The Temple of Heaven: Escaping Chaotic Beijing


temple of heaven

I spent a week in Beijing. The same week during which the National Day of China falls on. This meant that Beijing was a million times busier and crazier than it normally would be.

This was definitely not planned. 

With a city that holds more than 22 million people, you quickly become tired and exhausted from the endless traffic, pollution and noise. When you add in the fact that practically everyone else from the rest of China all seemed to visit Beijing for this week, it was unbearable and I desperately needed to escape.

The grounds of the Temple of Heaven provided the perfect respite. 

temple of heaven flower display

The name Temple of Heaven is a little misleading as it actually more than just a temple, it is a huge park as well. Inside the park, there are three main sections: the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and Circular Mound Altar.

Upon entering the park, I felt insulated from the noise and stress of Beijing.

As I wandered around, heading in the general direction where I believed the important things to be, I passed hundreds of locals lying in the shade, relaxing. Around the park people were assembled around game tables where they were playing chess or other Chinese board games.

There were still vendors present, selling snacks, drinks and small trinkets, but it was much more relaxed and you weren’t harassed Shanghai style.

park at the temple of heaven in beijing

My first stop was the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which is where the emperors used to come to sacrifice animals and burn incense to pray for good weather for their crops.

hall of the prayer of good harvests

Located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is the Imperial Vault of Heaven, which is surrounded by the very popular echo wall.

The wall utilises the theory of sound wave. If one person stands on one side of the wall and whispers something their voice will be transmitted around the wall and can be heard on the other side.

I wanted to try out the echo wall but as I was alone I didn’t have much success with it. I tried whispering at one side and sprinting to the other side to hear myself, but I guess sound travels faster than Lauren as all I could hear were excited Chinese mumblings.

temple of heaven in beijing

Just inside of the echo wall are two chambers containing tablets of the gods of different elements. The left chamber contains gold, wood, water, fire and earth. The right chamber contains tablets representing wind, rain, thunder and lightning.

Inside the temple of heaven

My final stop was the Circular Mound Altar, which is used to worship heaven during winter solstice.
circular mound altar in the temple of heaven
At the centre of the mound is a small altar. Due to how the mound was constructed, standing on the small altar at the top amplifies your voice dramatically.

The mound was built with extremely smooth materials, which cause sound waves to spread quickly to the edges of the mound and reflect back towards you. This process takes less than a tenth of a second so it appears to happen instantly combining your original speech with the echo created. This results in the volume of your voice doubling.

For the entire time I was there excited children would go running up to the altar and stand there screaming loudly.

I didn’t stay very long. 

crowds at temple of heaven
After exploring the three main sections of Temple of Heaven, I spent the rest of the day walking around the park, sunbathing and relaxing before getting ready to enter the insanity of Beijing once more…
park at temple of heaven china
If you’re looking to escape from the madness of Beijing for a day then the Temple of Heaven park is the best place to do so. Head to the park before 7am and you’ll have a great time people watching as the locals gather to exercise, dance and sing songs.
The Temple of Heaven park is open from 6am to 8pm, and an entrance ticket costs RMB30 and gives access to all three areas in the park. 
Previous The Great Wall of China in Photos
Next Becoming a Terracotta Warrior in Xi'an

12 Comments

  1. The World of Deej
    December 1, 2011
    Reply

    I visited the Temple of Heaven on a day when nearly no one was there. Of course, it was the dead of winter also. Have a pic where I’m standing on the mound clapping and listening to the sound….

    • Lauren
      December 2, 2011
      Reply

      Wow, that sounds awesome!

  2. Kamilla
    December 1, 2011
    Reply

    I hate to break it to you like this, but Beijing is actually a lot LESS crowded on National Day/the Moon Festival, because a lot of people in the cities get a week off from work and go back home to visit their families in the country… or vacation in Southern China or S.E. Asia. There really are just that many people. I’d love to show Beijing when it’s actually “crowded,” like during May holiday O_O Hard to believe? Trust me – I lived there for two years, and one of them was over the 60 year anniversary of the founding of the PRC (1949-2009). Thing is, the general public wasn’t invited to many of the planned events, so it didn’t particularly draw a crowd. Still, there were dozens more police security posted throughout the city to avoid protests (which never happened). That’s the week I escaped to Cambodia to avoid being harassed by the po-po.

    • Lauren
      December 2, 2011
      Reply

      I was going on the fact that every single person I spoke to in the hostel was telling me how much crazier it was compared to the week before, and how they didn’t even want to go outside because of the crowds!

      All train and bus tickets were booked for the entire week so I really struggled getting there and had to fly out because nothing was available… Most tube stations were also closed due to the crowds so that was a pain too.

  3. Mike
    December 1, 2011
    Reply

    Great post, great pictures

    • Lauren
      December 2, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks! :)

  4. Sheryll
    December 2, 2011
    Reply

    Gorgeous photos Lauren! The colors are so vivid!

    • Lauren
      December 7, 2011
      Reply

      Thanks, Sheryll!! :)

  5. Sarah
    December 5, 2011
    Reply

    I feel like I am kind of an expert when it comes to showing up in places during their “busiest time EVER” so I totally empathize with you, Lauren!

    When I went to the Temple of Heaven it was also colder than cold December and there were still these precious senior citizens out there, ballroom dancing the day away!

    The echo chamber didn’t work for me either. Maybe it’s all a sham?

    • Lauren
      December 7, 2011
      Reply

      Awww, that sounds so adorable! Well, were you doing the echo chamber by yourself or with someone? Pretty certain you need two people for it to work!

  6. Paula
    December 28, 2017
    Reply

    I just spent a 20 hour layover in Beijing and loved the Temple of Heaven. WhenI went there were a ton of old people around the park. Some were working out (aerobics, badminton, kicking a feathery ball), others playing cards, some were dancing in exotic costumes and my absolute favourite, about 50 of them chanting these jawdroppingly beautiful songs. It was freezing at 8 am and they were all so active!

    • Lauren
      December 31, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Paula!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.