Temple of Heaven 天坛


Chinese Name: 天坛

English Name: The Temple of Heaven;Tian Tan

Location: Beijing

Type: Ancient culture and art

Rating Level: AAAAA (5A)

Website: 北京天坛 (tiantanpark.com)

Temple of Heaven 天坛
The Temple of Heaven 天坛

Brief Introduction

The Temple of Heaven 天坛 is the place where the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties prayed during annual ceremonies to Heaven for a good harvest, located on the east side of the Zhengyang Gate 正阳门. The altar area is round in the north and square in the south, which means “The sky is round and the earth is square” 天圆地方. The whole altar is divided into two parts, the inner altar, and the outer altar, with a total area of 273 hectares, and the main buildings are concentrated in the inner altar.

On July 12, 2018, Tian Tan Park increased its open area by 2.24 hectares. In September 2018, the maximum daily capacity of the park was lowered from 58,000 to 50,000.

Temple of Heaven 天坛
The Temple of Heaven map

According to historical records, there were formal sacrifices dating back to the Two Thousand Years BC, when the Xia Dynasty was still a slave society. Ancient Chinese emperors called themselves “Sons of Heaven” 天子, and they had great reverence for heaven and earth.

The Temple of Heaven was built in the eighteenth year of Ming Yongle 永乐 (1420) in the shape of Nanjing. In the ninth year of Jiajing 嘉靖 (1530), the emperor decided to sacrifice heaven and earth respectively and built a circular hill 寰丘 to worship the heavens in the south of the Da Si Dian大祀殿. Therefore, another Fangze 方泽 altar was built outside the Anding Gate 安定门 of the North City.

Temple of Heaven 天坛
The Temple of Heaven 天坛

In the thirteenth year of Jiajing (1534), the circular hill has been renamed the Temple of Heaven, and Fang Ze was renamed the Temple of Earth地坛. After the great ancestral hall was abandoned, it was changed to a Prayer Valley Altar祈谷坛. In the seventeenth year of Jiajing (1538), the Prayer Valley Altar was abolished, and in the nineteenth year, another The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests 祈年殿 was built on the altar, and it was completed in twenty-four years.

What are worth visiting and seeing?


The Temple of Heaven is the largest sacrificial complex in the world. It has two walls, which divide the Temple of Heaven into two parts: the inner altar and the outer altar. The main building is concentrated on the inner altar. Tian Tan is mainly built on the north-south axis of the inner temple. To the south is the Circular Hill Altar 寰丘坛, and to the north is the Qi Gu Altar 祈谷坛, separated by a wall in the middle. The two altars are connected by a Dan Bi Bridge 丹陛桥 that is 360 meters long, nearly 30 meters wide, and low in the south and high in the north.

Temple of Heaven 天坛
The Temple of Heaven 天坛

There are 4 “Longjing Pillars” 龙井柱 in the middle of The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests 祈年殿, symbolizing the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter of the year; the twelve large pillars in the middle are slightly thinner than the Longjing Pillars, named The Golden Pillar 金柱, which symbolizes the 12 months of the year; the outer 12 pillars are called Yan Pillars 檐柱, symbolizing the 12 hours of the day. There are 24 columns in total, symbolizing the 24 solar terms.

Temple of Heaven 天坛
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests 祈年殿

The Circular Mound Altar 圜丘坛 is the altar proper, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. The numbers of various elements of the Altar, including its balusters and steps, are either the sacred number nine or its multiples. 

Temple of Heaven 天坛
The Circular Mound Altar 圜丘坛

The Imperial Vault 皇穹宇 is located north of the Circular Hill Altar, which is a place dedicated to the altar of the Circular Hill and a place to store the sacrificial tablets. It was founded in the ninth year of Ming Jiajing (1530), initially named TaiShen Temple 泰神殿, and renamed Imperial Vault in the seventeenth year of Jiajing (1538). Originally a circular building with heavy eaves, it was the main hall of the circular hill altar and was rebuilt into the current single eaves style in the seventeenth year of the Qianlong Dynasty (1752).

Temple of Heaven 天坛
The Imperial Vault of Heaven 皇穹宇

World Heritage Site

In 1998, the Temple of Heaven was recognized by UNESCO as a “World Cultural Heritage”.

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 relationship between earth and heaven – the human world and God’s world – which stands at the heart of Chinese cosmogony, and also the special role played by the emperors within that relationship.

Temple of Heaven 天坛
The Temple of Heaven 天坛

As a cultural act of human beings praying to the gods for blessings and disaster reduction, the sacrifice of heaven was once an important part of the lives of ancient Chinese ancestors. From the time of the legendary “Three Emperors and Five Emperors” to the end of the Qing Dynasty, China has been holding ceremonies to worship the heavens, which has lasted for about 5,000 years, which can be described as a long history.

The Temple of Heaven and Tiantan Park in Beijing

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