Behind a high wall stands an ancient building once used in sacrifices. This huge historical place of worship is a quiet oasis in busy Beijing.
Temple of Heaven is bigger than the Forbidden City. It was originally constructed as a ceremonial space for emperors during the 15th century, but has been open to the public since 1918. Nowadays, the site is a gathering point for local musicians, dancers and other performers who practice their martial arts and hobbies here.
Hidden behind high walls, the Temple of Heaven park offers a welcome respite from the hectic city streets of Beijing. The northern section is semi-circular, representing heaven. The square southern part symbolizes Earth.
Explore the halls, pavilions and gardens filled with interesting architecture. You’ll get insight into the practices of ancient Chinese philosophy, history and religion.
Be prepared for a lot of walking if you set out to follow the traditional ceremonial route. Start at the Zhaoheng Gate in the south and follow the main stone pathway. You’ll soon reach the tiered Circular Mound Altar, where emperors would offer sacrifices in the hope of getting a good harvest. Ancient philosophical symbols are incorporated in the design of the temple.
Notice how the altar’s architecture is built around the number nine, a significant number in ancient Eastern culture. Count out how each terrace is constructed with stones grouped in multiples of nine.
A short distance ahead, you’ll find the round Imperial Vault of Heaven Pavilion. Inside, glance upwards at its ornate ceiling with a colorful design centered on a large gilded dragon. If you have a travel companion, try out the Echo Wall surrounding the pavilion: The acoustics of this space means that your whisper will be heard all the way at the other end.
Temple of Heaven is located in the Dongcheng District. To get there, take the subway to Tiantandongmen Station. Exit A leads to the East Gate entrance of the temple. There are additional fees to visit the various sections of the park. Electronic guides in English are available for rent.