The Temple of Heaven showcases a perfect geometrical setup and heavy emphasis on ancient symbolisms as old as the great philosopher Confucius (551-497 BC) himself.
The principal structures – The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, The Imperial Vault of Heaven, The Altar of Heaven – are placed along the temple’s central north-south axis, with the northern section (the prayer hall) set on a slightly higher elevation than the southern section (the altar) to symbolise heaven’s superiority over the earth.
Highlights and Features
Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests: Set on a majestic three-tiered marble plinth, this 38-metre-tall structure boasts a three-tiered, circular, blue-tiled roof and a vermilion timber façade that combine to make it an iconic site in southern Beijing. Here, a total of 28 pillars – each carved from a single tree – are aligned concentrically to provide support to the roof.
Imperial Vault of Heaven: The vault is similar to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests but smaller with a one-tiered roof and one-tiered marble plinth. Inside, it houses the tablets of the gods of stars and the gods of natural phenomenon.
The Echo Wall: This round wall with a single tier, blue-tiled eave surrounds the Imperial Vault of Heaven. So called for its curious characteristic – try whispering close to any point along the wall, and the sound can be heard clearly at the other end.
Vermilion Steps Bridge: This cypress-fringed, 360-metre long walkway connects the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests with the Altar of Heaven. Raised at one metre high at the southern end and four metres high at the northern end (the prayer hall), the bridge simulates the feeling of ascending heavenwards as one approaches the prayer hall.
Good to Know and What Not to Miss
- Plan to spend at least 90 minutes touring the main buildings inside the temple.
- There are four types of tickets. The combination ticket (CNY 30/CNY 35) is the best value, as it allows entry into the temple as well as access to all the main buildings inside.
- Check the opening hours before you go, as they vary from one season to the next. Certain areas inside the temple also have their own hours.
- The best time to go is early morning