The great thing about having visitors come stay is that you revisit some of Beijing’s wonderful attractions. One of my favorite places to take visitors is the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Park, 天壇). On a recent trip there I had forgotten just how spectacular it is. This vast complex of religious buildings is situated in the south eastern part of central Beijing. Temple of Heaven was where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would worship the god of heaven and pray for good harvest. It was constructed from 1406 to 1420, during the reign of Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City. The site covers an area of 273 hectares, and is the largest architectural complex in the world for rituals to pay homage to heaven.
In 1918, Temple of Heaven was turn into a park, and in 1998 became a World Heritage Site. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a magnificent circular building, with a marble stone base. Here was where the emperors sacrificed animals and burned incense sticks to pray for good weather for the crops. The Imperial Vault of Heaven is located south of the Hall of Prayer, and is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, called the Echo Wall. The Imperial Vault is connected to the Hall of Prayer by the Vermilion Steps Bridge, a stunning raised walkway. South of the Imperial Vault is the Circular Mound Altar, which is decorated with spectacular carved dragons.
Several features of the Temple of Heaven symbolize the connection of heaven and earth, regarded as a circle and square. The whole complex is surrounded by two walls. The outer wall has a semi-circular northern end, representing heaven, and a rectangular southern end, representing the earth. Both the Hall of Prayer and Circular Mound Altar are round and stand on a square yard. All the buildings within the Temple have dark blue roof tiles, representing heaven. The surrounding park is extensive, with areas for singing, dancing, exercise, and games. This magnificent attraction is a real masterpiece of Chinese architectural art. I’ll be sure not to leave it so long until my next visit.
Temple of Heaven (天壇)
Park opens daily 6am-10pm. Inside Temple of Heaven, 8am-5.30pm (March 1-June 30), 8am-6pm (July 1-Oct 31), and 8am-5pm (Nov 1-Feb 28). RMB 15 grounds, RMB 35 through ticket.
1 Tian Tan Dong Lu, Dongcheng District www.en.tiantanpark.com 东城区天坛路甲1号
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.