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Home >> Beijing Attractions >> Temple of Heaven - Beijing tour information

Temple of Heaven

Beijing tour China travel to Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven, Beijing travel China tours
Temple of Heaven, Beijing trip China tours

Temple of Heaven Park is the largest of all parks in Beijing with an area of 667 acres (269.9 ha.). It is covered with ancient pines and green cypresses many of which are over five hundred years old. The main buildings in this park are a group of temples, which are noted for their exquisite layout, harmonious color, and unique structure. They comprise one of the most beautiful architectural achievements in the world and are outstanding masterpieces of traditional Chinese architecture.

This group of temples was built at the same time as the Imperial Palace (1406-1420 A.D.). The feudal emperors who called themselves "the sons of heaven" held ceremonies to worship heaven every year and the Temple of Heaven was built just for this purpose.

The Temple of Heaven, which is the name given to these ceremonial buildings, has two surrounding walls, both of which are round to the north and square to the south. Such a pattern symbolizes the ancient belief that heaven is round and the earth square.

Entering the western gate of the Temple to the right there is a path which leads through the trees to the Hall of Abstinence. The Hall is a group of buildings surrounded by a square enclosure and a moat. This section of the Temple of Heaven is presently not open to visitors.
Continuing along the entrance path one comes to a raised passage called the Red Stairway Bridge. This broad walk connects the two sets of main buildings in the Temple of Heaven enclosure. On this Red Stairway Bridge there is a platform to the east. It is on this platform that the emperors changed clothing before going to worship.

Turning northward and entering through the Gate of Prayer for Good Harvest, one will see the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest in its full grandeur. It is a lofty cone-shaped structure with triple eaves and a blue-tiled roof. The entire structure is 123 ft. (37.5 m.) high and is supported by twenty-eight massive wooden pillars each of which symbolizes a different thing. The four central columns, called the "Dragon Well pillars," represent the four seasons. Surrounding these four there are two rings of twelve columns each, the inner ring symbolizing the twelve months, and the outer ring, the twelve divisions of day and night. The center of the stone-paved floor is a round marble slab which has a natural pattern of a dragon and phoenix. The whole building is a wooden structure joined together by means of wooden bars, laths, and brackets without the use of any iron or bronze.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest served as the place where the emperors prayed for good harvest every year on the fifteenth day of the first moon by the lunar calendar. Behind this Hall is the Hall of Heavenly Emperor, a place to keep the tablet of heaven and other divine symbols during the year. Going back out through the Gate of Prayer for Good Harvest, and proceeding southward, you can visit the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Circular Mound Altar.

The Circular Mound Altar was the place for making offerings to heaven on the winter solstice. In ancient China the odd numbers (1, 3. 5, 7, 9) were regarded as "sun numbers." So the number of stone slabs in any part of this Altar (terrace floor, staircases, and balustrades) is made in multiples of 9. After the ceremony the tablet of the God of Heaven and the tablets of the Gods of Wind. Rain, Thunder, and Lightning were brought back to be stored in the Imperial Vault of Heaven.

The surrounding wall of the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the center stones of the Circular Mound Altar produce a strange acoustic effect. People can make "telephone calls" through the wall. Two people standing behind the side chambers, one on each side, and speaking softly to the wall, may be heard by each other. This is often referred to as Echo Wall.

On the flight of steps leading down from the Imperial Vault of Heaven there are three rectangular stones. If you stand on the first stone and call out, the sound will be echoed once; on the second, twice; on the third stone, three times. These are called the Triple Sound Stones.

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