Far less popular than its southern cousin Temple of Heaven, it’s rare to see foreign tourists in this large park, but it makes for a pleasant stroll if you’re in this part of the city. Tree-lined walkways open out into small squares where old Beijingers and their grandchildren hang out while the parents are at work.
As with all the parks and squares in Beijing, Temple of Earth (Di Tan – pronounced “Dee Tan“) offers wonderful opportunities for people watching – especially early morning – with locals coming here to practise tai chi, sing songs, dance, play cards or workout on the free-to-use communal exercise machines. Just outside the east gate is a small square that’s a favourite for kite flyers.
Cosmically juxtaposed with the Temple of Heaven (south), the Temple of the Sun (east) and the Temple to the God of the Land and the God of Grain (west), Temple of the Earth is a short walk from the Lama Temple at the northern end of central Beijing and centres on a 500-year-old altar upon which emperors used to offer sacrifices to the Earth God.
The altar, known as Fang Ze Tan, or ‘Square Water Alter’, is a vast, open, stone square, surrounded by a moat and with a slightly raised platform at its centre. It has none of the grandeur and magnificence of the main altar in the Temple of Heaven, but is pretty ancient nonetheless, originally being built in 1530 with yellow glazed bricks, before being rebuilt with white rock in 1789.
The park holds one of Beijing’s largest temple fairs during Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), and holds various other smaller fairs throughout the year.
Hepingli Xijie, just north of the 2nd Ring Road
Yonghegong Lama Temple (250m)