About Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven in Beijing’s Tiantan Park, China, was originally built by Ming Dynasty Emperor Yongle in the 15th century as a place of worship for Chinese emperors. However, it was only during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor that the site was named ‘The Temple of Heaven’ as well as being extended and renovated.
The Temple of Heaven was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 as a ‘masterpiece of architecture and landscape design’.
Temple of Heaven history
Constructed between 1406 and 1420 under the reign of the Yongle Emperor – also responsible for the Forbidden City – the Temple of Heaven was built in accordance with Chinese religious principles. As such, the temple complex is characterised by square buildings with round roofs, the square aspects representing the earth and the circular ones representing heaven.
Amongst these buildings are The Imperial Vault of Heaven, The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, where emperors would perform sacrifices to ensure a good harvest year. The Circular Mound Altar was enlarged in 1749 by Emperor Quanlong.
During the Second Opium War, the Temple of Heaven was occupied by the Anglo-French alliance. In 1900, the tables turned, and the temple was occupied by the Eight Nation Alliance during the anti-Christian and anti-imperialist Boxer Rebellion. For a year, the complex acted as the force’s temporary command headquarters.
After the downfall of the Qing Dynasty, the Temple of Heaven fell into disuse and neglect, leading to the collapse of several halls. These were later restored and in 1918, the temple complex was turned into a public park.
Temple of Heaven today
Today, the Temple of Heaven is the oldest holy temple in Beijing and the only surviving Ming Tang building, as well as being a truly authentic Ming and Qing architectural structure. Visitors can easily spend a couple of hours walking the massive temple complex, gardens and a cypress tree grove.
Tickets are best booked in advance as the temple can get pretty busy. Make sure to also go to the museum in the northern building where audio guides are available for a small rental fee.
Getting to the Temple of Heaven
If approaching theTemple of Heaven via the East Gate, take subway line 5 to Tiantan Dongmen Station (East Gate of Temple of Heaven) and then exit A, close to the East Gate entrance to Temple of Heaven. For the public buses to the east gate, you can catch bus 6, 35, 36, 39, 41 and 43.
If you use South Gate, you can take a taxi or buses 36, 120, 122, 800, 803, 958.