In addition to the Great Wall of China and The Forbidden City, The Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests in the Temple of Heaven is often featured on people’s China or Asia travel bucket lists, and it’s a must-visit when in Beijing.
The Temple of Heaven is an iconic masterpiece that symbolises the connection between heaven and earth. Its design is stunning, its surroundings are serene, and it stands as a testament to China’s rich cultural and historical legacy.
Temple Of Heaven Historical Background
Constructed in 1420 during the Ming Dynasty, the Temple of Heaven, or “Tiantan” in Chinese, was originally conceived as a sacred space where emperors performed solemn rituals to ensure a bountiful harvest.
The meticulous design of the temple complex reflects ancient Chinese cosmology, with the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at its heart.
Exploring the Temple of Heaven
The complex comprises the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Circular Mound Altar, and the Echo Wall, among other structures.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is the centrepiece that can’t be missed.
It is a circular wooden structure, adorned with a triple-gabled roof, a golden ball atop and 50,000 blue tiles beneath. It is an incredibly intricate architectural masterpiece: crafted entirely from wood without the use of nails!
In the past this is where Emperors offered prayers for good weather for the harvest by sacrificing animals and burning incense.
After exploring The Hall Of Prayer for Good Harvests, make sure to also visit the Circular Mound Altar, where the emperor would perform rituals during the winter solstice.
The circular design represents the heavens, emphasizing the emperor’s connection with celestial forces.
The Echo Wall is also a great place – experience the acoustic wonder of the circular wall where whispers travel along its length. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that adds an interactive element to your visit.
Afterwards you can explore Tian Tan Park: the park that surrounds The Temple Of Heaven. It’s a lovely tranquil park – a complete contrast from the city’s hustle and bustle, especially during the early hours where you can admire the locals doing T’ai chi.
Temple Of Heaven Opening Times & Entrance Fee
The Temple of Heaven is open from 8am-5pm. The actual gardens are open from 6am until 10pm but you can only access the historical buildings from 8am. The Temple of Heaven entrance ticket is 15 RMB (around $2.30USD).
To enter The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (pictured) you will need to pay an extra 20 RMB on top of this. It is definitely worth it as in my opinion this is the most impressive and beautiful building here.
When To Visit The Temple Of Heaven?
Much like The Forbidden City, The Temple of Heaven gets extremely busy. Either get here first thing in the morning or an hour before closing to avoid crowds and get pictures without other people in.
If you want to visit The Great Wall, The Forbidden City and The Temple of Heaven all in one day you will have to accept that you will visit one of them during the middle of the day so it will be crowded.
The Hall Of Prayer For Good Harvests Photography Tips
For the best photos, consider visiting during the early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight is softer, enhancing the temple’s beauty.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is definitely the highlight of The Temple Of Heaven. For this reason if you want to get photos without other people in – make this your first stop!
Get some photos by the stairs, and be sure to get some close up shots of the vibrant colours and intricate designs.
If you’re looking to do a private tour where you can get some nice photos, this private tour of The Temple Of Heaven also includes the option of watching a show and having dinner afterwards!
How To Get To The Temple Of Heaven
Situated in southern Beijing, the Temple of Heaven is easily accessible.
Visitors can take the subway to Tiantandongmen Station (Line 5), and from there, it’s a short walk to the East Gate of the temple complex. Alternatively, take a taxi if that is more convenient.
If you’re hungry or after some souvenirs, Hongqiao Market is located nearby and offers a great shopping experience for traditional Chinese crafts and local snacks.
Temple Of Heaven Or The Forbidden City?
I often get asked – which one should I visit if I only have one day in Beijing and only have time to see one: The Temple Of Heaven or The Forbidden City? The great thing is that you can see both in the one day if you start early!
Whilst The Forbidden City is more famous, personally I prefer the Temple of Heaven as I find it more beautiful.
The Temple of Heaven is a lot smaller than The Forbidden City so it will take you less time to see (I spent about 1.5 hours here, but you can be in The Forbidden City for hours!).
If you want to see both it is probably wise to visit The Temple of Heaven first to ensure you don’t overrun at The Forbidden City.
Both The Temple Of Heaven and The Forbidden City close at 5pm.
Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!