Temple of Heaven
China's largest temple and altar complex, the Temple of Heaven in the southern part of Beijing covers an area of 270 hectares. The Temple of Heaven is an exquisite and extraordinary example of Chinese religious architecture. Construction of the temple began in 1420 and at the temple emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped heaven and prayed for abundant harvests. In imperial times, twice a year a magnificent ceremony was conducted when over 1,000 eunuchs, ministers and courtiers would leave the Forbidden City for the Temple of Heaven. The emperor would fast and remain celibate and sleep overnight in the Palace of Abstinence (zhaigong) before carrying out traditional ceremonies and sacrificial rites in the morning.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (qiniandian) built in 1420 and rebuilt in 1889 shows Ming engineering at its best - the 38 meter (125ft) high circular hall was built entirely without the use of nails, cement or beams and is held together by an elaborate network of pillars. The roof with its blue, yellow and green tiles represents heaven, earth and the mortal world. To the south lies the Echo Wall, where supposedly a murmur to the wall will travel with perfect clarity to the other side and the Imperial Vault of Heaven that contains imperial tablets.