Temple of Heaven – When my parents and nephew came to visit me in Beijing, I brought them over for a tour of this temple. Honestly, I have never been interested in visiting places of worship and in Singapore (where I reside previously), I tend to avoid them.
I did not have a choice here in Beijing. This is especially so when my parents told me that they have watched a documentary about the Temple of Heaven on TV and was dying to catch a glimpse of its grandeur.
A little brief history of the place…
Beijing Temple of Heaven
The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 with a total area of 270 acres. It is the largest building for religious worship in China. The temple was used by the Ming and Qing emperors to pay homage to Heaven were inside the gate and walking towards the Qinian Hall area, we saw many people entertaining each other with music, or just playing cards or doing exercises in small groups. They seem so happy and contented.
Most of them were practicing Tai Chi (a kind of martial arts) and they were doing their moves in unison. It was really cool!
My naughty nephew started mimicking them. My parents were trying their best to stop him from being a nuisance and many passer-bys were laughing at him. I guess I was like him when I was young so I didn’t bother.
There were quite a few exhibitions within the temple. We saw the exhibits of the former Emperors’ robes, the dinning room of the Emperors and also took a long walk around the very well-maintained gardens within the vicinity.
You will see what I have described in the Video Clip below
I forgot to mention that we had a guide to show us around and she told us many stories and historical facts about the Temple of Heaven in English.
Her name is Cherry and a beauty too!
Within the Temple of Heaven, there are many buildings named for their specific purpose. They are:
Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests
Hall of Heavenly Emperor
Circular Mound Altar
the Imperial Vault of Heaven
the Abstinence Hall
the Beamless Hall
the Long Corridor
the Longevity Pavilion
the Echo Wall
the Three Echo Stones and
the Seven Meteoric Stones
Let’s visit the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. According to Cherry, after the reign of Emperor Yongle in the Ming Dynasty, the emperors had tomake personal appearance at the Temple 3 times a year. On the day of Shangxin in the first lunar month, he would hold the ceremony named Baguli in the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, praying for abundantharvest of cereal crops.
Beijing Temple of Heaven
About the Circular Mound Altar (built in 1530; rebuilt 1749), Cherry told us that on the auspicious day inApril, the reigning Emperor would hold a ceremony named Dianli in the Circular Mound Altar, praying for rain; on Winter Solstice, he would hold the last ceremony named Gaosidi this year in the Circular Mound Altar, reporting to the Heaven that there was a good harvest this year.
Basically, as the Emperor, you are the bridge to the Gods above and your prayers and loyalty to the Gods would ensure plentiful harvests and prosperity for all.
For me, the only Circular Mounds I was thinking then were….
Anyway, my dear Cherry also said that the whole architecture of Temple of Heaven was designed and built according to Feng Shui. She said thatancient Taoist Feng Shui masters determined that if one wants to communicate with Heaven, one should step upon the center of the round altar – considered the acupuncture point of ch’I (literally meaningEnergy) in China.
To me, it’s just ancient Chinese hogwash!
Here are some more trivia facts:
Do you know that The Altar of Heaven was constructed with details representing the number 9, the representative number of the Emperor?
Do you know that if you stand at the centre of the platform and clap your hands, you can hear the echo because of the concavity of the surrounding wall? Everyone was doing so when I was there. Morons!
Do you know that The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests was built without a single nail?
Do you know why it is called an ‘Echo Wall’? This is because a person at one end of the wall can hear the voice of a person at the other end of the wall. Try it out!
Well, end of the tour …
Though I did not really enjoy the temple tour (I guess I was more interested in the guide than the place), I have to admit that it’s really grand. My parents enjoyed the whole tour and said that they will visit the Temple again on their next trip.
As for my nephew, I think he rather play sword-fighting with the senior citizens practicing their moves outside the Temple of Heaven!
NOTE: The Management at the Temple of Heaven is working on wheelchair access, and many of the steps now have ramps, although the smaller buildings will remain inaccessible. I guess it is a matter of time before even these are made wheelchair-friendly. Great!
Temple of Heaven Beijing Info:
Address: Qian Men Dajie, Chongwen District Beijing 100050 China
Tel: 010 6702 8866
Opening Hours: 6:00 to 20:00
Admission Fee: 30 RMB (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31) 35 RMB (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31)