Beijing and China Tour Expert

Temple of Heaven

Beijing Tiantan
  • Built in 1420 during Ming Dynasty, Temple of Heaven is the best preserved and largest sacrificial building complex in the world. The emperor came to the temple every winter to pray for ample harvests and good weather. Strictly built on the basis of philosophical requirements, the temple in many ways features the relationship between Heaven and Earth.


  • ID : 1
  • City : beijing
  • English name : Temple of Heaven
  • Chinese name : 天坛
  • Type : Scenery
  • Theme : Ancient architecture
  • Level : easy
  • Kids : possible
  • Elders: possible
  • Best season : Spring and Autumn
  • Visiting length : 1-3 Hours
  • Distance to city center : 5.5 km

Introduction of Temple of Heaven

  • Temple of Heaven, the first of the five sacrificial temples in Beijing, is situated south of Beijing city. It was first built in 1420, along with the construction of the Forbidden City. The Temple of Heaven covers an area of 273 hectares. It is the best preserved and largest sacrificial building complex in the world. Laid out precisely according to pattern the building structures of the Temple of Heaven are unique in the art of architecture. The whole complex, gorgeously painted and set off by thousands of pine and cypress trees, provides a harmonious atmosphere for sacrificial ceremony as if heaven and earth are integrated into one.

    The main buildings, Circular Mound Altar, Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, stands on a 750 meter long south-north axis. Strictly built on the basis of philosophical requirements, the temple in many ways features the relationship between Heaven and Earth.

Photo of Temple of Heaven

  • This photo of Temple of Heaven shows the main building, Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and Gate of Prayer for Good Harvests.
  • Temple
  • photo size: 1000 * 618px
  • author: Jasper
  • owner: Beijing Xindong International Travel Service Co,.LTD
  • category: Beijing attraction photo

Highlights of visiting Beijing Temple of Heaven

    Hall of prayer for Good Harvests, Circular Mound Altar, Echo Wall, Divine Music Hall, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, Hall of Abstinence, Triple-sound Stone

Helper to visit Temple of Heaven

  • Address in English : NO.7 Dongli, Tiantan Nei, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China
  • Address in Chinese : 北京市东城区天坛内东里7号
  • Tel : +8610-67012483
  • Post code : 100061
  • Ticket time : 8:00-16:30(April 1st - October 31st ),8:00-16:00( November 1st - March 31st)
  • Open time : 8:00-17:30(April 1st - October 31st ),8:00-17:00( November 1st - March 31st)
  • Closing time : Null
  • Location : Temple of Heaven is around 5.5 km to downtown beijing
    • Transportation
      • Subway: Gate c, TianQiao Station of Line 8 or Gate A, TiantanDongmen Station of Line 5
      • Public bus:
        • 6, 34,35,36,72,106,or110 (TiantanBeimen Station)
        • 2,20,36,53,71,72,90,93,120,0r622(TiantanXimen Station)
        • 36,53,62,122,525,or958(TiantanNanmen Station)
        • 6,34,35,36,39,41,43,60,72,116,128,525,599,or684(Fahuasi Station)
        • 54,957,or958(Tiantan Stadium Station)
    • Private car is the best method if you visit Temple of Heaven with local tour operator.

Season and Admission

  • High season : 35 RMB/person.
  • Shoulder season : 35 RMB/person.
  • Shoulder season : 35 RMB/person.

Hotels near Temple of Heaven

Hotel Near Temple of Heaven

  • Five star/duluxe hotel
  • Capital Hotel
  • Beijing Hotel
  • New World Beijing Hotel
  • The Emperor Beijing Tiananmen
  • Grand Hyatt Beijing
  • Four star/superior hotel
  • Novotel Beijing Xinqiao
  • Jingtailong Plaza Hotel
  • Tiantan Hotel
  • Xinmingji Hotel (Beijing Qianmen)
  • Dongjiao Minxiang Hotel
  • Three star/comfort hotel
  • King's Joy Hotel Beijing (Beijing Tian'anmen)
  • Chongwenmen Hotel
  • RJ Brown Hotel
  • Orange Hotel Select (Beijing Tiantan)
  • Days Inn Forbidden City Beijing

