Detail of entryway to the Hall of Sovereign Heaven, a structure at the northern end of the Temple of Heaven which housed the tablets of heavenly spirits. (The tablet representing Heaven itself, however, was stored in the central Imperial Vault of…
Gate and roof of the Hall of Sovereign Heaven at the rear of the Temple of Heaven complex, which housed tablets representing heavenly spirits (but not that of Heaven itself, which resided in the Imperial Vault of Heaven).
Designed in 1531 and renovated in 1751, the Hall of Prayer for a Prosperous Year is the Temple of Heaven's most famous structure. It was not, however, the site of the sacrifices to Heaven, the complex's most important ritual function.
Seen from the edge of the Temple of Heaven's circular mound (site of yearly imperial sacrifices), the Imperial Vault of Heaven, which housed that deity's spirit tablet, lies beyond a series of stone gates.
Graced by a plaque identifying it as the Hall of Prayer for a Prosperous Year, the Temple of Heaven's most famous structure is capped by three sets of rounded eaves whose beams bear the imperial dragon and phoenix motif.
Designed in 1531 (by the Ming Emperor Shizong, it is said), the Temple of Heaven's Hall of Prayer for a Prosperous Year known to modern tourists is the result of a 1751 renovation. The circular roof signifies Heaven, the square base earth.