Beijing is blessed with some great parks but this one is my absolute favourite.
The largest of the imperial parks, Temple of Heaven Park not only assumes an important place in the history of China’s capital, it’s also a fabulous place in which to appreciate how Beijingers spend their free time.
It’s impossible not to be bowled over by the architectural magnificence of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests even though the one you’ll see is an 1890 replica of the original Ming-dynasty structure which burned down, apparently after being struck by lightning.
Immediately south of this is the Imperial Vault of Heaven enclosed within Echo Wall – so named because its unusual acoustic properties allow people standing at opposite ends of its circular courtyard to talk to each other without shouting – and the Round Altar, all of which played important roles in the winter solstice ceremony carried out by the emperor each year.
He, and his enormous entourage, would travel in silent procession from the Forbidden City to the altars here, where animal sacrifices would be made as the emperor sought good harvests, divine clearance and atonement for the sins of the people.
The rest of the park is covered in groves of ancient cypresses, flower gardens and pleasant open spaces, including some well-tended lawns, where locals come to exercise, meditate, play music or just hang out. The area between the east gate and the north gate is prime kite-flying space. There’s a huge exercise park in this area too, while nearby Long Corridor is a wildly popular spot for sometimes quite animated games of cards.
As with Ritan Park in the east of the city, potential picnic spots abound.
Note, there are north, east, south and west gates to the park. The north gate, which this app map directs you too, is closest to the Tiananmen Square area. The east gate, though, has a subway station.
The so-called “through ticket” gives you access to the park’s historical sights, as well as entrance to the park itself.