Temple (or should I say Altar?) of Heaven

16:07 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

A lot of things seemed to be lost in translation while we were in China.

One of those things, surprisingly, was one of the most visited tourist site in all of Beijing, perhaps outside of the Great Wall.

We asked a local about visiting the Temple of Heaven. They looked confused, we explained, and the aHa moment came. The Altar of Heaven! Who knows why they seemed to give it a different name in English, but we'll go with it.

The complex was used mainly during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and is smaller than the Forbidden City, as emperors supposed to have residences for themselves larger than those temples or spaces dedicated to Heaven.

The architecture is similar to that of the Forbidden City in style and even in many ways layout. You still have the intricate paintings, the little animals adorning the roof buildings, the marble, walkways especially for the emperor. The biggest difference though is the iconic blue tiled roofs of the building, to represent Heaven. Another claim to fame of the complex is that it was built without a single nail - each wood piece was made to fit perfectly with the other connecting pieces.

I visited with Paul after meetings and before heading to the airport, so needless to say it was a speed tour. Luckily Paul had gone on his own earlier in the week and knew all the best spots to hit. Unfortunately, it was an overcast day and I missed what Paul said was the best part - the locals hanging out around the park surrounding the temple. From tai chi, to games, to calligraphy practice, people were out in full swing, enjoying their time outdoors.

 So, what did I see then? In addition to the grounds and some glances at the smaller buildings, I was able to see the two biggest sites (in my opinion). Tip: For those that do want to explore the site, make sure to buy a through ticket so that you don't have to buy individual entrance tickets to each building.

As we came through the North Entrance, the first big building we saw was the Hall of  Prayers for Good Harvests - this is the building that everyone knows. Fight the crowds for a look inside, especially up at the ceiling. Beautiful.

After wandering, the last area we passed through before the exit was the thing that gave the site it's Chinese name - the Circular Mound Altar. Here is where the Emperor would offer sacrifices to the Heavens at Winter Solstice.

After our powerwalk through, I felt happy to have seen so many sites in such a short time. Our time in Beijing was through. Off to Shanghai!

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