Temple of Heaven Facts
The Temple of Heaven is the best place in Beijing to explore the traditional royal sacrificial culture of ancient China. At the same time, it is a pleasant place for leisure stay of walking or sightseeing, also for exploration of local culture.
Type: World Heritage Site, Historic Sites, Parks, Sights & Landmarks
Best Seasons: Spring/Autumn
Recommended Visiting Time: 1~2 hours
Opening Hours: Apr to Oct: 06:00 ~ 20:00 / Nov to Mar: 06:30 ~ 21:00
Tickets: ￥15 / Nov to Mar: ￥10
Address: Tiantan Road, Dongcheng District, Beijing 100050, China
As the largest of Beijing's imperial of religious building complexes, the Temple of Heaven is known for its rigorous symbolic layout, peculiar structure, and magnificent decoration. It is the most representative example of Chinese ritual architecture. Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties (from 1420 to 1900) worshiped the god of heaven and prayed for good harvests there.
The Temple of Heaven is located south of the Forbidden City. The total area of Temple of Heaven Park is about 2.73 km2 (1.05 sq mi). That's a similar size to Central Park in New York or twice the size of Hyde Park.
The design of the main buildings is a combination of circles and squares, which symbolize the belief that Heaven is round and Earth square.
In ancient times, people could not scientifically understand and explain a variety of natural phenomena, such as the movement of the sun and the moon, the cycle of the four seasons, thunder, wind, rain, earthquakes, and tsunamis. They believed that these phenomena were governed by "Heaven", so they worshiped the "Emperor of Heaven".
To better earn the respect of the people that was needed to govern and regulate them, Chinese emperors call themselves the "sons of Heaven". They also claimed that Heaven authorized them to govern the Earth (China). So, emperors in each dynasty regarded offering sacrifices to Heaven and Earth as very important political activities.
The Temple of Heaven was the outcome of the combination of the dynastic regime and Confucian theocracy.
The temple complex was initially built in 1420, during the Yongle Emperor's (third emperor of the Ming Dynasty's) re-establishment of Beijing as China's capital (Europe was also having its own Renaissance at the time).
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests was the main building at that time, where the Yongle Emperor held sacrificial ceremonies to worship both Heaven and Earth.
In 1530, according to China's traditional idea that the Earth is square and Heaven round, the Jiajing Emperor (eleventh emperor of the Ming dynasty) took his minister's advice: "Heaven and Earth should be worshiped separately. Worship Heaven at a circular altar and Earth at a square altar."
He ordered the Circle Mound Altar built south of the Hall of Prayer, and the Altar of Earth built outside the Gate of Andingmen in the north of Beijing city. The Heaven-worship part of the temple complex was officially renamed the Temple of Heaven in 1534.
During the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (the sixth emperor of the Qing Dynasty's reign was 1711–99), the Temple of Heaven underwent large-scale renovation. Some of the main buildings' glazed tiles were replaced, the size of the Circular Mound Altar was expanded, etc.
In 1900, the temple complex was used as a temporary command post by foreign allies to defeat the Boxer Rebellion. Parts of the buildings were destroyed, and the temple fell into neglect.
In 1918, the temple complex area was turned into a park and opened to the public.
There are four gates for entering and exiting the Temple of Heaven. For a smooth and pleasant visiting, travelers are suggested to start the exploration from the South Gate. Entering the gate, you will first visit the Huanqiu Altar and its surrounding, such as the Echo Wall, Kitchen for Sacrifice, etc. Then walk through the solemn path of Danbi Bridge, and get to the Qinian Hall. Explore the surrounding sites, and then continue your trip to the west of Qigu Altar to see the Flower Garden where the emperor stayed during sacrificial ceremonies. On the south of the garden is the Palace of Abstinence. After the sightseeing, leave the site from the West Gate.
In the ancient China, the emperors attached great importance on the sacrifice to the Heaven because they are believed to be the son of Heaven. They ruled the county on behalf of Heaven.
To show their respect and gratefulness to the Heaven, the emperors of Ming and Qing Dynasties moved from Forbidden City to encamp in the Temple of Heaven with their retunes twice a year. The emperor would pray to Heaven for good harvests on the altar. Grand ceremony must be held perfectly, because the smallest mistake would bring bad luck for the whole nation in the next years.
Where is the Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven is located in the central area of Beijing City which is also the attraction-gathering region. The famous Forbidden City (Palace Museum) and Tiananmen Square are conveniently situated at the northwest of Temple of Heave within short walking distance.
The visit of Temple of Heaven takes about 1~2 hours, so it is usually recommended to tour with other sites in Beijing city, such as the Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace or Hutongs as a full day tour package which has covered convenient and private transfer to and around the Temple of Heaven.
Subway and public buses are also available for independent travelers. You can take subway Line 5, and exist at Tiantan Dongmen Station which is only several minutes’ walking away from the East Gate of Temple of Heaven. Many buses pass by the park, including 120, 17, 2, 35, 36, 504, 53, etc.
Best time to go - seasonal advice - Different views in different season
March to May and September to November is the best time to visit the Temple of Heaven. But actually the Temple of Heaven is suitable for travel all year around. You can see the blooming lilac during the middle April. In summer days, the whole park is decorated by flourishing green trees. The cool autumn is the best season when the sky is clear and blue. Winter is cold, but you can get rid of the crowds, and focus on exploring the fabulous architectures.
Apr to Oct: ￥35 / Nov to Mar: ￥30
Notes: Note: the price include both the entrance fee and tickets for sites for Qigu Altar and Huanqiu Altar(￥20), Sacrificial Music Hall and Fast Palace (￥10).
Independent travelers can rent the self-service audio guide device at the four gates of Temple of Heaven (Chinese, Cantonese, English, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean). You can also hire a personal tour guide in the park to get more detailed explanation.
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