An iconic image of not just Beijing, but China. One glance at this temple complex and there is no mistaking which part of the world that you’re in. And, surrounded by a 267-hectare park, the Temple of Heaven isn’t just for tourists, but is a popular tranquil hangout for locals too. It’s all happening here.
Originally constructed during the Ming Dynasty in 1420 – at the same time as the Forbidden City – this temple complex was where emperors would come to worship when in need of good crops. Comprised of three main parts, it was also a key sacrificial site for Ming and Qing Dynasty rulers who sought divine clearance and atonement for their sins.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is, for most people, the temple that steals the limelight here. Located in the northern part of the Temple of Heaven park, this altar of worship is as mesmerisingly pretty as it is historically important. Built according to the rigid religious regulations of the time, the incredible symmetry and dazzling blue tiles of this three-tiered, circular building sits on a huge marble platform named the Altar for Grain Prayers.
Other important points of note are the Imperial Vault of Heaven – where you’ll find the complex’ enigmatic Echo Wall – and the Circular Mound Altar which was used to worship during the winter solstice. But more than anything, this is a really beautiful place to aimlessly wander, soaking in the beauty as you go.
The main attraction is undoubtedly the Hall of Prayer – and you may have to be prepared to ruin other people’s pictures in order to get your own, sorry, not sorry – but other than getting the perfect picture for the ‘gram, this temple complex is undeniably beautiful and drenched in rich imperial history.
An aerial view would show you that although all the temple halls are round, the bases upon which they sit are actually square, all adhering to the religious rules of the Ming Dynasty. And although a healthy helping of red has been splashed about as per China usual, it’s actually the blue and purple hues that are most striking about these tiled temples.
When you’ve had your fill of temple gazing, the often overlooked treat is taking in the traditional atmosphere of the Temple of Heaven’s grounds. Watch as locals practise everything from tai chi and kung fu to a whole host of cultural song and dance. Oh, and you might witness one or two rather competitive games of chess too. Get there early to soak it all in before the bus loads of tourists arrive.
Beijing’s Chongwen District.
Best to go early morning to avoid the long queues.
No dress code but this is a place of worship so it’s best to be respectful and keep moderately covered.
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