Beijing Temple of Heaven Facts

The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven, is a complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It has been regarded as a Taoist temple, although Chinese Heaven worship, especially by the reigning monarch of the day, pre-dates Taoism.

Tourists Visit Temple of Heaven Beijing

History of Temple of Heaven

The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century. The Jiajing Emperor also built three other prominent temples in Beijing, the Temple of Sun in the east, the Temple of Earth in the north, and the Temple of Moon in the west. The Temple of Heaven was renovated in the 18th century under the Qianlong Emperor. Due to the deterioration of state budget, this became the last large-scale renovation of the temple complex in the imperial time.

The temple was occupied by the Anglo-French Alliance during the Second Opium War. In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion, the Eight Nation Alliance occupied the temple complex and turned it into the force's temporary command in Beijing, which lasted for one year. The occupation desecrated the temple and resulted in serious damage to the building complex and the garden. Robberies of temple artifacts by the Alliance were also reported. With the downfall of the Qing, the temple complex was left unmanaged. The neglect of the temple complex led to the collapse of several halls in the following years.

In 1914, Yuan Shikai, the President of the Republic of China, performed a Ming prayer ceremony at the temple, as part of an effort to have him declared Emperor of China. It was opened as a public park in 1918 and has been so ever since. 

The Temple of Heaven was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.

A Panoramic View of the Circular Mound Altar

The Main Buildings of Temple of Heaven

1. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

A magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 36 meters in diameter and 38 meters tall, built on three levels of marble stone base, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. The building is completely wooden, with no nails. The 

original building was burned down by a fire caused by lightning in 1889. The current building was re-built several years after the incident.

2. The Imperial Vault of Heaven

A single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone base. It is located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and resembles it, but is smaller. It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall, which can transmit sounds over large distances. The Imperial Vault is connected to the Hall of Prayer by the Vermilion Steps Bridge, a 360 meter long raised walkway that slowly ascends from the Vault to the Hall of Prayer.

3. The Circular Mound Altar

It is the altar proper, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, each decorated by lavishly carved dragons. The numbers of various elements of the Altar, including its balusters and steps, are either the sacred number nine or its nonuples. The center of the altar is a round slate called the Heart of Heaven or the Supreme Yang, where the Emperor prayed for favorable weather. Thanks to the design of the altar, the sound of the prayer will be reflected by the guardrail, creating significant resonance, which was supposed to help the prayer communicate with the Heaven. The Altar was built in 1530 by the Jiajing Emperor and rebuilt in 1740.

Taijiquan Exercise in Beijing Temple of Heaven

Opening Hours

1. Gate: 06:00-22:00

2. The scenic spots inside the Temple of Heaven: 

08:00-17:30 (From March 1 to June 30)

08:00-18:00 (From July 1 to October 31) 

08:00-17:00 (From November 1 to February 28)

Entrance Fee

RMB 10 (Nov.1-Mar.31 (next year))

RMB 15 (Apr.1-Oct.31)

Combination Ticket (including the entrance fee, Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, Circular Mound Altar & Echo Wall)

RMB 30 (Nov.1-Mar.31 (next year))

RMB 35 (Apr.1-Oct.31)

Hall of Ceremonial Music & Hall of Abstinence

RMB 10 (Nov.1-Mar.31 (next year))

RMB 10 (Apr.1-Oct.31)

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, Circular Mound Altar & Echo Wall

RMB 20 (Nov.1-Mar.31 (next year))

RMB 20 (Apr.1-Oct.31)

The Echo Wall in Beijng Temple of Heaven Park

How to get 

1. Subway: Take Subway Line 5 and get off at Tiantan Dongmen Station. Leave from Exit A and find the east gate to the Temple of Heaven.

2. Bus: Take bus No. 53, 120, 122, 525 to Tiantan Nanmen Station or No. 2, 20, 35, 69, 71, 707, 729 to Tiantan Ximen Station.

Travel Tips for Temple of Heaven

1. Visitors are not allowed to cross, climb, smoke, swim, skate, fish, spit, foul and litter and so on. 

2. Visitors are not allowed to camp, cook, fish, capture animals and dig plants inside. 

3. Visitors are not allowed to paint and carve on the buildings, ground, stone, facility and tree, and to pick the flowers and spoil the lawn and trees. 

4. Don't carry any guns, catapult, hazard materials and any animals into the Temple of Heaven. 

5. Expect for hand-powered wheelchairs and baby carriers used by the aged, the handicapped, and children, any other vehicle are not allowed to enter without any permission. 

6. The professional camera equipments are not allowed to use inside without any permission.

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