Temple of Heaven – Tickets, Opening Hours, Highlights, and Tips

In China, the emperor was typically referred to as the son of the heaven (Tianzi), who was designated to rule the country. Therefore, worshipping heaven, a way to communicate with the “father” and prove the emperor’s legitimacy, is one of the most significant ceremonies in the past dynasties. They would spare no effort to emphasize its formality, seriousness, and sacredness, and this was typically achieved by constructing a grand altar, which was the origin of the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan).

It was initially built in 1420 and constantly renovated during the reign of the following emperors. The temple and its auxiliary buildings now stand in the south of Beijing and occupy 2.73 sq. kilometers. It is one of the icons of Beijing and received millions of tourists every year.

Table of Contents

Basic Information

Estimated length of tourabout 3 hours
Ticket PriceAdmission (the park):
15 RMB (approx. 2 dollars from April 1st to October 31st)
10 RMB (approx. 1.5 dollars from November 1st to March 31st)
Children under 1.2 meters: free of charge
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian), Echo Wall, and Circular Mound Altar: 20 RMB throughout the year
Combinted ticket (including the admission and all the attractions):
34 RMB (approx. 5 dollars from April 1st to October 31st)
28 RMB (approx. 4 dollars from November 1st to March 31st)
Children under 1.2 meters: free of charge
Opening hoursThe park
06.00 – 22.00 (April 1st – October 31st); Last entry: 21.00
06.30 – 22.00 (November 1st – March 31st); Last entry: 21.00
08.00 – 18.00 (April 1st – October 31st); Last entry: 17.30
08.00 – 17.00 (November 1st – March 31st); Last entry: 16.30
Attractions close on Mondays

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Location and Transportation

The Temple of Heaven is located to the south of the city center, but not very far away. It has four gates, and all of them can be easily reached by bus, subway, and taxi.

To the east gate:

  • Bust: Take No. 116, 128, 39, 41, 43, or 6, get off at the Fuahua Temple, and walk to the east gate.
  • Subway: Take subway line 5 and get off at the East Gate of the Temple of the Heaven station (Tiantan Dongmen)

To the south gate:

  • Bus: Take No. 336, 53, 62, 958, 122, or 141 and get off at the south gate stop (Tiantan Nanmen)

To the west gate:

  • Bus: Take No. 120, 141, 20, 2, 36, or 53 and get off at the west gate stop (Tiantan Ximen)
  • Subway: Take subway line 8, get off at Tianqiao station, and walk to the West gate.

To the north gate:

  • Bus: Take No. 106, 110, 34, 35, 36 and get off at the north gate stop (Tiantan Beimen)

Famous Spots in Temple of Heaven

Circular Mound Altar (Huanqiu)

Circular Mount Altar in temple of heaven

The Circular Mound Altar is exactly the place where the emperor worshiped heaven and prayed for a good harvest. It is a three-level circular platform built from marble stones. The shape symbolizes the sky because in ancient Chinese myth, sky is like a piece of round cloth, covering the square earth. The numbers of various elements of the Altar, including its balusters and steps, are either the sacred number nine or its nonuplets (since nine is the biggest single-digit number, it is exclusively used in the decorations, buildings and clothes of the emperor to show his supremacy).

Moreover, the four entrances to mound the Altar also have their names. The east one is called Taiyuan, meaning the origin of everything; The south one is called Zhaoheng, meaning the blossom of all lives; The west one is called Guangli, meaning the harmony between the sky and earth; And the north one is called Chengzhen, meaning everything stays in its right place.

Heart of Heaven (Tianxinshi)

heart of heaven in temple of heaven

At the center of the Altar is the Heart of Heaven (Tianxinshi). In the past, the emperor would stand on it to pray. Because of the special acoustic design, he would hear echoes of his words from the sky, as if he was getting some answers and confirmations from the heaven, which enhanced his legitimacy and rule.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian)

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian) in Temple of Heaven

The Hall of Prayer of Good Harvest is the major building in the Temple of Heaven. If the Circular Mount Altar was the place to pray for the approval of the heaven, this building was the place to pray for favorable weather and timely wind and rain so that the crop could thrive and the barn could be full.

It is a three-level round wooden building, with a blue roof, a marble base, and 28 rosewood pillars. The circular shape and the roof color again represent the sky, and the marble base represents the supreme status of the emperor. The pillars are scattered in the hall. The inner four symbolize the four seasons. The middle twelve symbolize the 12 months, and the outer 12 symbolize the 12 periods of the day (In ancient China, a day was divided into 12 two-hour periods).

The Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu)

The Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu) in Temple of Heaven

The Imperial Vault of Heaven was a place to store the tablets of gods that were used in the worshipping ceremony. You can basically regard it as a huge shrine. It resembles the Hall of Prayer of Good Harvest, but is smaller in size. The base is lower, and there is only one story. But just like other buildings, its shape is also circular and roof is blue. It was initially built in 1530, renamed in 1538, and renovated in 1752.

The Echo Wall (Huiyinbi)

echo wall in temple of heaven

The Echo Wall that surrounds the Imperial Vault of Heaven is famous for its acoustic feature and thus named as the Echo Wall. If you face the wall and talk to it in the north side, your friend in the south side can clearly hear your voice even if you just whisper.

Three Echo Stone (Sanyinshi)

The three flagstones paved on the path leaving to the Imperial Vault of Heaven is called Sanyinshi or Three Echo Stone. If you stand on the first stone and clap your hands or talk to the hall, you will hear one echo. If you stand on the second stone and do the same thing, you will hear two echoes. And if you stand on the third stone, you will hear three echoes, which is pretty amazing.

Vlog about Temple of Heaven

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Useful Tips Summarized from Reviews

Enjoy the Illumination: The Qiniandian (Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests) landscape lights up every Friday, Saturday, and major holidays in the evening. Many people gather to capture the beauty of the illuminated temple.

Arrive Before 4 PM: It’s advisable to arrive at the Qiniandian before 4:00 PM so that you can experience both the daytime and nighttime views. The illuminated Qiniandian after dark is truly stunning.

Purchase a Combined Ticket: Make sure to buy a combined ticket, as it’s required for entry into the Qiniandian, Huangqiongyu (Imperial Vault of Heaven), Circular Mound Altar, and Echo Wall.

Choose the Right Entrance: The subway stations near the East Gate and West Gate are more convenient than the one near the North Gate, which requires a longer walk. The South Gate is the main entrance, but it tends to have long queues and many tour groups. Consider using the East Gate to avoid the crowds.

Rent an Audio Guide: Spending 10 RMB to rent an audio guide is recommended as it enhances the experience by providing informative commentary while you explore.

Enjoy Wildlife: If entering from the South Gate and exiting from the Echo Wall, head north along the path towards the Zhaigong (Abstinence Palace). In the pine forest along this path, you’ll find many squirrels, especially in autumn when they come out to forage. You can bring some walnuts or pine nuts to feed the squirrels for a delightful experience.

Interesting Facts about Temple of Heaven

Attractions near Temple of Heaven

Other Imperial Places in Beijing

Other sacrificial Sites

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