Best time to visit Beijing

Temple of Heaven in Beijing

The largest ancient sacrificial complex in China

Best time: March–June | September–November (all year round)

Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven
Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven was where emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties held the ceremonies to worship Heaven and Earth and pray for good grain harvest. The regular worship practice is known to be originated back in about 2,000 BC in the Xia Dynasty. As Chinese emperors called themselves the Sons of Heaven and they immensely adored heaven and earth, the worship played a significant role in royal life.

The Temple of Heaven is famous for the geometric layout, unique structures, and brilliant decorations. UNESCO listed it as the world heritage site in 1998. It occupies an area of 270 hectares (667 acres), which is divided by an inner temple and an outer temple. One of the key architectural elements is the inner temple, which is composed of two parts—south and north. The Circular Mound Altar (Huanqiu Tan) and the Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiong Yu) are located in the south while the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (Qinian Dian) and the Hall of Imperial Zenith (Huangqian Dian) are in the north. The Red Stairway Bridge (Danbi Qiao) connects the two parts into a whole. The outer temple encircles the inner one and is surrounded by ancient cypresses, which makes the entire temple look more magnificent.

The structure of the Temple of Heaven also reflects the Yin and Yang theory, which reflects the harmony of the universe. As ancient people believed the sky was orbicular and the earth was rectangular, the southern wall in the temple was designed in a circular shape while the northern one became rectangular. Some constructions take advantage of the acoustics, such as Echo Wall and three-tone stone. These forms all show the advanced level of Chinese ancient architecture crafts.

Spring and autumn are the best time to visit the Temple of Heaven as the temperature during this time in Beijing is the most pleasant. Winters tend to be cold, but at this time of the year you are more likely to enjoy some solitude and to hear the echoes of the temple. In summer, opening hours are longer. If you visit it in the morning at about 7 am, especially on Sunday, you could see the local people practicing tai chi, singing, and playing chess. Later in the morning, visitor crowds start congesting the entrance, and the atmosphere is not as appealing as during the early morning hours.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit the Temple of Heaven?

Visiting the Temple of Heaven is most pleasant during spring and autumn, which is from March to June and September to November. The temperature is mild and comfortable during these months. While winter is colder, it is still serene with extraordinary acoustics. Summer period is highly crowded, and morning visits would suffice for a better experience. Show more

Where is the Temple of Heaven located in Beijing?

The Temple of Heaven comprises 670 acres and is located in the southeastern area of Beijing, in Chongwen District. You can access the temple via various public transportation such as subway lines 5 and 8, bus lines 17, 41, 43, 60, 116, 120, 122, 525, and more. The exact location is at Tian Tan Road, Dongcheng District, Beijing. Show more

What is the historical significance of holding sacrificial ceremonies in the Temple of Heaven?

To honor heaven and pray for good harvests, the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties carried out annual sacrificial ceremonies at the Temple of Heaven, an essential event of the year. This act confirmed an emperor's mandate of heaven along with crucial responsibilities as a ruler. An elaborate process was followed, which included rules and regulations and other participants, indicating a unique social order in ancient China. Show more

What is the story behind the unique geometric layout and architecture of the Temple of Heaven?

Aligned with feng shui and the Yin and Yang theory, the Temple of Heaven was constructed. This design symbolizes the universe's balance. The Hall of prayer for good harvests represents royalty and sits atop the Temple of Heaven, while the circular mound altar represents heavenly unity. The imperial vault of heaven's square-shaped design personifies the earth. The Echo Wall and the Three-tone stone are resonant structures, revealing advanced Acoustical knowledge of ancient China. Show more

Are there any special activities or events in the Temple of Heaven that visitors should not miss out on?

The morning workout routine, including Tai Chi, singing and playing chess among the locals, is a great sight to behold, exposing the Chinese culture and lifestyle. There are also musical and dance performances and art exhibitions periodically, with Kite festivals showcasing the real talent of the Chinese people. Engaging a local guide within the temple would provide an in-depth understanding of the intricate details and full appreciation of the Temple of Heaven's beauty and significance. Show more

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