The Temple of Heaven, initially built in the eighteenth year of the Ming Dynasty (in 1420), is the most holy imperial temples with an area of 273 hectares in Beijing. For this is where the Emperor came every winter solstice to worship heaven and to solemnly pray for a good harvest. Since his rule was legitimised by a mandate from heaven, a bad harvest could be interpreted as his fall from heaven’s favour and threaten the stability of his reign. So it was not without a measure of self-interest that the Emperor fervently prayed for a very good crop.
Gallery of the temple of heaven
In line with the Confucianist revival during the Ming dynasty, the sacred harvest ceremony was combined with the Emperor’s worship of his ancestors. This embellishment was also, in effect, self-interested. According to the Confucian pattern of social organization, just as the Emperor respected his ancestors, so a younger brother should respect an elder brother, a wife with her husband, a son with his father, and a nation’s subjects their ruler. Incorporating ancestor worship within the most solemn ceremony of the Imperial ritual calendar, indirectly reinforced the social philosophy that perpetuated the Emperor’s power.
The design of the Temple of Heaven complex, true to its sacred purpose, reflects the mystical cosmological laws believed to be central to the workings of the universe. Hence, complex numerological permutations operate within its design. For example, because the number nine was considered to be the most powerful digit, you will see that the slabs that form the Circular Altar have been lain in multiples of nine. Similarly within the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the interior twenty-eight columns are divided into four central pillars to represent the seasons, twelve inner columns to represent the months and twelve outer columns to represent the two hour tranches that make up a day. There are many such examples of this intense numerology at play.
Whereas in Imperial times commoners were not allowed to enter the enormous park, now for a minimal fee Chinese citizens can enjoy it all day long. Were you to visit at dawn you’d be surprised by the number of people there performing their morning exercises. Next to an older person practising the slow and flowing movements of Tai Qi there might be a younger one performing vigorous karate-like punches and kicks. One group might be learning the ancient martial art of sword-fighting, while another might be practising a traditional dance. Should you have the energy and the inclination, it is well worth waking up early one morning and visiting this park to watch such events take place.
The Temple of Heaven
|The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest||The Imperial Vault of Heaven||Circular Mound Altar of Heaven|
1. The legend of the echo from the Temple’s Echo Wall.
There is a circular wall around The Imperial Vault of The Temple of Heaven, which many refer to as the Echo Wall. Legend has it that if you whisper at any point closest to the wall, it is said that one may be able to hear you clearly on the other side. It is said to be so clear that it almost sounds like talking on the phone.
2. The Heaven’s Center Stone
There is a stone in the center of the Circular Mound Altar called the Heaven’s Center Stone. Stand above it and shout loudly, you will hear the reverberation. Its a scenic spot that is one of the most frequented hot spots of the city. We’re almost sure you’ll enjoy your time there.
6:00-22:00 (The scenic spots inside open at 8:00 am)
CNY 35 (April 1st-October 31st)
CNY 30 (November 1st-March 31st)
How to get to the Temple of Heaven
Take Subway Line5 and get off at the East Gate of Temple of Heaven.
Take Bus No.17,36,120,203,T11,T1 to the Temple of Heaven.
Take Bus No.6,34,35,36,106,110,687,707 to the North Gate of Temple of Heaven.
Take Bus No.2,20,71,826,69,504,729 to the West Gate of Temple of Heaven.
Take Bus No.610,814,120,112,208,800,958,T3 to the North Gate of Temple of Heaven.