Initially built as a holy site for offering sacrifice to Heaven in the 18th year of Ming-era Emperor Yongle’s reign, Beijing Temple of Heaven situates southeast of Beijing with the Forbidden City in the northwest and Zhengyang Gate in the west, which was listed among the key cultural relics under China’s state protection in 1961 and chosen as the biggest extant architecture for ancient emperors to offering sacrifice to Heaven by Chinese World Record Association in 2009.
Covering an area of 273 hectares, Beijing Temple of Heaven is larger than Beijing Forbidden City in size with dual walls, of which the northern wall is semi-circular and the southern one square, and the circle is symbolic of the heaven and the square the earth. Beijing Temple of Heaven is mainly comprised of the Altar of Prayer for Good Harvest in the north and Circular Mound Altar in the south, both of which are distributed along the central axis, divided by a shared wall.
The Altar of Prayer for Good Harvest is made up the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest and Imperial Heavenly Hall, and the former is rectangular with a height of 38.2 meters and a diameter of 24.2 meters, supported by 28 scarlet pillars that represent 4 seasons, 12 months and 12 Shichen (one Shichen is equal to 2 hours in ancient times) respectively. With the Imperial Heavenly Vault and the Echo Wall in the north, the Circular Mound Altar was built in the 9th year of Emperor Jiajing’s reign in the Ming dynasty, where sacrifice-offering ceremony to Heaven was held at winter solstice each year.
Beijing Temple of Heaven was listed on the World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO in 1998, and the World Heritage Convention states that “the Temple of Heaven, founded in the first half of the 15th century, is a dignified complex of fine cult buildings set in gardens and surrounded by historic pine woods. In its overall layout and that of its individual buildings, it symbolizes the relationship between Earth and Heaven — human world and God’s world — which stands at the heart of Chinese cosmogony, and also the special role played by the emperors within that relationship.” Now Beijing Temple of Heaven has become a must-visit attraction in Beijing, attracting millions of visitors from all corners of the world each year for its profound cultural connotation.
Opening hours: 6:00 am to 10:00 pm every day
Author: Yang Qingwei