Built by the Ming emperor Yongle in 1420, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is a masterpiece of Chinese religious architecture. The hall was one of many altars inside the kingdom’s largest complex for ritual sacrifice, the Temple of Heaven, or Tiantan. Twenty-two emperors came here to make sacrifices to heaven, affirming their divine role as ruler and shaman. Nowadays, in the Long Corridor through which ritual offerings once passed, crowds of retirees play poker, Hacky Sack and the two-stringed erhu.


The Temple of Heaven was constructed between 1406 and 1420 during the reign of Ming Emperor YongLe (1403-1424), who also oversaw the creation of the Forbidden City during the same period.

The Temple of Heaven was originally established as the Temple of Heaven and Earth, but was given its current name during the reign of Ming Emperor JiaJing (1522-1567), who built separate complexes for the earth, sun and moon. The Temple of Earth (DiTan) can be found in north Beijing. The temples of the sun and moon are in the east and west of Beijing.

The Temple of Heaven was renovated again during the reign of Qing Emperor QianLong (1736-1795).

In 1998, the Temple of Heaven was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In early 2005, the Temple of Heaven underwent a 47 million yuan (6 million USD) renovation that was completed on May 1st, 2006.

Architecture and Layout

The architecture and layout of the Temple of Heaven is based on elaborate symbolism and numerology.

In accordance with principles dating back to pre-Confucian times, the buildings in the Temple of Heaven are round, like Heaven (one can imagine the sky as like a rounded dome), while the foundations and axes of the complex are square (or 2 dimensional – that is, flat), like the earth (appears to be).

Thus, the buildings and their settings reflect ancient Chinese religious beliefs that imagine heaven as round and earth as square. The main buildings in the Temple of Heaven are constructed on a central north-south axis. The altar and temple are round and sit within square shaped areas.

Similarly, the northern part of the park is semicircular in shape while the southern part is square. The two parts are divided by a wall that has a semi-circular obtrusion in the middle around the Imperial Vault. This echos the shape of the park as a whole.

Similarly, the roofs of the important structures in the Temple of Heaven are tiled in blue, the color symbolizing heaven and sky (just as golden yellow symbolizes the emperor and green Buddhism).

The symbolism at the Temple of Heaven was necessary because it served as the place where the emperor, as the ‘Son of Heaven’, directly beseeched Heaven to provide a bountiful harvest throughout the land. This was of great importance because during the imperial period agriculture was the foundation of China’s wealth.

The Temple of Heaven, with its ancient cosmological basis, in turn helped to reinforce the legitemacy of the emperor’s role as head of a feudal system with a mandate from Heaven. In showing respect to Heaven through prayer and sacrifices, the emperor effectively emphasized the source of his authority.
The Temple of Heaven Today

The Temple of Heaven has been converted into a park that is popular both with tourists and residents alike.

The park was first opened to the public in 1912 and commoners who had previously been banned from even watching the emperor’s procession pass through the city to Tiantan, were now permitted to visit the Temple of Heaven themselves.

Travel Tips

Opening Hours: 06:00 to 20:00

Ticket : CNY 30 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31)   CNY 35 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31)


Bus No.s 17, 54, or trolley bus No. 106 or 120 reach its west gate; Bus No.s 6 and 35 reach its north gate and trolley buses No.s 120 and 122, and Bus No. 803 reach its south gate;
Virtual Guide

Travel guide

The Temple of Heaven is an outstanding representative of Chinese traditional architecture for its clever design and harmoneous colors.

Inside the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest
The pillars inside the hall all have a meaning: the four in the inner circle represent the four seasons of the year; the 12 pillars in the middle circle represent 12 months of the year and the 12 pillars in the outer circle represent 12 time periods of the day. The Leigong Pillar under the center of the ceiling means the absolute power of the emperor.

Echo Wall
The circular wall surrounding the Imperial Vault of Heaven is 193.2 meters long, 3.7 meters high and 0.9 meter thick. If one speaks against the wall at one end another can hear his voice at other end of it.

Three-Echoes Stone
It is the third stone slab on the path in front of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. When one stands on it and claps his hands three or more echoes seem to emit from the stone. It can cause such echoes because it is located in the middle under the Echo Wall. It was made mysterious in the old days by the rulers to prevent gossiping against them.

Circular Mound Altar
Also known Heaven Mound Altar, it is five meters high and of three tiers. Around each tier there are white marble balusters. During the Ming and Qing dynasties in early winter the emperor would come to this mound to pay homage to heaven and pray for peace and a good harvest.

Heart of Heavenly Stone
The stone placed in the center of the top tier the Circular Mound Altar. Around it there are nine circles, each with nine stones, altogether 3,402 pieces. They are of idential size and appearance and put closely together. They have remained intact during the past several hundred years. When people stand on the Heart of Heavenly Stone and shout echoes will be heard.

Address: Qian Men Dajie Chongwen District Beijing 100050 China
Entry Tickte:CNY 30 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31) CNY 35 (Apr. 1 to Oct. 31)
Tel: 8610 6702 8866