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The Temple of Heaven was first built in the 15th century by the Ming Dynasty and was one of the most important imperial temples in all of China. The emperor, seen as a conduit between heaven and earth, would come here, specifically to the lavishly ornate Temple of Good Harvest, each new year to offer sacrifices and pray for a favourable harvest. Set in a large public park, surrounded by ancient cypress trees, this immense collection of 92 religious buildings is considered by UNESCO "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design" and exploring the site gives you the opportunity to learn more about Chinese philosophical beliefs, cosmogony, art, dynastic politics and sacrificial rituals. 

Of equal interest are the grounds of the Temple of Heaven Park themselves. Come first thing in the morning and you will see large groups of elderly Beijingers gathering to take communal exercises, take their birds out for a walk in their cages and gather to play musical instruments.

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