Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven,
located 3 kilometers from central Beijing, was where
emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties came each winter
solstice to worship heaven and to pray for good harvest
for the coming years.
It was built in 1420 during the Ming
Dynasty, and undergone extensions and renovations during the following
Qing Dynasty. Covering an area of 273 hectares, it is the largest
collection of temple buildings in China. To give an idea of the
scope of this vast temple complex, it is three times larger than
the Forbidden City.
The temple is divided
by two enclosed walls into inner part and outer part.
There are three building groups on the temple grounds:
the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault
of Heaven and the Circular Mound Altar. Each building
group has its own architectural character.
The Hall of Prayer for
Good Harvests is the most magnificent building, 38 meters
high and 24 meters in diameter. The hall is a cone-shaped
structure with triple eaves. The building is supported
by 28 wooden pillars. Four larger pillars in the center,
known as Dragon Well Pillar, symbolize four seasons
in a year. The other 24 pillars with each 12 pillars
symbolize the 12 months of the year, and 12 Shichen
in a day. Shichen is a ancient means of counting time.
One Shichen equals two hours.
The Imperial Vault is
located at the north of the Circular Mound Altar, and
was used to place memorial tablets of Gods. It looks
like the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests in appearance,
but is smaller. It is surrounded by a smooth wall, the
Echo Wall. The wall can transmit sounds over a distance
due to the smoothness of the polished wall face. Below
the steps to the Imperial Vault, there are three stones,
which are called Echo Stones. If you applaud facing
the wall while standing on the first stone, you will
hear one echo; you will hear two and three echoes, respectively,
if you stand on the second and third stone, respectively.
The Circular Mound Altar
was where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties
held grand ceremonies to worship heaven. It was constructed
in the ninth year of Jia Jing Emperor of the Ming Dynasty.
It is a circular platform on three levels of marble
The Temple of Heaven
was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
UNESCO has this to say of the Temple of Heaven: a masterpiece
of architecture and landscape design which simply and
graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance
for the evolution of one of the world's
The Temple of Heaven
now is a popular park enjoyed by both locals and travelers.
Local Beijingers like to go to the park to do morning
exercises. In the park, middle-aged women dance to traditional
Chinese music, kids play kites and old people play Mahjong.