June 1, 2015

Beijing, China: Temple of Heaven; things to do

Temple of Heaven

Four times bigger than the Forbidden City, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest ancient religious complex in China.  

Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China


Additionally, this park-like complex of Taoist buildings is popular with senior citizens, who hang here playing card games, and thus offers a small window into the local lifestyle.

hallway at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
hallway at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China


locals playing card game at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
locals playing card game at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China


Chinese people believe they receive power by touching the gnarly juniper trees and so a lot of that goes on, too.  

locals receiving power from juniper tree at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
locals receiving power from juniper tree at Temple of Heaven
in Beijing, China


Long ago the emperor visited here just one day each year, in winter, to pray for a good harvest.  During that visit, Ming and Qing emperors also made sacrifices (originally humans, then ox, now nothing) at the triple-gabled circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests dating to the 15th-century.  The original building was destroyed by a lightning fire in 1889, but was rebuilt completely of wood on a marble base and without using any nails. 

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China


detail of Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
detail of Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at Temple of Heaven
in Beijing, China

The small, single-gabled circular Imperial Vault of Heaven is surrounded by a smooth circular Echo Wall that transmits sound over large distances and was designed to help prayers reach heaven.  The Circular Mound Altar, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven, is an empty circular platform atop three levels of marble stones, each decorated by lavishly carved dragons.  The numbers of elements of the altar, including its balusters and steps, are either the sacred number nine or its multiples.  The altar’s raised center stone is a round slate called the Heart of Heaven/Supreme Yang.  It was designed to lift the emperor’s voice directly to heaven and is where the emperor prayed for good weather.

neon ticket kiosk at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China
neon ticket kiosk at Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China


More things to do in Beijing.
 
Best souvenirs of China.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 
 

12 comments:

  1. What a great tour and description, glad they don't make any more offerings like in the past! Love all the details of the façade.

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  2. Love all the details of the façade, wonderful tour

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  3. I've been there! Such amazing, detailed workmanship! Awe-inspiring!

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  4. So much history, I love the gnarly trees and story about them.

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  5. This is one of the places I did not get to see when I was in Beijing - I was with a study abroad class and the place was already closed on the day we planned to visit. I will have to get back to China to explore on my own.

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  6. Amazing what a society will do for one person to use on one day!

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    1. As it turns out, it is used by many, many people every day. :)

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  7. I have never felt the pull of China - but I love seeing photos of the amazing sights to be seen there. Maybe one day when I run out of places I want to visit more. In the meantime, thanks for sharing...

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  8. Someday we will have to visit China starting with Beijing to see these amazing places for ourselves. Love the Hall of Prayer For Good Harvests and it's intriguing to think that it was built entirely without nails.

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  9. I love seeing your photos - I may never get there, but I appreciate all of your details.

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  10. We loved seeing the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Your photos brought back fond memories, thanks!

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  11. I had no idea this was the largest religious sight in China. What incredible details on the buildings facade!

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