Temple of Heaven in Beijing Tour Guide:
One of the most magnificent religious structures in China, the Temple of Heaven was the Emperor’s personal religious abode, the Altar of Heaven, where the Emperor prayed and offered sacrifices for the happiness of his kingdom and a bountiful harvest. No other person, apart from the Emperor and his retinue, were allowed to enter the complex or see the religious ceremony or even the grand procession of the Emperor and his retinue going to the temple complex for the prayers. A single mistake by the Emperor was said to cost the whole kingdom dearly.
Visit these magnificent structures for a glimpse of the ceremonial rituals the Emperors of China, the sons of heavens, practiced. At 273 hectares, the Temple of Heaven complex has 92 ancient buildings and is bigger than the Forbidden City; so wear good walking shoes.
Climb the Circular Mount Altar, a circular marble platform with a large round slate, upon which the Emperor’s prayers resounded to the heavens as he prayed for the prosperity of his kingdom. Walk through to the Imperial Vault of Heaven, a round building made entirely of wood and no nails, where the Emperor offered sacrifices to the heavens before returning to the Palace of Abstinence, where he stayed before and for the duration of the ceremony, abstaining from meat, women and state affairs.
The Echo Wall surrounding the building is notable for its amazing acoustics, as you will discover from the cacophony of sounds emanating from the venue. Everyone wants to hear one’s own echo!
At the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, across the Imperial Walkway Bridge (also known as the Vermilion Steps Bridge and the Danbi Bridge), see the 28 beautifully adorned Phoebe columns support the beamless roof, each column representing a season, a month or a Shichen (a unit of measurement for time in China). A circular marble stone imprinted with dragon and phoenix patterns is a major highlight. Right in the middle of the hall is the Sacred Altar where the Heaven Great Tablet is placed.
Get transported to the era of the emperors when ceremonies were conducted with a tour of the Worshipping Heaven Ceremony Exhibition Hall (West Annex Halls). View sacrificial utensils used in the ceremony; a picture of an 18th Century Emperor performing the highest ritual in the Qing Dynasty; and even a representation of the whole ceremony and the procedure that had to be immaculately followed.
Visit the Worshipping Music and Dancing Hall in the East Annex Halls, where varied exhibits blend pictures, models, sound and electricity as well as Shao Music instruments to recreate the musical ambience of the ceremonies. Conclude the tour with a stroll of the gardens and the historic pine trees or watch the locals enjoy leisure pastimes such as cards, jogging etc.