Temple of Heaven, Beijing – Nov 2018

Took the subway to the Temple of Heaven, constructed 1406-1420 under the Yongle Emperor (3rd in Ming Dynasty). Twice a year, the Ming and Qing Emperors would make offerings at the Temple in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. The Temple grounds cover about one square mile, larger than the Forbidden City, showing greater honor to Heaven.


We entered through the south gate.

IMG_3811After all the rectangular buildings and pointed corner eaves we’ve seen, the main buildings for sacrifices at the Temple of Heaven are round, reflecting the “roundness” of heaven.

More gates to reach the Circular Mound Altar:

Blue-glazed tiles on the gate:

IMG_3813Green-glazed Firewood Stove, used to burn the offerings: IMG_3814The Circular Mound Altar is open, three-layered, with stones laid in multiples of 9 (the Emperor’s number).IMG_3816IMG_3817IMG_3818 That round raised stone in the center is the Heaven Heart Stone. The architecture is designed so that the sound waves from someone speaking on that stone will be clearly amplified. IMG_3820IMG_3821IMG_3822

From the top level of the altar, you can see the roof of the next building in the complex.IMG_3823

From the TravelChinaGuide: The Imperial Vault of Heaven is a round pavilion with a double-eave roof sitting on a two-meter-tall white marble platform. From a distance, the Vault is like a blue umbrella with gold head. Stone fences enclose the platform. 62 feet in height and 52 feet in diameter, the hall is a finely interlaced wooden structure with a blue tile roof crowned with a gilded sphere. It has a coffered ceiling with a bluish green design of a gilded coiling dragon playing with a pearl at the center, and another 360 small dragons around. In the middle of the hall stands a circular stone seat carved with patterns, on which the Heavenly Great Tablet is placed.


The Vault is surrounded by the Echo Wall, a round wall which is reported to resonate with echoes if you stand on one Echo Stone by the wall to listen and your friend stands on another Echo Stone and whispers at the wall.

On through the next gates…


… to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests:IMG_3850

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a circular building 105 feet in diameter and 125 feet high, atop a huge round white marble 3-floor platform. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests has three layers of eaves; each layer is covered with blue colored glaze symbolizing heaven. The layer-by-layer eave creates an atmosphere of getting closer to heaven.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a masterpiece of wood frame construction. Inside the hall there is no beam, but 28 Phoebe columns and 36 pieces of interconnected squared rafters.


Note the intricate carvings in the middle of the stairs up each level.IMG_3852



This is the 70-Year-Old-Door. When the Qianlong Emperor was 70 years old in 1781, his ministers built this door near the Hall to shorten the distance he had to walk for the ceremonies. But, afraid that his offspring would abuse the convenience, he decreed that the door could not be used until an Emperor reached age 70. He was the only one to ever use the 70-Year-Old-Door.IMG_3874IMG_3877IMG_3870

We backtracked to leave the complex through the East Gate, passing this yellow-roofed building.IMG_3844IMG_3846

There’s the East Gate. There are many more buildings in the complex, to the left and right of the 3 main round ones, but time was short.IMG_3843

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