Temple of Heaven (天坛)
The Temple of Heaven park (天坛公园) is one of the highlights of Beijing, visitied by many Chinese and foreign tourists. The park is home to three major constructions; The 'Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (祈年殿)', the 'Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇)' and the 'Circular Mount Altar (圜丘坛)'.
The 'Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest' is probably the most important building in de park, as it was here where the emperor connect with Heaven. The emperor visited the 'Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest' twice a year to pray for a good harvest. The 'Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest' consists of four buildings, with the Hall standing on a platform surrounded by two supporting buildings and a gate.
The 'Imperial Vault of Heaven' resembles the 'Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest' to some extend. This building was used to store the tablets used for the ceremony. The 'Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest' and the 'Imperial Vault of Heaven' are connected by the 'Vermillion Steps Bridge'. Then there is also the 'Circular Mount Altar' where the emperor prayed for good weather. The altar is on circular platform, three layers high. It is located south of the 'Imperial Vault of Heaven'.
Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (祈年殿)
We start with the most impressive and tallest building, Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (祈年殿). Both the interior and the outside are beautiful decorated. Inside you will only find one throne, as the emperor had to do his prayers in solitude. The Hall stands on a platform. On the north side there is a gate, with buildings on either side.
Vermilion Steps Bridge (丹陛桥)
The Vermilion Steps Bridge (丹陛桥) connects the 'Hall of Prayer for good Harvest' with the 'Imperial Vault of Heaven'.
The Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇)
South of the Hall of Prayer for good Harvest, connected by the Vermilion Steps Bridge, you will find the Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇). The Imperial Vault of Heaven looks like a smaller version of the Hall of Prayer for good Harvest, although the interior is different. The Imperial Vault of Heaven houses the tablets from which the emperor reads the prayers.
The Imperial Vault of Heaven is surrounded by the Echo Wall, a wall of 193 meters long, build to reflect sounds and thus create a mysterious atmosphere. Adjacent to the Imperial Vault of Heaven are two rectangular Halls to keep tablets dedicated to the moon, stars, clouds, rain, thunder and lightning.
Circular Mount Altar (圜丘坛)
The Circular Mound Altar is located to the south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is an open three-layered circular stone altar. It is also known as the Terrace of Worshipping Heaven. This would be the place for the emperor to show his respect to the gods by prayer.
The Altar is designed such that the emperor's voice will be amplified through an echo against the balustrades, thus enabling the emperor to reach heaven with his voice. Unfortunately the sounds of visitors makes it impossible to verify this claim.
The Temple of Heaven is a place where many people, often older people, gather to enjoy themselves. Activities like dancing, exercise, making music or playing games can be observed in many places. But it is also a place that attracts young and old people.