This expansive temple-and-park complex is an iconic site in southern Beijing and possibly the second most popular landmark in the city. Built in 1406 by Ming Emperor Yong Le (r. 1402-1424) for conducting religious sacrifices and rituals, the Temple of Heaven’s layout and architecture are filled with ancient symbolisms, which interpret heaven as a blue, round dome and the earth as a flat, square base.
The centrepiece buildings – The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and The Imperial Vault of Heaven – each features a round, blue glazed tiled roof set on a vermilion body and an ornate marble plint. These two structures were constructed without the use of steel, cement or nails or structural support like beams and cross beams. Open to the public in 1912, the Temple of Heaven has since amazed visitors with its marvelous architecture, craftsmanship as well as its landscape design. It is also one of the most popular parks for local people to relax, do their morning exercise and fly kites.
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|2:||Holiday Inn Guangzhou|
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The Temple of Heaven showcases a perfect geometrical setup and heavy emphasis on ancient symbolisms as old as the great philosopher Confucius (551-497 BC) himself.
The principal structures – The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, The Imperial Vault of Heaven, The Altar of Heaven – are placed along the temple’s central north-south axis, with the northern section (the prayer hall) set on a slightly higher elevation than the southern section (the altar) to symbolise heaven’s superiority over the earth.
All three structures feature a circular top (circular shape signifies the over-arching heaven and the sky), with the prayer hall and the altar each set on an expansive square base (the earth) and mounted on an ornate three-tiered marble plinth. The blue glazed-tiled roof, a rather peculiar colour for an ancient structure, represents the colour of the sky (i.e. heaven).
Even the wall surrounding the entire compound has a rounded northern perimeter, then an angular base for the southern section, again to embody the concept of heaven as a higher, celestial entity.
The Temple of Heaven served as a place of worship for the Ming and Qing emperors (r. 1368 – 1911). When Emperor Yong Le ordered the construction of the Forbidden City to be the imperial residence, he commissioned the ‘house of gods’ to be built on a vast area in southern Beijing.
Occupying 2.75 million square metres, the temple is nearly four times bigger than the Forbidden City (720,000sqm) – as the son of gods dared not build a grander dwelling than that of his divine fathers’. Originally called the Temple of Heaven and Earth, the temple underwent a period of expansion and was renamed the Temple of Heaven under Emperor Jiajing (r. 1521-1527), who ordered three separate temples to be built to enshrine the gods of the sun, earth and moon in the east, north and west of Beijing, respectively.
Opening Hours: 06:00 – 20:00 (official)
Price Range: CNY 30 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31), CNY 35 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31) – combination tickets.
CNY 10 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31), CNY 15 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31) – entry only.
CNY 10 (year round) – The Hall of Ceremonial Music and The Hall of Abstinence only.
CNY 10 (year round) – The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, The Circular Mound Altar and The Echo Wall only.
How to get there: Take Subway Line 5 and get off at Tiantan Dongmen Station (exit A1). Several bus routes from central Beijing also pass by the temple.