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The Temple of Heaven

Temple-of-Heaven1 The Temple of Heaven is the most holy of Beijing's Imperial temples, for this is where the emperor came every winter solstice to worship heaven and to pray solemnly for a good harvest.

The Temple of Heaven, China

The Temple of Heaven is the biggest architectural group of worshipping Heaven existed in the world, which was listed in the world heritage roll by the World Heritage Committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1998.


The Temple of Heaven is located in southeast of Beijing Forbidden City and was the location of holding the ritual of worshipping Heaven by the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It was constructed in the eighteenth year of Yongle of Ming Dynasty(1420 A.D.). Through the added construction and reconstruction of periods of Ming Dynasty Jiajing and Qing Dynasty Qianlong, today’s layout has been formed gradually and covers the area of 273 hectares. It has two surrounding walls, both of which are round to the north and square to the south. Such a pattern symbolizes the ancient belief that heaven is round and the earth is square. The whole altar field is divided into the inner and outer altars by two altar walls. The architecture of offering sacrifices are mainly concentrated on the inner altar, among which the south part is called the Circular Mound Altar and the north part is called the Altar of Prayer for Good Harvest. Both the south and north altars are connected as an integral part through a bridge called Danbi which is 360 metres long.

The main structures of the Temple of Heaven include the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, the Circular Mound Altar, and the Hall of Abstinence. There were 22 emperors altogether of the Ming and Qing Dynasties to have held 654 rituals of worshipping Heaven here successively.

As the material carrier of Chinese Heaven worship culture, the Temple of Heaven’s unique symbolized architectural layout and design thought had a far-reaching influence on the Oriental architectural culture. Its accumulated rich ethnic cultural connotation concerns the aspects of philosophy, politics, astronomy, history, architecture, calendar, music, painting, gardening and social ethnics and centralizedly embodies the aesthetic ideology and cosmic outlook contained in Chinese civilization.

The Temple of Heaven, Scenery


There are over 60,000 all sorts of trees in the wide altar field of the Temple of Heaven and 3,652 antique trees which are dense, green and boundless. Experiencing several hundred years, the old cypresses that have become forests, the red walls, the green tiles and white marble stones set each other off beautifully and manifest the dignified and mysterious manner of royal gardens. A carpet of green grass in the trees, February cymbidiums of fragrant sea like tide, flied bees and danced butterflies in the Chinese rose gardens, which add the breath of tranquil, happy and auspicious for the solemn Temple of Heaven. This kind of state of harmonious blend of human and nature is the centralized embodiment of the ideal of “Heaven and Man Blended as an Integral Part” pursued by the ancients.

The Temple of Heaven, the Echo Wall

The Imperial Vault of Heaven is the location of storing and housing the spirit tablets of the “Supreme Ruler of Heaven”. The enclosed walls of the Imperial Vault of Heaven are well-known for its unique and magical acoustic effects. It is famous Echo Wall. The enclosed walls are circular shape. The wall body is sealed by grinded bricks and 3 meters high with deep blue glazed tiles.

The Temple of Heaven, Worship Heaven

The Circular Mound Altar is a location of offering sacrifices to Heaven on the winter solstice by
the emperors of both Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The music dance of worshipping Heaven adopts neutral Shao music which it’s used musical
instrument is made of eight kinds of materials, i.e. gold, stone, bamboo, leather, earth, wood and
thread that are called eight tones and accompanied with “Characters”, “Morals”, “Dances”and
“Martial Art Dances”.

The Circular Mound Altar is the representative masterwork of Chinese stone material architectures. The whole white marble sacrificial altar expresses the ancients’ thoroughly awed and revered emotion to the Heaven. The construction of sacrificial altar completely conformed to the ancients’ “Yin and Yang” theory. Its circular design embodies the concept of taking Heaven as Yang. The marble terrace is three-tiered and enclosed by marble balustrades on each tier. The platform is laid with marble slabs in nine concentric circles, and everything is arranged in multiples of the number nine which is called “ the Number of Complete Yang” and creates a kind of atmosphere of the conversation between the human and heaven.