Map of Temple of Heaven

  • The Temple of Heaven is located in the south of downtown Beijing,near Beijing Railway Station,not far from Tian 'anmen.
  • Temple
  • map size: 1000 * 618px
  • author: echo
  • owner: Beijing Xindong International Travel Service Co,.LTD
  • category: Beijing attraction map
  • History of Temple of Heaven
  • Temple of Heaven was initially built as the Temple of Heaven and Earth in 1420, the 18th year of Emperor Yongle's reign, Ming Dynasty. Moving his capital from Nanjing to Beijing in the early days of the Ming, Emperor Yongle built in Beijing the Temple of Heaven and Earth on the model of the one in Nanjing, which was used for offering sacrifices to both heaven and earth. The ceremony was held in the Hall of Great Sacrifice. After the Hall of Great Sacrifice was abandoned, it was changed to the Atar of Prayer for Grain. The Atar of Prayer for Grain was abandoned in 1538, and the Hall of Great Enjoyment was built in its place. In 1751 during the Ming Dynasty, the Hall of Great Enjoyment was renamed the Hall of Prayer, which was repaired and expanded several times afterwards.

    The early version of the building was not as large as the present one. The southern half was added in 1530, the ninth year of Emperor Jiajing's reign in the same dynasty, forming two altars with the Altar of Prayer for Good Harvests in the north and the Circular Mound Altar in the south, linked up by a long platform called "Dianbiqiao". The platform, 30 meters in width, paved with large bricks, stretches 360 meters from north to south.
    The historical value of the Temple of Heaven lies also in over 3000 cypresses of about 600 years old, which are full of life. When you touch and feel the knars and traces left on barks due to long years of weathering and erosion, you will admire their tenacity of life.
  • Function of Temple of Heaven
  • Temple of Heaven was the place where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties (about seven hundred years ago) came to perform worship to the God of Heaven and pray for good harvests. They came to the temple twice a year, on the 15th day of the first lunar month and on winter solstice respectively. If there happened to be a drought, they would come on summer solstice to pray for rainfall.
    Chinese emperors usually paid strong veneration to Heaven, the Supreme Being that governed the universe. They considered themselves the "sons of heaven" and showed great concern over the rituals of heaven worship. Since the 19th year of Yongle period of Ming Dynasty (1420), a total of 22 emperors had came to the Temple of Heaven to worship the heaven and pray for ample harvests. In early Ming Dynasty, both heaven and earth were worshipped here. After the Temple of Earth was built in 1530, Heaven alone was bowed down here.

    The worship of heaven first took place in the western Zhou Dynasty (11th centuryBC-770BC), and became a routine during the Han period (206BC-220AD). One of the latest events of heaven worship was held in 1915 by the Yuan Shikai. In 1918, however, the Temple of Heaven was turned into park and opened to the public.

Question or Comment

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    • Ritual of Temple of Heaven
    • As a kind of cultural activity that human beings prayed for the blessing of the gods, worshiping the God of Heaven was very important for the ancient Chinese people. According to historical records, the Heaven Worship Ceremony held in the Temple of Heaven was one of the main sacrifice activities in the Ming and Qing Dynasty. The etiquette is extremely grand and complicated. The emperor came to Zhaigong (Hall of Abstinence) three days before the ceremony of praying for good harvests. During the reign of Emperor Yongzheng (1723-1735,) a new hall of the same capacity was built inside the Forbidden City so that the emperor was able to come to the Temple of Heaven only on the last day of abstinence, sometimes even at the last hours of it.
      On the day of the ceremony, the emperor would leave the Hall of Abstinence before sunrise with the chining of the supreme Harmony Bell. He entered the tent on the way to the altar and put on his ceremonial garment. Incense, twigs of pine and cypress trees was burned to cause the flame and smoke to rise high and permeate all over the altar. Drums began to be struck up in company with other musical instruments thus inaugurating the ceremony.

