This is the latest of my “Wonders” that I have visited. I went there in December 2008 on the same day that I also visited the Forbidden City which lies directly north of the Temple (or Altar) of Heaven by a couple of km. These places are located along a 7.5 km long central axis with the Forbidden City in the middle.
The Temple of Heaven is mainly famous for the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (HPGH) or Qiniandian in Chinese, but it is actually located within a great semicircular enclosure that encompasses several other Taoist structures. The whole complex was built 1406-1420 and was used by Ming and Qing emperors in order to pray to Heaven for good harvest during the Winter Solstice.
Moving from the southern part of the complex one walks on a causeway (or bridge) until one reaches a building/gate with a flight of stairs up to the square where the HPGH is located.
As with all religious buildings in the world, the Temple of Heaven is full of cosmological symbolism. In this case the Earth is square and Heaven is circular and these geometric forms are abundant within the complex, symbolizing their connections. The round triple-gabled HPGH and its three leveled marble platform stands on a square yard.
The dark blue roof tiles represent Heaven and the exterior has twelve pillars that represents the twelve Chinese hours. These pillars support the roof of the lowest level of the building. The building also has twelve middle pillars representing the twelve months and they support the roof of the middle level of the building.
The HPGH has four tall inner pillars that represents the four seasons and they support the roof of the highest level of the building. All these pillars together represent the Chinese calendar. The most impressive detail with this 38 m tall wooden building is that it has no nails.