We had plans to go on to see various other places on our first day in Beijing, but to our surprise the Heavenly Temple proved to be a very large place. We entered at the East gate, that being nearest to the metro station and there we also got ourselves audio guides. Unlike audio guides where one enters a number to hear about what one is looking at, these just come on when one walks into the appropriate reception area. Unfortunately one is not always quite sure exactly what building is being described.
The Temple of Heaven Park is located in the Chongwen District, Beijing. Originally, this was the place where emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) held the Heaven Worship Ceremony. It is China’s largest and most representative existing masterpiece among China’s ancient sacrificial buildings. First built in 1420, the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), it was enlarged and rebuilt during the reigns of the Ming emperor Jiajing and the Qing emperor Qianlong.
Since Pip’s last trip to China the Temple of Heaven was opened to the public as a park, showing ancient philosophy, history and religion. It covers an area of 2,700,000 square meters, and is larger than the Forbidden City. Emperors were merely the ‘Sons of Heaven’, and were precluded from building a dwelling for themselves that was greater than the earthly residence dedicated to heaven, hence the difference in overall size of the two complexes.
This post is an extract of my mother’s travel journal written during a tour of China in 2013.