Situated about three kilometers from the city center, the Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 when the city of Beijing was designated as the capital of the Ming Empire and a full range of palaces were therefore constructed. With an area of 273 hectares, four times the size as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven is the largest group of temple architecture in China and also the largest heaven- worshipping building in the world.
Built as a place of worship, the temple is different from any other imperial structures. There are two parts in the temple zone. The outer wall of the temple zone is 6,416 meters in length while the inner wall 3,292 meters long. The architecture of the temple represents two themes: in the heaven and on the earth. The 6 meters high walls of the temple constitute a semi- circle in the north and a semi- rectangle in the south. This special layout illustrates an important belief in ancient China that the heaven is round and the earth rectangular. The northern section of the wall is high while the south is low, which means that the heaven is higher and superior to earth. All the essential architecture of the temple were built along a north – south central axis and are linked by a bridge called Danbi. The four main structures from the south to the north are the Circular Mound later (Huang Yuan Qiu Tan), the Imperial Heavenly Vault (Huang Qiong Yu), the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qi Nian Dian), and the Hall of Imperial Zenith (Huang Qi Dian). Other interesting places in the park include the Hall of Abstinence, the Dressing Platform and the Nine Dragon Cypress. The Temple of Heaven has been nominated by the UNESCO as a world heritage. The significance of the temple of Heaven, apart from its historical value, lies in its superior architecture, which has had a far reaching influence in China as well as in other Asian countries as Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
The Chinese emperors also worshipped other gods worshipped at this place: the God of the Earth, God of the Water, God of Agriculture, God of the Society, God of Religion and their ancestors. Paying sacrifice to all these gods constituted a very time consuming and demanding job for the emperor.