The Temple of Heaven (Tiāntán) dates back to 1420 and incorporates a group of some of Beijing’s most sacred buildings. Surrounded by lush vegetation, these lovely old temples and shrines are set out in two sections – one rectangular, the other semi-circular – which together symbolize heaven and earth. It was here that, on the day of the winter solstice, the emperor would ascend the Heavenly Altar in solemn ceremony to pray for a good harvest and offer sacrifices in the brightly decorated Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (Qinian Dian).
Another highlight is the Hall of the Vault of Heaven (Huangqiong Yu), erected in 1530 and boasting a blue-tiled conical roof (it was used to store the ceremonial plaques of Heaven and the Officials). Be sure to also visit the temple’s Echo Wall, which echoes to even the quietest of voices, an effect exaggerated by three unusual echoing stones.