      Then the tablet of God of Heaven in the hall, placed in a dragon pavilion, was to be carried away directly to the Hall of prayer for good Harvests in front, and placed in a shrine while other tablets were to be placed on the stone platform. The emperor would also go to the kitchen and storehouse to make sure that everything was ready for the rituals. Then he would be back to the Hall of Abstinence.
      The ceremony took place early in the morning. After putting on his ceremonial garment on a dressing platform, the emperor went solemnly to the hall where he would stand on the Stone of Dragon and Phoenix to announce the inauguration of the event and kneel down three times to kowtow, which is the highest Chinese salute in ancient times. Outside the hall and below the steps stood royal members as well as civil and military officials who followed suit as the ceremony went on. It was really a grand view when twigs cut from pines and cypress trees were burned in censers in the courtyard. The flames rose up into the sky while light smoke curled around gently. Then music and dance began to accompany the on-going ritual performance and usher in the climax of ignition of sacrificial items. The emperor watched the fire and bid farewell to the God of Heaven.
      The formal procedure consisted of the following steps:
      1) The emperor burned incense and kowtowed to greet the descending of the God of Heaven;
      2) The emperor laid offerings three times;
      3) The emperor bade the ascending of the God of Heaven and saw Him off by burning off all the offerings.
      More Photo
    • Main scenic spots of Temple of Heaven
    • Temple of Heaven is the largest sacrificial building complex in the world featuring precise structure and magnificent decoration. It is divided into an inner part and outer part.
      The main buildings are located On the central axis of the inner part. The Circular Mound Altar is on the south, and the Altar of prayer for Good Harvests is on the north. The two altars are connected by Danbi Bridge, 360 meters long and nearly 30 meters wide. The Hall of Abstinence (Zhaigong) is in the west of the inner part, and the Divine Music Hall is in the west of the outer part.
    • Circular Mound Altar Circular Mound Altar, also called Huanqiutan in Chinese, is the sacrificial altar for ceremonies held on winter solstice. It was first built in 1530 and extended in 1740 by the Qing rulers. The altar is encircled by two walls, the inner wall taking a round shape to resemble heaven while the outer one squared to symbolize earth.
      The three-tiered marble altar rises from the ground as high as five meters. The topmost layer of it is 30 meters in diameter, the middle one 50 meters, and the bottom layer 70 meters. Paved with nine rings of fan-shaped marble stone, each layer itself is a terrace with a flight of nine steps in four directions. At the center of the upper terrace there lays a round stone called Tianxingshi (Heaven's Heart Stone), which is surrounded by nine concentric circles from the first ring to the ninth, from nine pieces of stone sequentially to 81 pieces. The second terrace shows another nine concentric circles from the tenth ring to the 18th; and the third terrace consists of rings from the 19th to the 27th to form the third group of concentric circles. In all, marble slabs used on these three pavements add up to the total amount of 9 by 378, which equals 3402 pieces of stone slabs.

      According to traditional Chinese cosmology, the figure of nine has been considered the supreme odd number. Even the carved balustrade surrounding the terrace is upheld altogether by 360 balusters, which embodies likewise the multiple of the figure of nine. What is more, the number 360 is also equal to degrees of circumference of the sky postulated by the ancients. The whole design of the altar makes one feel much closer to heaven. The Imperial Vault of Heaven The Imperial Vault of Heaven was used to house the tablet of the God of Heaven and the tablets of the emperors' ancestors. The tablets had to be removed to the open air before the emperor came to pray, and replaced back to the original shrine when the ceremony was over.
      The Imperial Vault of Heaven was first built in 1530 and then rebuilt in 1752. It was a circular structure, covered with blue titles and topped by a gilded ball, covered with blue tiles and topped by gilded ball. The building is 19.5 meters high and 15.6 meters in diameter and looks like an umbrella parachuting vertically from the sky. The whole structure is supported by 16 pillars, eight of which are posts propping the eaves and another eight inside are gilded one. The dome is so constructed as to taper little by little and result in a vault.

