The Temple of Heaven is one of China’s largest temples. Built in 1420 it is one of the most photographed buildings, being of such incredible beauty. It sits on a 660 acre park where music plays in the background continuously. This is where emperors prayed to Heaven for a good harvest. The shape of the park in the south is square which represents Earth and in the north is round which represents Heaven.
Entering the park from the south affords the opportunity to see the three main sites culminating with best at the end. The first sight is the Circular Alter consisting of three-tiered marble terraces with the lucky number "9" exhibited by the number of stones and other such items within the architecture.
Next is the Imperial Vault of Heaven with Three Echo Stones outside. Stand on the 1st stone facing the vault, say something and you hear one echo. Stand on the 2nd stone and say something and you hear two echoes. And at the 3rd stone, three echoes.
Surrounding the Imperial Vault of Heaven is Echo Wall where a whispered word spoken at the east end of the wall will be heard clearly by someone at the west end and vice versa. Theory of sound waves provides a detailed explanation.
Both the Circular Alter and Imperial Vault of Heaven will cost you an extra Y10 each and does not permit re-entry if you accidentally exit or want to return.
Lastly, the Hall of Prayer of Good Harvest is a round wooden hall, 125 ft high and constructed entirely without the use of any nails or pegs. Inside are 28 huge pillars arranged to represent time. These include 4 seasons, 12 months, and the twelve divisions of a day…as on a clock face.
In spite of the interesting cultural and historic sights, my favorite was an open music area where locals simply engaged in a variety of activities. One group were holding sheets of music and singing out. Others were practicing Tai Chi or playing versions of hackysack and paddle ball. There were still other games that I couldn’t begin describe. A gentleman was even teaching a few couples to waltz.
Hours are 8:30-4:30, cost Y35.