Temple of Heaven is located in the south-east of the Forbidden City. It covers an area of 273 hectares which is four times larger than the Forbidden City. It was used to hold a memorial ceremony for the God in Winter Solstice Festival and to pray for harvest in the first month of the lunar year by the emperors in Ming and Qing dynasties. It is China's existing largest structure for sacrifice to heaven.
The Temple of Heaven in Beijing was included in the World Heritage List in 1998. About the World Heritage Committee on the evaluation of the Temple of Heaven: Beijing Temple of Heaven was built in the first half of the AD 15th century. It is located in the royal gardens and surrounded by ancient pines. It is well-preserved Altars buildings. No matter in the whole layout or individual building, it reflects the relationship between heaven and the earth, and this relationship occupied a central position in the ancient Chinese cosmology. At the same time, these buildings reflect the emperors' unique role in this relationship.
• The reasons for the World Heritage:
1) The Temple of Heaven is one of the accumulation of the Chinese civilization.
2) The buildings in the Temple of Heaven everywhere show the specific meaning and a symbol of artistic expression in ancient China.
3) Temple of Heaven collects ancient philosophy, history, mathematics, mechanics, aesthetics, ecology together, it is the masterpiece of ancient times.
According to historical records, the history of ancient Chinese activities of formal worship heaven and earth can be dated back to the second millennium BC, which was in the Xia Dynasty. Ancient Chinese emperors claimed to be the "Son of Heaven", they extremely respected the heaven. The history of each emperor regarded as a very important political activity of sacrifice the heaven and earth. And the worship building played a decisive role in the construction of imperial capital. They would concentrate manpower, material and financial resources to build to the highest technical level and the most perfect building.
The construction of the Temple of Heaven was in the late feudal society, it was the most representative works in many worship buildings. Temple of Heaven is not only the pearl of ancient Chinese architecture, it is a gem of architectural history of the world. The Temple of Heaven was first built in Ming Dynasty Yongle 18 Year (1420). The Emperor Zhu Di used 14 years to finish the construction along with the construction of Forbidden City. It was named Temple of Heaven and Earth at that time. In Ming Dynasty Emperor Jiajing 9 Year (1530), it was renamed as the "Temple of Heaven". Through the reconstruction of the Qing Dynasty Qianlong Emperor and Guangxu Emperor, it hence formed of the existing pattern of the Temple of Heaven Park.
Temple of Heaven has the layout of the rectangular-ambulatory-plane, consisting of two altar wall which is divided into the inner altar and the outer altar. The outside altar wall has the total length of 6416 m and the inner wall has the total length of 3292 m. The southernmost wall is square which symbolizes the earth, the most northern wall is semi-circular which is a symbol of the heaven. High in the north and low in the south means high in the heaven and low in the earth, also means orbicular sky and rectangular earth.
The main building of the Temple of Heaven focuses on the northern and southern ends of the altar in the axis, which is linked by a wide Danbi Bridge; and from south to north, there is the Circular Mound Altar, Imperial Heavenly Vault, etc. which are cleverly designed and superbly constructed.
Temple of Heaven in Winter
【Circular Mound Altar】
Located in the south of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, Circular Mound Altar is a place that the emperor uses for holding the Heaven Worshipping Ceremony in winter solstice (one of the Chinese twenty-four solar terms, usually on September 9th of the Lunar Calendar). So it is also known as Worship Altar. The main buildings here include a circular mound, Imperial Vault of Heaven and its side halls, Shenchu, Sanku and slaughter pavilion.
【Imperial Vault of Heaven】
Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huang Qiong Yu) is located inside the Temple of Heaven, north of Circular Mound Altar. It is a hall that places the memorial tablets on behalf of God and the emperor's ancestors. It was originally built in 1530 in Ming Dynasty. It was a rotunda and named Taishen Hall at the beginning, being the main hall of the Circular Mound Altar. It was renamed "Imperial Vault of Heaven." in 1538. To Qing Dynasty in 1752, it was reconstructed by the emperor Qianlong.
Echo Wall is a round wall outside the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is 3.72 meters high, 0.9 meters thick, 5.2 meters in diameter and 193.2 m in circumference. It has sound transmission effect. If one speaks inside the wall, the sound will echo for many times, which made people confused in ancient time. People could not scientifically explain this phenomenon for a long time.
【Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests】
Located in the north ofTemple of Heaven, Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (Qi Nian Dian) is the main building of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. It has a three-storied circular roof with dark blue. These roofs are paved with blue glazed tiles. For the sky is blue, thus it symbolizes the Heaven. It is 38 meters high and 32 meters in diameter. The whole building is like an open umbrella. The excellent feature of it is that it full weight is supported by 28 huge Nanmu pillars, wood nails and the mutual linking of the material, cleverly using the mechanics principle. All these 28 pillars have their symbolic meanings. The innermost four huge pillars, which are 19.2 meters high and 1.2 meters in diameter, symbolizes the four seasons, spring, summer autumn and winter. The 12 ones in the middle of the house symbolize twelve months of a year. At last, the outer 12 pillars symbolize 12 two-hour periods in a day.
【Hall of Abstinence】
It is sited inside the West door of the Temple of Heaven, covering about 40,000 square meters. It has double walls and the interior wall is surrounded by a long corridor which is a shelter place for soldiers. The main hall is a special architecture with non-beam, which is a famous building in Beijing. The roof of the hall is covered with blue glazed tiles, which means that human beings should show awe to the Heaven. In front of the main hall lies the Time Pavilion (Shicheng Pavilion) and Abstinence Pavilion (Zhaijie Pavilion). There is a figure of abstinence in the Abstinence Pavilion, which is 1.5 feet tall, dressed in robes of ancient culture, handholding a bronze sign with “ Zhaijie” (that means Abstinence). Behind the main hall are five chambers. They were a worship place for the emperor to abstain from meat, wine, etc.