Beijing: Temple of Heaven (天坛, Tiāntán)

By Cubie - May 18, 2013

Shame this doesn't stitch up very well :(
In ancient China, the Emperor of China was regarded as Son of Heaven, who represent and has heavenly authority. As respect to the source of his authority, the emperor prayed to the heaven in special ceremonies twice a year.

Simply put, this whole complex was constructed for the Emperor of China to worship the God of Heaven and pray for good harvest.

It's probably as forbidden as Forbidden City, if not more. After all only the Emperor and his entourage will travel from Forbidden city to this complex, abstained from eating meat and prayed.
As this is to pray to the Heaven, the 'source' of the emperors authority, this complex, of course has to be even larger than where the emperor stayed (Forbidden City).

We travelled from Tiananmen Square via subway, so we came in through the east gate.
We got the combination ticket, CNY 30 and also paid for the additional fees to enter Hall of Ceremonial Music and Fasting Palace (or Hall of Abstinence) of CNY 10.

The three main buildings in the complex are:

Circular Mound Altar (圜丘坛, Yuán Qiū Tán)

This was where the emperors would offer sacrifice to heaven on Winter Solstice yearly.

Apparently in ancient days, they believed that Earth was square and Heaven was round. Therefore this circular altar was surrounded by a square wall to represent this.

Circular Mound Altar took the figure 9 to a whole new level. No joke.
  • This altar comprises of three layers, the steps to each levels were carefully planned to be 9 steps. 
  • The upper layer consists of fan-shaped stones, forming a total of 9 circles. 
  • The innermost circle has 9 stones
  • 9 pieces of stone were added progressively to every circle to the outside
You can count this.. 9 steps

No.. this wasn't showing the whole 9 circles, you can stop counting
See the single stone right in the middle? That was Heaven Heart Stone aka Sun Stone. Apparently if you stand on it and shout or knock, the sound waves will be clearly echoed. I had some difficulties to get my chance on standing on the stone, let alone shout or knock. So I can't testify to the echo.

Besides, there was so many people around, the echo probably wouldn't work, as well as I wasn't going to risk people thinking I was mad or shouting randomly.

Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇, Huangqiongyu)

This building was the place to house God's tablets to be used at Ceremony of Worshipping Heaven.

See the roof? All the buildings within Temple of Heaven have special dark blue roof tiles, said to represent the Heaven. I didn't think that far, I just think the blue roof is just so beautiful :)
(Ru, I love roof details too, they are awesome!)

Surrounding this building, is the famous Echo Wall that could passed sound waves smoothly if you whisper at one end of the wall. There's also no way to check this out now, due to the same reason, the crowd, also there is now a barrier to avoid people from touching the wall. LOL

This Imperial Vault and Alter of Prayer (below) is connected by a bridge named Vermilion Steps Bridge, a 360 metres long walkway. The slightly elevated pathway in the middle, was reserved especially for the emperor.

Of course I walked on the elevated walkway, just because... :P
Altar of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿, Qiniandian)

This is a big palace with three layers of eaves, the entrance is barred. This was where the emperor held the worship ceremonies to pray for good weather and abundant harvest. There were scheduled free guide at pre-fixed time, from memory at interval of 30 minutes.

This brilliant building was completely wooden and no nails were used. Being wood, unfortunately original building was burned down by a fire caused by lightning in 1889. This current one was re-built several yearse after the incident.

Fasting Palace (斋宫, Zhaigong)

We paid additional CNY 10 for entrance to this palace. There's a Bell Tower, Beamless Hall (无梁殿, Wuliang Dian), Bedroom Hall and Room of Prince within this area. This was where the emperor stayed for three days before the formal worshipping ceremony. The emperor would live alone, eat simple vegetarian meals, abstinent from wine and without entertainment for the three days.

Beamless Hall
Despite I think the ancient Chinese were very good in giving poetic name to the buildings and scenic places, this is what it is - Beamless Hall. The hall is supported by a brick dome without any beams.

That placard board in is Emperor Qianlong's handwriting :)

Tiantan overall is much quieter comparatively to Forbidden City. I am not sure if this has anything to do with our visiting time or it just is. This Fasting Palace is even quieter, I think we have only met 3 or 4 visitors in this area. After visiting this palace, sis said we could actually forgo this area but I actually rather like this area. I find it calm and peaceful for a change. ^ ^

Edit 20/05/13: I misunderstood, sis actually meant the Hall of Ceremonial Music instead of Zhaigong could be missed (combo ticket with Zhaigong). There were an exhibit on all the Ming and Qing emperors, complete with a picture and brief description which was not shown elsewhere.

Nowadays, it serve as a park to the general public. Along the long corridor leading towards those magnificent halls, there were people playing poker, or having a game of chess, or trying to make some sell of some souvenirs while snacking. At the side were some people doing line dancing or kick jianzi.

We had our little snack as well ^ ^

Roasted sweet potato.. simple but yummy

Side note: Jetstar birthday sales - but how come no international destinations? :(

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  1. Still a good look panorama regardless!

    1. Thanks! But credit to the awesome place itself ^ ^

  2. I didn't know about this temple at all, but now that I do ... wow! Impressive and intimidating and peaceful, all at the same time.

    PS: I agree with you about roasted sweet potato! ^^

    1. Impressive and intimidating and peaceful -- very apt descriptions!