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Temple of Heaven

Listed under Temples in Beijing, China.

  • Photo of Temple of Heaven
  • Photo of Temple of Heaven
  • Photo of Temple of Heaven
  • Photo of Temple of Heaven
Photo of Temple of Heaven
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I like to think of myself as a traveller rather than a tourist - I think a lot of us do, but it can be hard not to fall into the tourist traps - especially when you’re lured in by people who speak the same language as you do in a city where the language sounds lovely but like it’s totally devoid of punctuation. But there are certain sights that both the visitor looking to ‘find’ a place and the tourist looking to ’see’ it will meet up at, and Beijing’s Temple of Heaven is one of those places on everyone’s ‘must do’ list, so there I was standing in awe at the construction of something so entirely original that each piece of its roof fits perfectly together without the need for nails, and around me Chinese senior citizens in red hats are asking to have their photo taken with me. But it’s all fun and I’m quite honoured to have my photo taken with them in front of something so beautiful and strongly tied to their culture. After all this is quite a cool experience for me in itself, as are the rogue temple cats who prowl the grounds, the many security people who seem so relaxed in their roles that one of them was actually hiding behind a stone prayer pillar in the Hall of Echos, and the fantastic woman who began an impromptu set of tai chi moves in the Temple of Heaven courtyard. Without seeing these things I would still have seen a beautifully constructed, in the round on three tiers, carefully decorated, in blues, greens and golds, set on a raised marble three tiered dais, all hand carved about two hundred and fifty years ago, temple, but this was real life. And one of the Red Seniors pointed out to me that each of the many, many gold dragons on the roof had had its eyes delicately painted in to look like the googly eyes on a toy, which was a brilliant discovery and one only available to people with enough zoom on their cameras, or those who have the knowledge passed on to them. Suffice to say that I did check a lot of dragons after that and they all had painted eyes as I was promised.

It’s an auspicious spot, the point where heaven and earth are supposed to meet up and I thought everyone was surprisingly relaxed for something with such a grand cultural story, but despite the people loitering all over the marble stairs and pretty girls having their photos taken by their men - not to mention people having their photo taken with me - there was an attitude of relaxed interest but none of the quiet shushing I heard in my head when I looked at it - it is really very beautiful - so I was touched to see fantastic tai chi woman start up her moves and I’m sure she was at least as impressed as I was with the significance of the things this spot and building represent. All the temples line up perfectly and if you enter from the North Gate like I did you may find that you’ve done the highlight first and only get to see the grand approach to the temple when you’re walking away from it.

Written by  Kat Mackintosh.

Other expert and press reviews

“Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing”

"The Temple of Heaven, founded in the first half of the 15th century, is a dignified complex of fine cult buildings set in gardens and surrounded by historic pine woods. In its overall layout and that of its individual buildings, it symbolizes the … Read more...

Written by press.

“All the chi in China”

BY: Stanley Stewart for The Sunday Times First Published: March 9, 2008 In the grey stillness of predawn, I followed the silent figures ghosting down Beijing’s long avenues towards the Temple of Heaven. They were on foot or on bicycles, alone or in co… Read more...

Written by press. Continue reading on

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Temple of Heaven

Located in southern Beijing amongst a vast complex of ancient sacrificial buildings, the Temple of Heaven was built for China’s emperors, to allow them to worship heaven. It has three shallow, cone-shaped levels to its roof which point up to the sky and seem to reflect it in their blue-glazed tiles. These shelter an enormous hall with a polished echo wall and a ‘Center of Heaven’ stone, which vibrates with the voice of whoever stands on it to speak. It contains two altars, the largest of which is 38 metres high.

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