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Interpreting the Evidence

Temple of Heaven in Peiping (Beijing), 1924

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Temple of Heaven in Peiping (Beijing), 1924 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven in Peking (Beijing), China was built in 1420 A.D. during the Ming Dynasty, 1924.
Historical Context
The Temple of Heaven in Beijing was built during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty.  Construction began in 1406 A.D. and took fourteen years to complete.  The Temple is a complex of several buildings standing among gardens and cypress trees. It is enclosed by two walls dividing the site into inner and outer temple areas.  Standing on 6,670 acres, it is far larger than the Imperial Palace, which was built at same time.  The main structures in the Temple are the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven, and the Circular Mound Altar.  

The circular building shown in this photograph is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.  Here the Ming and Qing emperors went to worship the God of Heaven and to pray for good harvests.  Built on three-tiered marble platform, the Hall is thirty-two meters in diameter.  The blue tile roof symbolizing blue sky rises thirty-eight meters high.  The structure is supported by twenty-eight pillars that represent the four seasons, the twelve months, and the twelve two-hour time periods into which the Chinese divided the day.  More than twelve million people visit the Temple of Heaven every year.

Essential Question
How does geography and economy influence culture and architecture?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the link between geography, economy, and culture.
Historical Challenges
What ceremonies took place at the Temple of Heaven? Why was it important for Chinese emperors to participate in these ceremonies?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: How many feet high is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests? How many feet in diameter? What is the area in meters of the Hall? What is the area in feet? Measure your classroom. How many classrooms like yours could fit into the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests? How old was the Temple of Heaven when this photograph was taken? How old is it today? If twelve million people visit the Temple of Heaven every year, about how many people tour it each day?
Science: The Temple of Heaven is famous for its old cypress trees. Research cypress trees. How long can they live? In what climates and soils do they grow best? Is the environment in Beijing good for growing cypress trees?
English Language Arts: Research Emperor Yongle. What were his major accomplishments? Why do you think he had the Temple of Heaven built?