Temple of Heaven
Firmly on the tourist circuit but not to be missed is the Temple of Heaven, which was constructed at the same time as the Forbidden City in 1420. Commissioned by the Yongle Emperor, the Temple of Heaven served as one of the four sacrificial imperial temples. However, this temple was the most important as all Ming and Qing emperors performed their sacrificial rights here for the winter solstice. The Chinese believed that if any mistakes took place during the ceremony that it augured ominously for the entire country during the coming year. In 1914, the then President of the Republic of China even performed a Ming prayer ceremony in an attempt to get himself crowned emperor. Today the Dongzhì (winter solstice) festival is still important to many Chinese, especially in the North, like Beijing. The temple was given a RMB 47 million facelift in advance on the 2008 Olympics and it is well worth a wander through the various altars and surrounding park.