      The wall around the buildings is the well-known Huiyinbi (Echo Wall). It is 3.27 meters high 90 centimeters thick, and 193.2 meters long and has three doors to the south. What is interesting for the wall lies in the fact that if one person speaks or even whispers at one side of it, another would be able to hear rather clearly on the opposite side. This is because of the conductibility of sound waves; the wall itself has eaves and is hermetically laid. These factors are supposed to let human voice "travel" round the wall easily.
      In front of the Imperial Vault of Heaven is the Triple-sound Stone, also called Sanyinshi in Chinese. If one person stands on the first stone and speaks toward the hall, his sound can be heard once; if he does the same thing on the second stone, then his sound will echo twice; and if he speaks on the third stone three echoes will be heard. The reason is similar to that for the above-mentioned Echo Wall; but this time the echoing sound waves are triggered simply by different distances from the stone to the hall.
      Red Stairway Bridge Red Stairway Bridge is 360 meter long. It leads to the Hall of Prayer of Good Harvests, from south to north, symbolizes the distance between heaven and human world. The central passage, which is called the way of Spirit, was reserved for the God of Heaven. The east one was for the emperor and the west one for the ministers.
      Near the northern end of the bridge there is a platform where the emperor used to change his ritual garment, and a tent was temporarily set up on the occasion. The bridge is an axis of the temple and serves as a link connecting two groups of imperial buildings. Hall of prayer for Good Harvests Hall of prayer for Good Harvests, also called Qiniandian, is a circular wooden structure in a unique architectural style. It is the place where emperors came to pray for good harvests on the 15th day of the first lunar month every year.
      When the Hall was first constructed in 1420, it took a rectangular shape with the name of great Sacrifice after its counterpart in the Hall of Heaven and Earth in Nanjing. In 1530 the original structure in Beijing was demolished and rebuilt into a circular hall, which adopted the name of Great Enjoyment praying for bumper crops to suffice the populace.
      The triple eaves are covered with dark blue glazed tiles, which symbolize the blue sky. The hall itself is 32 meters in height and 30 meters in diameter. It was built on a three-tiered marble terrace, which is a six meters high and occupies more than 5900 square meters in area. This majestic hall looks as if it was a colossus that might prop up the sky from the ground.

      The timber-structured hall looks both august and splendid. But the interior framework is by far the more distinctive. No beams, no crossbeams, no nails, the vault is solely supported by 28 massive wooden pillars and a number of bars, lathes, joints and rafters, which are integrated into a reinforced frame to keep up the bulk of the hall. All the 28 pillars are emblematic of the 28 constellations. The four pillars in the center, called the "Dragon Well Pillars", are 18.5 meters high and 1.2 meters in diameter.
      On each side of the hall there stand one row of s where gods of secondary significance were consecrated. They are the gods of the Sun, the Moon and the Stars along with those of Rain, Thunder, and Lightning. Currently these halls have been changed into exhibition rooms for displaying ritual musical instruments of the past empire.
      Outside the eastern gate of this courtyard stands the Long Gallery, generally known as the "seventy-two connected houses", through which articles of ritual sacrifice were delivered from the imperial kitchen to the altar where delivered from the imperial kitchen to the altar where ceremonies took place.
      Hall of Abstinence The Hall of Abstinence, Zhaigong in Chinese, is a group of houses located on the western side of the temple.
      The Hall of Abstinence was first built in 1420 and rebuilt three times in the dynasty. Outside its two surrounding walls there are a moat and several hundred rooms for stationing the imperial guards. Only one stone bridge was accessible to the inner part of the palace.
      Inside the walls there are a bell tower, living quarters, and many other houses for various purposes. Seven Star Stones(Qixingshi) Beyond the eastern gate of the Temple of Heaven, there stand seven pieces of massive rock, which were believed to be emblematic of the Dipper high up in the sky, or as the legend goes, which stood for the real Dipper that came down to earth one night to suggest to the Ming rulers a spot for the constructing a heaven-worshipping altar when they did intend to choose one. As such, the Temple of Heaven was built right there.
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