As one of the must-visit sites in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven requires at least half a day to explore its vast offerings.
As I entered the Temple of Heaven 天坛公园 through the West gate from Tianqiao 天桥 metro station Exit C, this began my tranquil journey through the expansive 273-hectare park with a 600+ year history.
Temple of Heaven: a calming half-day tour
Wandering through the park, I encountered groups of spirited seniors engaged in the graceful art of tai chi or just chilling with one another enjoying the serenity of the park.
The air buzzed with the sounds of nature, from the chirping of azure-winged magpies to the playful scurrying of squirrels on the lookout for their next meal.
The affordability of the park tickets, especially when conveniently purchased through platforms like Klook (which included all attractions) for foreigners, made the visit a breeze. I only had to scan my QR code to enter the park, and then again to access the grounds of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests in the middle of the park.
Besides the hall above, other highlights of the visit were the Echo Wall, Round Altar, and the Fasting Palace. As I only had a few hours for a self-guided exploration of the park, I had to brisk walk and make swift visits to each point of interest to cover the vast grounds.
Places to visit at Temple of Heaven
Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests: The iconic centerpiece of the Temple of Heaven, this building with a conical roof was constructed in 1420 without the use of a single nail. Its significance lies in its role as the primary altar for emperors to pray for bountiful harvests, making it a symbol of China’s agrarian heritage and imperial rituals.
Echo Wall and Echo Stones: The circular Echo Wall surrounding the Imperial Vault of Heaven is a marvel of acoustics. Whispering against the wall, your sound can be heard on the opposite side. Nearby, the three rectangular Echo Stones amplify sounds; clap at each stone to hear the echoes.
Round Altar: A raised circular platform, the Round Altar was designed for sacrificial ceremonies. Its circular shape symbolizes the heavens, and the number of balusters on each terrace corresponds to the Chinese cosmological belief in multiples of nine, emphasizing its ritualistic importance.
Imperial Vault of Heaven: The Imperial Vault of Heaven is a majestic round building with a blue-tiled roof and it held wooden spirit tablets used in ceremonies at the Round Altar.
Cypress Grove: The Temple of Heaven is surrounded by a vast cypress grove, with some trees dating back several centuries. These ancient trees are revered for their symbolism of longevity and resilience, and walking through this grove is an immensely tranquil experience.
As with any tourist destination, the Temple of Heaven offers more than just historical marvels. Nestled within its grounds were restaurants and souvenir shops for visitors to rest, dine and shop.
One delightful pitstop was an ice cream cafe near the West entrance of the West Heavenly Gate 西天门, where I indulged in a hot cup of Temple of Heaven Snow Top Passion Fruit tea. Topped with whipped cream and adorned with pink chocolate replicas of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and vibrant flowers, this unique concoction made a cold day much more bearable. The cafe’s charm extended to a wall adorned with colorful post-its, bearing wishes and thoughts from previous patrons.
A short walk from the cafe led me to a friendly souvenir shop, where I discovered mochi molded into intricate shapes inspired by the Temple of Heaven and various plant elements. From flowers to fruits and storage roots, each piece was a delectable work of art, filled with fruit or tea-flavored paste. The offer of a complimentary bracelet with the purchase of three mochi added a sweet touch to this delightful find, reminiscent of the wagashi store I had explored in Tokyo back in March.
My half-day itinerary at the Temple of Heaven was a journey through history and tranquility, and I highly recommend you take a trip to experience the same.
There are entrance and exit gates at the North, South, East and West, with public toilets and benches all around the park. Audio guides are available with deposit.
Information (source) :
1. Opening Hours (four entrances):
- From April 1 to October 31: 6:00-21:00
- From November 1 to March 31 of the coming year: 6:30-20:00
2. Working hours at the scenic spots:
A. The Hall of Prayer for a Good Harvest, the Echo Wall, the Circular Mount Altar, the Divine Music Administration:
- From April 1 to October 31: 8:00-17:30
- From November 1 to March 31 of the coming year: 8:00-17:00
B. The North Divine Kitchen, the North Divine Slaughterhouse, the Fasting Palace: 9:00-16:00
C. All of the scenic spots are closed every Monday