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Temple of Heaven (Chinese: 天坛 / Pinyin: Tian Tan)

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Built between 1409 and 1420, the Temple of Heaven is one of Beijing’s most impressive parks in terms of architecture, color and significance. The Temple is basically a huge communications terminal which the Emperor used to communicate directly with Heaven. Several times a year, the Emperor would come here to pray for good harvests, enough rain and other heavenly boons. The construction of the Temple is based around the number nine, the largest of the single digits, which is divine in Chinese numerology. The Temple consists of four basic parts: the Round Altar, the Echo Wall, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Hall of prayer for Good Harvests.

The Round Altar is where the Emperor would report on the status of the country to Heaven. The Altar is constructed in the middle and anything you say is amplified several times. This is because when the Emperor was talking with Heaven, his voice was supposed to be amplified so that it was as if his voice was as loud as the collective voice of a whole nation.

The Echo Wall is a round structure which if you whisper along the inner wall. Your voice can be heard all the way around the other side. However, there is always a crowd of people whispering (and shouting) so it is very hard to get the desired effect. Supposedly the Emperor would use this method to secretly confer with Inner Court members.

The Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests are both structures which were places of worship for the Emperor. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is remarkable because it is a 38-meter-tall building which does not have a single nail holding it together. The original was burnt down in 1889 but has been faithfully reconstructed. The hall has 28 wooden pillars supporting a 39-meter tower of three conical roofs, covered with blue glazed tiles, to reflect the color of the sky. The wooden walls are richly decorated, inside and out.

To the west of the complex is the Hall of Abstinence, where the emperors would prepare themselves for the solemn occasion by spending a night fasting (and without concubines!)

If you go to the Temple of Heaven in the early morning, you can see groups of people practicing all types of kung fu and taiji. You can also practice with them if you are so inclined. This is another good activity for the jet lag.

  Address:   Tiantan Donglu, Chongwen District
Address in Chinese:

Tel: 010-6702 8866 (Chinese language only)

Open 8:00am-6:00pm

Ticket Price: Nov – Mar, 30.00 Yuan for one ticket; Apr– Oct, 35.00 Yuan for one ticket

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