Created by the same Emperor responsible for the erection of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven is a beautiful example of Chinese Taoist temple architecture and not only worth visiting when shopping at the nearby Pearl Market.
Having been almost an entire month not to the Chinese capital, this time I finally nailed my visit to the temple which I had on my bucket list for months already. A little bit surprised that the temperatures reached easily 38 degrees Celsius during the day when I checked my weather app for packing, a hat, sunscreen and shorts seemed a great idea to bring along. And they proved perfectly.
From the hotel located directly at Dongsishitiao Metro station (Line 2), it was only a 20 minutes ride with a quick change to Line 5 at Chongwenmen station. Take the exit towards Tian Tian East Rd at Tiantandongmen station and you will reach the East Gate within a few minutes walking.
The “Through Ticket” costs 34 Yuan (4,40€/5,12US$) and includes admission to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, the Circular Mound Altar and the Fasting Palace.
Temple of Heaven was originally constructed back in 1420 under the supervision of Ming Emperor Jongle, who already was in his 18th year of reign at that time. It was founded as a worship place for the emperors of the Ming and Quing dynasties to praise the God of Heaven and prayers for good harvest. Having been an impressive landmark at the time of completion already, the temple was extended and enlarged over the centuries.
Covering over 273 acres altogether, it is the world´s largest religious complex to pay homage to heaven.
The temple is divided by two enclosed walls into inner altar and outer altar. To better symbolize heaven and earth, the northern part of the temple is circular while the southern part is square, which reflect the ancient Chinese belief that Heaven is round and Earth is square.
Located in the northern part of the temple is the Altar of Prayer for Good Harvests, where the emperors sacrificed animals and burned incense sticks to pray for good weather for the crops; while in the southern part lies the Circular Mound Altar where emperors held ceremonies for worshipping heaven.
Another main characteristic of the complex are the Palace of Abstinence where emperors held fasts before the ceremony and the Divine Music Hall. An imperial organization in charge of performing during the ceremonies.
A beautifully arranged park encloses the premise and invites for long strolls in the shadows of the trees or to unwind on one of the many benches situated along the walkways.
I spent a few hours inside the temple and the area around and it truly is an impressive historical landmark. UNESCO named it World Heritage back in 1998 and it absolutely is a well-deserved title.
For photography, I would suggest you come here earlier during the day as by noon, the place is overrun by larger groups of local and foreign visitors that make it a bit difficult to get decent shots without having 1000 selfie sticks on the photo afterwards.
But with a little bit of patience, I managed to get a few decent shots which I would like to share with you. And for the shoppers amongst you, do not miss to stop by the Pearl Market just across the street from the East Gate!