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Temple of Heaven in 360°
The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven is a complex of Taoist 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. The Temple of Heaven was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and was described as "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations..." as the "symbolic layout and design of the Temple of Heaven had a profound influence on architecture and planning in the Far East over many centuries."
1. What to see
The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of Emperor Yongle, 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.
1.1. Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests
It is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 36 metres in diameter and 38 metres 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 lightening in 1889. The current building was re-built several years after the incident.
1.2. Imperial Vault of Heaven
It is 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, that 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.
1.3. Circular Mound Altar
It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, each decorated by lavishly carved dragons. It was the place 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 supposed to help the prayer communicate with the Heaven. The Altar was built in 1530 by the Jiajing Emperor and rebuilt in 1740.
2. When to see
The Temple of Heaven is daily 8:30am-4:30pm for sights, but the park itself is open 6am-8pm.
4. How to get there
Most tourists visit China on a package tour that includes monuments of Beijing. If travelling on your own, probably the easiest way is to hire a taxi in Beijing.
5. Where to stay
There are plenty of hotels in Beijing to select from.