Temple of Heaven was built in 1420, and 22 Emperors from Ming and Qing dynasties worshiped heaven from this location. It was also used as a place for animal sacrifices, prayers for bumper harvest and prayers for favorable rains. Our first stop inside the large complex was The North Animal Sacrifice Pavilion. It was also built in 1420 and used to sacrifice animals before the Emperors would pray. It was believed that a sacrifice helped your prayers be heard and answered.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest was originally built in 1420 but had to be rebuilt in 1751. The structure was covered in blue tile in 1751 because blue represents heaven. This is the only existing example of Mingtang architecture and the physical structure is built to have representations of the season, months of the year, hours of the day, and constellations. However, the Emperors would only worship and pray here during early spring each year. This was Megan and Katie’s favorite structure in this complex with its deep colors, unique circular shape and details.
There was a small museum showing a model of the interior structure and some of the previous buildings that occupied the site. The one which stood prior to the existing building (which has been reconstructed several times) had dragons climbing onto a central tower which looked like it had extended from the rest of the building.
We walked to the other side of the complex to view the Echo Wall and The Imperial Vault of Heaven. The Echo Wall is a circular wall with a perfect circumference. It is said that if two people stand next to the wall on opposite sides that they will be able to hear each other whisperer. Much to our disappointment, there was a barricade two feet in front of the wall and we were unable to attempt this.
The wall surrounds the Imperial Vault of Heaven, which was Christopher’s favorite building in this complex due to better visibility inside of the building. Inside of this building was where the Emperor kept “God’s Tablets” which were used in the ceremony of worshipping heaven. The inside of the building is decorated a blue-green with a dragon design. The dragon is displayed playing with a pearl in the center of the building (ceiling).
Just a touch further south is the circular mound or alter. This was built in 1530 but enlarged in 1749 and it serves as the place for the ceremony of worshipping heaven which occurs at the winter solstice every year.
We did not stay to see the entire complex and our final stop was to see the Seven-Star-Stones. This is seven large stones with motifs of mountains on them symbolizing the 7 peaks of Mountain Tai. Later, a stone was added when Manchuria became part of Central China to symbolize the country as one family, united.
In the evening we went to the complex of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It was beautiful all lit up at night and full of people! We enjoyed our evening walk as well as the colorful lights.
We saw The National Stadium, also referred to as the Bird’s Nest. It was the centerpiece of the 2008 Olympics and Christopher’s favorite building at night. It currently does not get a lot of use but we were excited to hear that it is planned to be the location of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing!
Across the large walkway was the Water Cube or Bubble cube. In 2008 this was home to swimming and diving competitions but it is currently home to a large indoor water park. It is also supposed to be used for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics for curling.
We didn’t get very close, but the Olympic Park Observation Tower, with five circular heads representing the Olympic rings, was great and had a real Jetsons look to it.
Megan’s favorite building was the TV Transmission Tower or the Exquite Tower. It was designed to show modern technology with traditional Chinese style of a pagoda. It was used as reception for VIPs and TV studios in 2008 but is now for government/business events.