It is surely one of the great cultural sites in the world, here where China considered was the centre of the entire universe. Built along a north-south, celestial, axis lie the buildings where the Ming and Qing emperors came four times a year to offer sacrifices to the Gods and to pray. Tens of thousands of courtiers, soldiers and officials proceeded in great ceremony through Tianan'men, south to Qian'men and down to the Temple of Heaven, beyond the southern gates of the city. Today, the visitor will swing in through the entrance in a glossy air-conditioned coach, almost as isoated from China as the emperors before them. Consider travelling from Tian'anmen along the route the emperor would have taken, passing the crowded, huddled houses and shops lining Qianmen Dajie. When the emperor passed by, in an almost endless procession of music and noise, the shops and houses were shuttered up: commoners were not allowed to set eyes upon the Son of Heaven. Your chances of seeing Qianmen Dajie shuttered up and deserted are nil: this is a street that, upon hearing of an all-out nuclear attack, would have stocks of gas-masks and bodybags out for sale within the three-minute warning.
The great complex of the Temple of Heaven is in 273 hectares of stunning forest, and this alone makes it an unusual place: line upon line of Chinese cypress, Chinese juniper and scholar trees. Some of the cypresses are more than 600 years old. Dr Henry Kissinger, when he visited the Temple, stated that while the USA could recreate the Temple of Heaven if it desired, it could not create the trees. It is the trees that give the Temple of Heaven its character. Other Chiese parks and temple complexes are usually open, with plenty of grass, but here the eye is caught only by the blue sheen of the juniper and the cypress. Despite the massive crowds that visit the Temple, the surrounding forest somehow soaks them up and acts as a buffer.
Unlike the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, ironically, feels human and humane. The buildings do not overwhelm the individual, and even the height and grandeur of the stunning Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (the leitmotif of the Temple of Heaven) does not feel massive and repressive. It genuinely is beautiful: its lines and proportions match those of any building in the world.
The numerous associated buildings have been converted to extremely interesting themed displays on various aspects of the emperor's worship: the order of procession, the timetable of activities, the beautiful musical instruments and the costumes.
I will add other 'Must Visit' reviews on specific parts of the Temple of Heaven, but recommend this as a real highlight of Beijing. It is well cared for, there is great respect from Chinese visitors, minimal commercialisation, but perhaps not enough cafes or restaurants (and I never thought I would say that of a temple in China!). They are working on wheelchair access, and many of the steps now have ramps, although the smaler buildings will remain inaccessible. I suspect it is a matter of time before even these are made wheelchair-friendly.
The Temple of Heaven Park surprised me the most, as a place i wanted to go back and visit straight away. It feels like a different world, and its unbelievable to think that a park of its magnitude could be found near the centre of a city the size of Beijing.
Aside from the obvious attractions such as the Temple of Heaven itself, the Echo Wall, and the Imperial Vault of Heaven amongst others, the park itself is a large part of the city's heartbeat.
I loved just strolling through its endless forested paths, with the distant sounds of locals who relax and practice music, the regular sites of people working out, whilst others just chillout to a book, a conversation, or flying their kites with friends. I found it a fantastic place to escape to, collect my thoughts and chill.
The Park is open 6am to 9pm, and the sights 8am-6pm daily. In high season it is Y15-35 to get in.
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..."
My guide brought me to the Temple of Heaven which was renovated in the 18th century under the Qianlong Emperor. This 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.
Three other prominent temples were built in Beijing, the Temple of Sun in the east, the Temple of Earth in the north, and the Temple of Moon in the west.
Symbolisms abound in this temples according to the Wikipedia website:
Earth was represented by a square and Heaven by a circle; several features of the temple complex symbolize the connection of Heaven and Earth, of circle and square. The whole temple complex is surrounded by two cordons of walls; the outer wall has a taller, semi-circular northern end, representing Heaven, and a shorter, rectangular southern end, representing the Earth. Both the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and the Circular Mound Altar are round, each standing on a square yard, again representing Heaven and Earth.
When you know about this symbols, I think gives you a better understanding of what you see when you are already there. China gives you a totally new perspective in looking at life...
