Temple of Heaven


Occupying an area of 273 hectares, Temple of Heaven is three times bigger than the Forbidden City. The temple complex was initially built in 1420. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests was the main building at that time, where the Emperor held sacrificial ceremonies to worship both Heaven and Earth.

In 1530, according to China’s traditional belief “the Earth is square and Heaven round”. Emperor Jiajing took his minister’s advice: “Heaven and Earth should be worshiped separately. Worship Heaven should use circular altar and Earth at a square altar.” He ordered the Circle Mound Altar built at the south, and he built another Altar of Earth in the north part of Beijing city.

During  1711 to 1799, 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.

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.

In 1918, the temple complex area was turned into a park and opened to the public.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Built in 1420, the emperors held worship ceremonies to pray for good weather and abundant harvests in ancient times. The building is 32 meters (105 feet) in diameter and 38 meters (125 feet) high. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a masterpiece of wood frame construction. There is no beam inside the hall, 28 wooden pillars and 36 pieces of interconnected squared rafters support the whole building. These number of the pillars have different symbolic meanings: The four big pillars along the inner circle represent the four seasons; the 12 posts along the middle circle represent the 12 months; and the 12 along the outer circle represent 12 hours.

The Circular Mound Altar(圜丘坛)

The Circular Mound Altar was built in 1530. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the emperors would offer sacrifice here to the God of Heaven on the day of the Winter Solstice every year. 

The Imperial Vault of Heaven(皇穹宇)

The Imperial Vault of Heaven is a wooden structure, there are no beams inside the hall. The vast dome is supported by 16 wooden pillars and numerous brackets.It is the place housing the Gods’ tablets to be used at the Heaven Worship Ceremony. It is famous for the Echo Wall, Triple Echo Stones and the Dialogue Stone.

Palace of Abstinence(斋宫)

The Palace of Abstinence is where the emperor fasted before the Heaven Worship Ceremony.

Divine Music Administration(神乐署)

Located to the southwest of the Palace of Abstinence, the Divine Music Administration was the location of the managing body for the ceremonial musical instruments as well as the place where the sacrificial ritual was devised and rehearsed. This was the most important ritual music academy of the Ming and Qing dynasties.

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