Temple of Heaven

Beijing's Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) is a huge park complex of about 2,700,000 square meters, making it over 3 times bigger than the Forbidden City. Originally called the Temple of Heaven and Earth it was built between 1406-1420 at the same time as the Forbidden City by Emperor Yongle and was made bigger because the Emperor did not want his residence larger that that of Heavens. Emperor Jiajing 1522-1567 of the Ming Dynasty renamed it and built separate temples for the earth, sun and moon.

Construction of the temple is based on ancient Chinese symbolism and numerology. The main buildings are round and built on square courts which symbolized the belief of a round sky over a square earth. Similarly the north of the complex is a semicircle and the south is square.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is the most impressive building. Burnt in 1889 it was rebuilt and is noted for being constructed of wood with no nails used. 38 meters tall, inside there are 4 pillars representing the seasons and 12 pillars for the months. Beautifully decorated, it is where the Emperor would go each Winter solstice to pray for a good harvest.

The Circular Mound Altar was built in 1530 as a place to worship heaven during the winter solstice and consists of three marble tiers. Number 9 was considered a special number and in the altar's construction you can see many instances where it is used. The Imperial Vault of Heaven is the other main building, which was used to house memorial tablets. The Echo Wall surrounds it and is famous because its design allows a whisper at one end be heard at the other.