Address: 1 Tiantan E Rd, Dongcheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China
Built by: Yongle Emperor
Designated as world heritage site: 1998 (22nd session)
This is an imperial complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of centraltemple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century
The Temple grounds cover 2.73 km² of parkland and comprises three main groups of constructions, all built according to strict philosophical requirements:
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 36 meters in diameter and 38 meters tall, built on three levels of marble stone base, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. The building is completely wooden, with no nails. The original building was burned down by a fire caused by lightning in 1889. The current building was re-built several years after the incident.
The Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇) is a single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone base. It is located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and resembles it, but is smaller. It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall, that can transmit sounds over large distances. The Imperial Vault is connected to the Hall of Prayer by the Vermilion Steps Bridge, a 360-metre-long (1,180 ft) raised walkway that slowly ascends from the Vault to the Hall of Prayer.
The Circular Mound Altar (圜丘坛) is the altar proper, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, each decorated by lavishly carved dragons. The numbers of various elements of the Altar, including its balusters and steps, are either the sacred number nine or its nonuples. The center of the altar is a round slate called the Heart of Heaven (天心石) or the Supreme Yang (太阳石), where the Emperor prayed for favorable weather.
Thanks to the design of the altar, the sound of the prayer will be reflected by the guardrail, creating significant resonance, which was supposed to help the prayer communicate with Heaven. The Altar was built in 1530 by the Jiajing Emperor and rebuilt in 1740.
The surrounding park is quite extensive, with the entire complex totaling 267 hectares (660 acres). Some of it consists of playgrounds, exercise and game areas. These facilities are well used by adults, as well as by parents and grandparents bringing children to play. Some of the open spaces and side buildings are often used, particularly in the morning, for choral shows, ethnic dances, and other presentations