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
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,
Address in Chinese: 崇文区天坛东路天坛公园
Tel: 010-6702 8866 (Chinese language only)
Ticket Price: Nov – Mar, 30.00 Yuan for one ticket;
Apr– Oct, 35.00 Yuan for one ticket