The temple of Heaven used to be the scene to one of the most important rituals in Beijing. Imperial power in Chinese culture rested for millennia on the ability of the Emperor to ensure a good harvest for its Empire.
Continuity of Imperial China was based on who had the mandate of heaven (in other words whoever was powerful and skilled enough to rule in peace and prosperity and keep everybody happy) and was not based on one particular family or tribe indefinitely.
The current Temple of heaven was build by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties and they held there biannual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven here. They prayed for a good harvest by purifying themselves and making offerings to Heaven.
The complex of Taoist buildings are arranged along a long linear walkway. The most important buildings have a circular shape the circle symbolising heaven while the service buildings have the common rectangular floor plan the square symbolising earth.
Temple of Heaven must see:
- Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests
- Imperial Vault of Heaven
- Circular Mound Altar
The Temple of Heaven is situated in the southeast of the Forbidden City in a huge park and most of the park is used for recreation by retired Beijing locals ( watching people here is already an attraction in itself ).
The actual Temple complex is in the centre of the the park. For each stage closer to the temple you have to pay an entrance fee. To avoid buying several tickets I recommend to buy a THROUGH TICKET at the first ticket booth. You can enter the park at the North, East, West and South gates. The South gate is the main entrance.
Ask the taxi driver to take you to the South gate "NAN MEN" this is where the official route starts and you will see the main building at the end of your walk. In case you have very limited time enter at the North, East or West gate they are located close to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.
- 06:00 - 18:00 Apr. 01 - Oct. 31
- 06:00 - 17:00 Nov. 01 - Met. 31
- The park around the temple complex is open till 22.00
Entrance fee (combination ticket):
- ¥ 35 RMB Apr. 1 - Oct. 31
- ¥ 30 RMB Nov. 1 - Mar. 31
- Last tickets sold 1 hour before closing time
Take a taxi to the south gate or take the subway. The subway has one exit at the east gate of the temple but I suggest you walk first to the South gate and start from there:
- Subway Line 5, Tiantan Dongmen Station, Exit A
Getting to the South gate by taxi
is my preferred option.
tend to be very crowded and are stuck in traffic jams more often then not. I would not recommend them.
from the Forbidden city to the Temple of Heaven (I know some people try this option) is a waste of time in my opinion. There is no comfortable route and Beijing is much larger then you might think just from looking at a map.
An average sightseeing walk from the South gate to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest takes 1,5 ~ 2 hours.
To get the the best impact take the South gate and walk North to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest and you can exit at the East gate. Here you can take the subway to your next destination. Getting a taxi out of the temple area in the afternoon can be difficult.
The park itself resembles a commercial production Forrest with view interesting spots. There are some well known pavilions in the park but it is the people in the park that are more interesting and its worth while to have a look around for that reason.
Around the Temple:
The Temple of Heaven is rather isolated in the South of Beijing there are no attractions that can be reached walking comfortably from this area. Take the subway for your next destination.
You can consider visiting Lama Temple in the North of Beijing the Temple of the Earth and Confucius Temple are next to it. They are on the same subway line no. 5 at YongHeGong Lama Temple station.
The Temple of heaven is actually part of a set of four temples they are located at every point of the compass with the forbidden city at its centre.