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Travel Guide
Travel Guide

The Temple of Heaven is located in the Chongwen district in the south part of Beijing, about 6km away from the center of the city.It is China's largest existing complex of ancient sacrificial buildings. Occupying an area of 273 hectares, it is three times the area of the Forbidden City. It was completed in 1420 and was originally a platform for the Son of Heaven (the emperor) to perform sacrifices and solemn rites.



The temple was the place where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties (about seven hundreds years ago) came to perform worship to the God of Heaven and pray for good harvests. Among the gods worshiped were the god of earth, the god of water, the god of agriculture (who has his own hall in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests), the god of the military, the god of religion and the god of civilians. The emperors came to the temple twice a year, on the 15th day of the first lunar month and on winter solstice respectively. If there happened to be a drought, they would come on summer solstice to pray for rainfall.

The Temple buildings and the parklands reflect ancient Chinese religious beliefs that imagine heaven as round and earth as square. Thus, the buildings in the temple are constructed on a central axis. The temples themselves are round and the bases square. Similarly, the northern section is enclosed in a semi circular wall (representing heaven) while the southern section is within a rectangle (representing earth).
 

The principle buildings include the Altar of Prayer for Good Harvests, Imperial Vault of Heaven and Circular Mound Altar. The Altar of Prayer for Good Harvest, 38 meters in height and 30 meters in diameter, stands on a round foundation built with three levels of marble stones. This towering triple-eave hall is under a three-story, cone-shaped glaze-tile roof in blue color crowned with a gilded knob. A circular wall of polished bricks known as the Echo Wall encloses the Imperial Vault of Heaven. If you whisper to the wall on one side the sound is echoed right around the wall to the other side, where you can be clearly heard. The Circular Mount Altar, south to the Imperial Vault of Heaven, is where the emperor prayed to heaven.

The Temple of Heaven is also famous for its cypress trees - there are more than 60, 000 cypress trees in all, among which over 4,000 are more than one hundred years old. This tall cypress was planted more than 500 years ago. Its thick branches and twisting trunk resembling nine coiling playful dragons; thus it is known as the Nine-Dragon Cypress. It is said that this tree was here to welcome the monarchs. Now it is here to welcome visitors from all over the world. 

Of the many temples in the old city, perhaps the best known and most beautiful is this complex. The Temple was opened to the public in 1912 and entered into the world cultural heritage list in 1998. top
 

The Altar of Prayer for Good Harvest


Imperial Vault of Heaven


Circular Mound Altar