Located in southern Beijing, the Temple of Heaven is one of China’s best tourism sites for anyone interested in ancient Chinese religious culture. Moreover, at 4 times the size of the Forbidden City, there’s more than enough to see here.
While the Temple is generally regarded as a Taoist temple, its primary purpose (Chinese Heaven Worship) came long before Taoism and made this a true example of Ancient Chinese religious practices.
See how emperors would pray for good harvests, and perform rituals and prepare for them. You can also stand on top of the Circular Mound Altar, and whisper secrets down the Imperial Vault of Heaven.
Interesting Facts About The Temple Of Heaven
-The Temple of Heaven (along with the Forbidden City) is one of the two best examples of Ming Dynasty architecture in Beijing, or very possibly in the whole of China.
-Despite being less visited (although still very popular), the Temple of Heaven is actually 4 times larger than the Forbidden City at 2,700,000 square meters.
-During the Ming Dynasty, emperors would use the Temple of Heaven as the location of the Heaven Worship Ceremony for better harvests.
-The main structures in the Temple of Heaven all lie along the south-north axis, as with most ancient structures in China. Secondary structures can be found to the side.
History Of Temple Of Heaven
Built between 1406 and 1420, the Temple of Heaven is one of the largest construction projects put together by the Yongle Emperor; the same emperor responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City. At the time, the Temple of heaven was reasonably far from the emperor’s main home, yet this didn’t stop them from making the move to the Temple of Heaven for ceremonies and events. Once there, emperors would stay at the palace of fasting for several days before starting a ceremony.
When the Jiajing Emperor came to power in the 16th century, the Temple of Heaven was expanded upon. The Temple of the Earth, the Temple of the Sun, and the Temple of the Moon were added. During the 18th century, the temple was renovated, in the last construction project which took place during the imperial reign.
In 1918, the temple was finally turned into a park and the public was allowed to enter. The Temple of Heaven was repaired and refurbished over the years to look increasingly more attractive. In 1998, this led to the temple being marked as a UNESCO world heritage site. It has been referred to as an architectural masterpiece, showing an important architectural history of one of the world’s ancient civilizations.
Today, the temple has been fully restored to its former glory. At its center, the tall, circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests stands as the main structure, with millions visiting it every year to witness a combination of China’s imperial history and its incredible architecture.
Culture Of Temple Of Heaven
The Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvest
The main structure at the Temple of Heaven, this is where the emperors of the past would go to pray for a good harvest season. Standing at 38 meters, it is the tallest structure at the site and a definite must-see for anyone visiting.
The Chinese Rose Garden
Located around 400 meters from the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Chinese Rose Garden is incredibly beautiful during May, when thousands of Rosebuds blossom. Just next door to it is the 100 flower garden, another of the Temple of Heaven’s imperial style gardens.
Located just outside of the imperial gardens, the Pavilion of Longevity wasn’t originally a part of the Temple of Heaven. Originally it was built in Zhongnanhai (the communist party’s home), during the 1700’s. However, a few hundred years later in 1975, they decided to relocate it to the Temple of Heaven. A tranquil part of the complex with some nice paintings.
The fasting palace was where emperors would stay before rituals in the Temple of Heaven. Here, they were believed to fast, refraining from food and luxuries for days at a time. This was a sign of piety and belief in those they asked for help with the harvest. Entrance into the Fasting Palace requires a passport or ID Card, after which you’ll pass over a moat and through a double wall. Security is tight!
Circular Modular Altar
The Circular Mound Altar was where sacrifices would take place. It’s also the location where the emperor would stand in order to shout to the heavens. The area is built in such a way as to make sound travel easily. If you want, you can try it for yourself by standing on the mound and shouting a couple of words.
Imperial Vault Of Heaven
A smaller version of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. The Imperial Vault of Heaven was once used to hold the tablets of the gods. These days, the area is known for its echo wall. It’s said that a whisper can travel the entire length of the wall, for another to hear it with their ear pressed up against the other side.
Temple Of Heaven Travelling Tips
-The Temple of Heaven can get very busy during the peak season. Try to visit during off-peak travel times. This is between November and April. If you have to come during the peak season, the earlier you can arrive, the better.
-Tickets cost 1 – 28 RMB during off-peak and 15 – 35 RMB during peak season.
-To enter some parts of the Temple complex, you will need your passport and ID, so make sure to bring them with you.
-The Ticket offices close between 12 and 1 pm for a break. Make sure to arrive earlier or later than this.
-How about bringing a picnic? The food here is not too great, and it’s also expensive. A simple Chinese picnic can go a long way to making the day easier – especially with all the walking.
-If you’re coming by metro (or leaving), the closest station is on line 5, Tiantan Dongmen station (Exit at either A1 or A2).