A favorite of locals and tourists alike, Temple of Heaven is another large outdoor space. But, compared to the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, this had a different feel, where ancient rituals sought good harvests and atonement for sins. Confucian in function, the layout of the park is deliberate, designed in circles and squares, and layout aligned with the heavens. The most important ceremonies of the year marked the winter solstice.
The dominant building, the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, was originally built in 1420, but burnt to the ground in 1889 – likely caused by lightning. It was rebuilt the following year, with four central pillars of Oregon fir to represent the four seasons, with 12 pillars in the next ring to represent the months, and 12 outer pillars. The pillars support the ceiling without the use of nails or cement!
Spaces in the park allow for social and physical activities.
Stairs, pavers, and building placement are all aligned with the seasons and the night sky.
Other spaces encourage contemplation. And the custodians with their native brooms are ever-present, helping to maintain the harmony of the park.