At the Temple of Heaven Emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911) worshiped Heaven and prayed for good harvests. The northern part of the outer surrounding wall is semi-circular; the southern part is square; this forms a pattern symbolic of the ancient belief that Heaven was round and the earth square. The double surrounding wall separates the temple into the inner and outer temples with the main structures in the inner one, covering 273 hectares.
The inner temple is also partitioned by a wall into two groups of buildings. The north structure is the Altar for Praying for Good Harvests with the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests as the principal building used to pray each spring for good bumper harvests. The south structure is the Circular Mound Altar used to worship Heaven at the winter solstice; the principal construction here is a large round marble terrace named the Circular Mound.
The two altars, connected by a 360-meter-long raised walk called the Red Step Bridge, are arranged in a line forming a north-south axis 1,200-meter long; the walk is flanked by century-old cypresses.
To the inner portion, south of the West Celestial Gate is Abstinence Hall where the emperors observed abstention before the rituals. In the western part of the outer temple is the Divine Music Office, which was in charge of the teaching and performance of the music for the rituals. The Temple of Heaven are includes the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Hall of the Heavenly Emperor, the Circular Mound, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, Abstinence Hall, the Beamless Hall, the Long Corridor, Longevity Pavilion in a double ring shape as well as the Echo Wall, the Three Echo Stones, and the Seven Meteoric Stones.
Built first in 1420 during the Ming Emperor Yongle's reign, it was expanded and renovated during the Ming Emperor Jiajing's (1522-1566) and Qing Emperor Qianlong's (1736-1795) reigns. The Temple of Heaven is a magnificent masterpiece of architecture in a solemn environment. Since the founding of New China, the government has allotted major resources to protect and restore the cultural monuments here. The Temple of Heaven with its long history, deep cultural significance and magnificent architectural style mirrors the ancient culture of the China.
A masterpiece of the Ming and Qing architectural art and a precious example of China's ancient architecture, the Temple of Heaven is the largest architectural group for worshipping Heaven in the world. In 1961, it was listed by the State Council as a key monument under state protection." In 1998, it was recognized by UNESCO as a human heritage of the world."