built in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1420) by the emperor Zhu Di in the royal garden. Once a year, at winter solstice, the emperors came here to worship Heaven and to solemnly pray for a good harvest.
Since his rule was legitimized by a perceived mandate from Heaven, a bad harvest could be interpreted as his fall from Heaven’s favor and threaten the stability of his reign. So, it was not without a measure of self-interest that the emperor fervently prayed for a very good crop.
The Mystical Design
The design of the Temple of Heaven complex, true to its sacred purpose, reflects the mystical cosmological laws believed to be central to the workings of the universe. Both the overall arrangement and the buildings themselves reflect the relationship between sky and earth, the core of understanding of the Universe at that time.
Hence, complex numerological permutations operate within its design. For example, because the number nine was considered to be the most powerful, the slabs forming the Circular Altar have been laid in multiples of nine.
Similarly, within the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the interior twenty-eight columns are divided into four central pillars to represent the seasons, twelve inner columns to represent the months, and twelve outer columns to represent the two hour sections that make up a day. There are many such examples of this intense numerology at play. Another interesting fact is that the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is built completely without nails.
Highlights of the Temple of Heaven:
The Altar of Prayer for Good Harvest
The Circular Alter has three layered terraces with white marble. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the emperors would offer sacrifice to Heaven here on the day of the Winter Solstice every year.
The Vermilion Steps Bridge
It connects the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest and the Imperial Vault of Heaven. The emperors in the past believed that they could go to Heaven through this bridge, so named it as the Sacred Way.
Imperial Vault of Heaven
If you look at the Imperial Vault of Heaven, you will find that it is like a blue umbrella with gold head. The structure of it is like that of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, but smaller in size.
The echo wall encloses the Imperial Vault of Heaven, with a perimeter of 193 meters. If you and your friend stand at the east and the west roofs of the wall respectively and you whisper a word, then your friend will hear clearly what you say.
There are three echo stones outside of the gate of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. If you speak facing the Vault while standing on the first stone, you will hear one echo; standing on the second or the third stone, you will hear two or three echoes respectively.
Weather/Best Time to Go
Beijing enjoys the humid continental climate with hot humid summers, cold dry winters, shorter spring and autumn. You can have a Beijing tour any time of the year, because it can give fresh feeling by enjoying the special tour of the four seasons.
Spring, summer and autumn are all the best time of year to visit. If you want to see more of this, it is best to go early in the morning, since most locals come here for morning exercise and the like.
Temple of Heaven Travel Guide
Location: No.7 Tiantan Nei Dongli, Chongwen District, Beijing (about 4 km from the center of Beijing)
Recommended time to stay: about 1 hour
Opening Hours: Entrance door: 6:00am – 10:00pm
08:00-17:30 (March 1-June 30)
08:00-18:00 (July 1-October 31)
08:00-17:00 (November1-Feburary 28)
How to get: take Subway Line 5 and get off at Tiantan Dongmen Station.