The Temple of Heaven park is another lovely place to be at. We took a taxi from the Chaoyang district and when I saw the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests from the distance, I felt a surge and got all smiley. It's Beijing's biggest and most popular open space, at least judging by the people exercising that I saw. It's open between 6am and 9pm while the sights inside are open between 8am and 6pm. The main feature of the park is the beautiful Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which was built in the 5th century.
They have 2 prices, one for entering the park and one that gives you access to the sights in the premises, so we took the first one (as of Nov 2009, 10 RMB). I wanted to see the Hall first but I started strolling the park first, and found several men and women flying kites. The day was lovely and cold but there was enough wind for the kites to be airborne. Upon our arrival 2 people were trying to fly a kite and I saw that the technique they use is different from the one the kids in my home town use: instead of running with the kite behind them, they had their kites tied to a circular thing that would release as much thread as needed, and they would spin around. One of the people we saw was getting successful at flying the kite but not too high hehe.
One of Beijings finest parks. In the morning, there are many people who congregate here, as well as in many other parks around the city to perform their regular routines of exercise. Dancing, tai chi, Paintings on concrete with water, and some sort of ping pong type sport can be observed here in early hours of the day. It is quite peaceful and entertaining to watch the people all around you, and a great way to start the day. Anyway, back to the structures here. The temple of Heaven is one of the largest temple complexes in China and a typical example of Chinese architectural balance and symbolism. Here, the emperor would make sacraficial offerings and send prayers for good harvest during the winter solstice. I was unable to see the main Hall during my visit here, due to undergoing renovations.
This supposed to be the most perfect example of Ming architecture, and the temple itself has become an emblem for Beijing. The temple itself is in quite a large park, which is split into several parts.
If you can look at the temples from the air, you would see that the temples are all round, and the bases of them are all square. This is due to the Chinese belief (well it was in the old days), that heaven was round, and the earth was square.
This picture shows the Tiantan, which is what is considered to be the actual temple, but the park itself has several interesting features.
One of the best examples of architecture from the Ming epoch. The temple itself is round but it is standing on the square base. It reflects the old opinion that the heaven is round but the earth is square.
The Temple of Heaven, or Tiantan as it is also known, is one of those places that kind of takes you by surprise. You don't expect it to be very much, but you really enjoy it when you go.
Each year the emperor came here at the time of the winter solstice in his capacity as the Son of Heaven to pray for a good harvest and to render homage to the heavens. This tradition was kept up until the fall of the dynasty in 1911
Today it is surrounded by a beautiful park, and is seen by thousands of westerners who just don't understand it. Still, for the average unclutured American tourist there is fun to be had. Take for example the resonating stone. At the entrance to the Temple, there is a platform you can stand on. In the middle of it is a stone that amplifies your voice. I don't know how it works, but it does. The same is true of the echo wall. There, you can face any point along the wall and speak, and someone on the other side can hear you. Freaky!
The Temple itself is the best part. Most people only get to see pictures of it on the wall of a Chinese Restaurant. But up close is so much better. My tour guide told me that no nails were used to build it, and it has been standing for centuries. How cool is that!
Historically, this is an Imperial Sacrificial Altar for the ancient Chinese emperors. It has a huge area coverage with 3 major structure. There is the amazing Circular Mound Altar (Yuanqiutan). It was made of 360 perfectly cut white marbles that made a 360 degree circular altar. This altar has stood for more than 500 years and there is not a single crack on the marble!! Common believe that if you stand in the middle stone of the circular altar and making a wish by look up at the sky, the wish will be fulfiled in no time.
There is also the interesting Echo Wall. You will find many visitors trying to "speak" at one side of the wall and another guy reply from the opposite end. It was found that the structure inside the circular wall was built such that the echo will reflect around the circular wall and reach the opposite end. Usually this wont work because the court is too noisy and people couldn't find the right direction. Both people must face north to make it works.
Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing Beijing
4 Reviews and 1096 Opinions Located centrally in the Wangfujing area, this hotel is close to everywhere you want to get to...
St. Regis Beijing Hotel Beijing
1 Review and 339 Opinions At the moment of stepping in the hotel, I said 'Fantastic'. The building has high ceiling with...
Shangri-la Kerry Centre Hotel Beijing
4 Reviews and 155 Opinions Having lived in Beijing for a number of years, I had stayed in relatively few hotels in the city -...