temple of heaven

so… after 2 years in china, we finally decided to visit beijing last week! it was a good choice to wait for this long, i think. after the olympics, a lot of historic monuments were at their finest in years, and we were able to enjoy everything without the crowds – or the olympic paranoia. so, we hopped on a D train late last thursday, and off we went. friday morning the sky was cloudy and it had just rained, but there was lots of wind which cleared out the clouds in the afternoon (and after that we had nothing but blue skies in beijing. how lucky is that?)

our first stop was the temple of heaven (天坛 or tiāntán), @ tiantandongmen metro station, line 5. it consists of 3 main groups of buildings that were once used by the emperors to pray for good harvests, in a very big park.

temple of heaven

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 32 metres in diameter and 38 metres tall, built on three levels of marble stone base, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. The building is completely wooden, with no nails.

temple of heaven
temple of heaven

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 meter long raised walkway that slowly ascends from the Vault to the Hall of Prayer.

it's that great!


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, where the Emperor prayed for favorable weather. It was built in 1530 by the Jiajing Emperor and rebuilt in 1740.


meanwhile, oblivious to the hordes of tourists around them, thousands of people spread around the park, singing, dancing, playing odd instruments, practicing kung fu and tai chi or just doing their thing. it was mighty impressive. i caught this choir practicing, their singing could be heard from far away:

amazing, isn’t it? i was stoked! excuse my lame video skills, and if you know which song they’re singing, speak up! i can only catch “ni shi shei?” but not much more… (our “taiwanese refugee” TC says it sounds communist though…)

et voilà!

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