Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven
Used for the dynastic rulers in China to worship the heaven, Temple of Heaven, situated in the southern part of Beijing city, was firstly built in 1420 during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty.

It contains a group of structures totally covering an area of 273 hectares, about five times the size of Forbidden City. In accordance with the old Chinese saying: The heaven is round while the earth square, the pattern of Temple of Heaven strictly follows as the northern part (symbolize heaven) is round, and the southern part(symbolize earth)is square; Besides, the whole compound is enclosed by two walls, a square wall outside a round one. The inner enclosure consists of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest and the Circular Mound Altar.

Today the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is the landmark structure of Beijing, which enjoys a high reputation and becomes a symbol of Beijing Tourism. The annex chambers were symmetrically built on a 1.5-meter-high brick-and-marble terrace, which were used for housing musical instruments played when ceremonies were held. This unique building, 38 meters in height, looks like a giant umbrella parachuting from sky, with triple eaves and a top that is crowned by a golden gilded ball. Roof of the building is made of blue glazed tiles, which represents for the color of sky. The base of the structure is a triple-tiered, circular marble terrace. At a distance, the terrace looks like a gigantic, spiraling cloud. This design impresses people with the heaven and palace where the God live, showing how sacred and holy it is. Pillars in three circles are arranged to support the building, and meanwhile they're also symbols of time periods: the four biggest pillars in the inner circle represent for the four seasons of a year; the twelve middle ones for the 12 months in a year; the outer circle is made of another 12 symbolizing 12 ancient hours in a day.

Temple of Heaven
The Imperial Vault of Heaven is the main structure of Heaven's Storehouse, for housing the tablets of the deceased emperors and the God of Heaven etc. The courtyard where this hall located in, two interesting sound phenomenon seems to attract more people than the hall itself: the Echo Wall and the Triple-Sound Stone. A whisper at any point close to the wall can be heard clearly on the other side, although the parties may be 40 or 50 meters apart which means can't see each other. This is possibly because the wall is round and hermetically constructed with smooth, solid bricks; Triple-Sound Stone refers to the first three pieces of stone paved right in the front of the hall. Clap hands while standing on the first one, no echo, just one sound; clap on the second, two sounds; on the third, three. No one has been able to explain the reasons of the two phenomenons, even the experts. All these made here more sacred and mysterious.

Walking along the central passage, which is also known as the "sky bridge" used for linking up the "heaven and earth", the Circular Mound Altar is just right in front. It is one of the most important structure featured with a three-tier white stone terrace enclosed by two walls. Geometrically designed, the altar has a taiji rock(also known as "heavenly heart stone") at the center of the top terrace. If you stand on the rock and speak in a normal voice, your voice will sound louder and more resonant to yourself than to others around you; because the sound waves are bounced back by the balustrades to the center thus enhance the sound effect. The number of nine, the supreme number in China, is frequently used here. Each terrace has 9 steps on four sides. Taiji stone is surrounded by 9 concentric rings of stone. The number of stones in the first ring is 9, in the second ,18, up to 81 in the 9th ring. Even the number of carved balustrades around the terraces is a multiple of 9...

In this court where the Circular Mound Altar stands, there are incense burners and ovens for burning incense and sacrificial items after the ceremony. The officials and emperor on site had to watch the burning and the swirling up smoke, as a way to bid farewell to the God.

The Temple of Heaven is also famous for cypress trees - there are more than 60, 000 cypress trees ,among which over 4,000 are more than one hundred years old, what we call the antique trees. They’re planted for adding solemn atmosphere to the temple, and what's more, the green would help to prevent people from seeing what's happening inside, especially when the sacrificial ceremony was held.

Now the out layer of the Temple of Heaven has become a park where the local people could exercise and relax to kill the time, especially for the senior people, playing Chinese chess, badminton, shuttlecock, practicing Taiqi, singing and dancing...All presents us with an enjoyable and pleasant life.

Tips of visiting Temple of Heaven:

1. Walking distance: long, approx 40 minutes' walk from the north to the south along the central axis, but roads are much flatter compared with that in the Forbidden city; about dozens of wide steps for climbing the Hall of prayer for good harvest and the Circular Mount Altar.

2. It's open for visitors all year round.(Entering the out layer is supposed to buy the main entrance ticket, while at the entrance of the inner layer where the three main buildings located, the second ticket is charged; or you might purchase a connecting coupon which includes both admissions at once at the main entrance)

Daily opening time:  Mar.1-Jun.30 08:00a.m-17:30p.m
                     Jul.1-Oct.31 08:00a.m-18:00p.m
                     Nov.1-Feb.28 next year 08:00a.m-17:00p.m

Ticket stopping time: Mar.1-Jun.30 16:00p.m
                      Jul.1-Oct.31 16:30p.m
                      Nov.1-Feb.28 next year 15:30p.m

3. Ticket Price:
Plain Season(Nov.1-Mar.31 next year): 30RMB/pp/coupon; 10RMB/pp/main entrance
Peak Season (Apr.1-Oct.31): 35RMB/pp/coupon; 15RMB/pp/main entrance

4. Visiting routes: usually one-way trip is recommended, as it's exhausting to walk back the same way. Enter through the east gate and exit by the south gate, or the opposite.

5. Wheelchair service not available right now, but it's not difficult to push wheelchair to go through the whole distance, just the terrace without lifts or proper ramps made it hard to see the inside of the halls.