How to Visit Ditan Park

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Beijing has five royal altars left from Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 – 1911) including Tiantan ( the Altar for the Heaven, also knowns as the Temple of Heaven), Ditan ( the Altar for the Earth, also known as the Temple of Earth), Ritan ( the Altar for the Sun, also known as the Temple of Sun), Yuetan (the Altar for the Moon, also known as the Temple of Moon) and Xiannongtan ( the Altar for Agriculture, also known as Temple of Agriculture).

Now four of the original altars have been extended and turned into public parks known as Tiantan Park (the Temple of Heaven), Ditan Park (the Temple of Earth), Ritan Park (the Temple of Sun), Yuetan Park (the Temple of Moon).

Ditan, or the Altar for the Earth and the Temple of Earth, was built in 1530 during Ming Dynasty. It was the place where the emperors in Ming and Qing Dynasties who would attend the annual summer solstice ritual of sacrfices to the earth. In 1925, the Temple of Earth was built into a park open to the public. Later the park was destroyed and discarded due to the successive wars. The park was repened to the public in April, in 1957.

Ditan Park is open 24 hours a day all year around with a small entrance of 2 Yuan. But the entrance to the inner site of the Altar costs you another 5 Yuan. Each year during the Chinese Spring Festival ( Chinese new year), a grand temple fair will be held inside Ditan Park with added up entrance fee of 10 Yuan.

Ditan Park has four entrances – South, North, East and West. Its south gate is easily reached by taking the Subway line 2 and you get off at the station of Lama Temple and exit from Exit A and walk to the north for about 300m, you will get to the southern gate to Ditan Park. We recommend that you make a circular tour of the park from the south gate, to East Gate, North Gate and exit from West Gate, or back to the southern gate.

A morning stroll around Ditan Park is very much rewarding, seeing people ( most of them are seniors ) doing all kinds of morning exercises, dancing and singing. Ditan Park is also one of the best places to view autumn leaves in the downtown Beijing when the Ginkgo trees are all yellow, blanketing the major roads in the park. Another important occasion to come to Ditan Park is Chinese Spring Festival when a large temple fair will be held here annually, attracting huge crowds of visitors. There will a plenty of vendors selling all kinds of stuff, food, entertainment, and games.

Morning Stroll around Ditan Park
First, follow me for a relaxing stroll around Ditan Park in the morning. This time I enter Ditan Park through its west gate instead of its south gate. What allures you is the grand pailou outside the west gate. Pailou, also known as Paifang, is a traditional Chinese architectural form like an archway.

Pailou ( Paifang ) is a traditional Chinese architectural form like an archway.

Pailou is a traditional Chinese architectural form like an archway.

Pailou is a traditional Chinese architectural form like an archway.

 Then walk from the decorated pailou to the west entrance, a 200m some walking with its pathway covered by the dense trees. Actually there are two west gates – one 3-arch gate and another one arch gate both with green glazed tiles and re-colored wall. The tickting office is set by the inner west gate, a one-arch gate.

After entering the west gate, walk to the north, soon you will see a square red wall which houses the Palace Fasting where emperors would fast before they went to the Altar for sacrificial ritual.

the Palace Fasting where emperors would fast

the Palace Fasting where emperors would fast

To the north of the Palace for Fasting are the Devine Horse Stable and Bell Tower.
the Devine Horse Stable

the Devine Horse Stable

The Bell Tower in Ditan Park
The Bell Tower in Ditan Park

The Bell Tower in Ditan Park

Each morning numerous local residens, especialy senior people come to Ditan Park or the Temple of Earth for doing all kinds of exercises. This group of people are Tibetan dancing fans, dancing in frong of the open space by the west gate to the Palace for Fasting.
This group of people are Tibetan dancing fans

This group of people are Tibetan dancing fans

Move on to the east from the Tibetan dancing group, I see another group of people learning Tai Chi.
I see another group of people learning Tai Chi.

I see another group of people learning Tai Chi.

 Soon, I reach the wide and foresty paved road running from north to south leading to the North Gate. Many people are doing morning exercises on the road covered with high Ginkgo trees.
Many people are doing morning exercises on the road covered with high Ginkgo trees.

Many people are doing morning exercises on the road covered with high Ginkgo trees.

This is the northern gate to Ditan Park.
This is the northern gate to Ditan Park.

This is the northern gate to Ditan Park.

Let’s go on to make a loop tour of the park and move on to the east side of the north-south main road. Here you may find even more people doing Tai Chi, doing plentiful morning exercises.
Here you may find even more people doing Tai Chi

Here you may find even more people doing Tai Chi

A veteran of martial art is practicing in order to attract new students for commercial purposes.
A veteran of martial art is practicing in order to attract new students for commercial purposes.

A veteran of martial art is practicing in order to attract new students for commercial purposes.

Relying on apparatus to do exercises. Some just go to the extreme. 
Relying on apparatus to do exercises. Some just go to the extreme.

Relying on apparatus to do exercises. Some just go to the extreme.

This is the Chinese Traditional Medicine Health Cultivation Garden telling people how to keep fit and self-cultivation. The garden is located at the East gate to Ditan Park.
This is the Chinese Traditional Medicine Health Cultivation Garden

This is the Chinese Traditional Medicine Health Cultivation Garden

It is a beautiful garden immersing people into a mesmerising environment while learning the basics of Chinese traditional medicine.

Well. let’s walk to the middle of the park – the Altar in a square pond (Fangzetan) circled by red-colored wall with yellow glazed tiles.

 Fangze Tan ( The square and moated terrace), popularly known as “the Altar” was the place where the emperors in Ming and Qing Dynasty offered sacrifices to the God of the Earth. It is locked in the early morning, so I have to peep through the wooden gate and take a picture of the Altar from a distance.

peep through the wooden gate and take a picture of the Altar from a distance.

peep through the wooden gate and take a picture of the Altar from a distance.

Old pine trees and green lawn by the Altar. I happen to take a candid photo of a cute baby escorted by his grandpa.
happen to take a candid photo of a cute baby escorted by his grandpa.

happen to take a candid photo of a cute baby escorted by his grandpa.

Now I come to the southern gate, the most popular gate of the four gates in the park. In front of the gate is the House for Worrshipping the Earth God. The house is also surrounded by the red-colored wall with yellow glazed tiles.
the House for Worshipping the Earth God

the House for Worshipping the Earth God

This is the exterior of the Southern Gate to Ditan Park.
This is the exterior of the Southern Gate to Ditan Park.

This is the exterior of the Southern Gate to Ditan Park.

Just outside the southern gate, you can find one of the popular Cantonese restaurants in Beijing known as Jindingxuan Restaurant. You may have a bite of the Cantonese food.
the popular Cantonese restaurants in Beijing known as Jindingxuan Restaurant.

the popular Cantonese restaurants in Beijing known as Jindingxuan Restaurant.

Fall Foliage at Ditan Park.
Beijing is at its best in autumn with blue sky, comfy sunshine and colourful leaves. The best time to see the foliage in Beijing spans about one month ranging from October 15 to November 15.

There are many places to view fall foliage in Beijing including the mountainous areas (all sections of the Great Wall) and downtown parks. Among them, Fragrant Hill is unanimously considered as the most famous place to see autumn leaves in Beijing.

If you are scared of the huge crowds of visitors at Fragrant Hill or don’t want to go to the mountains or the Great Wall outside Beijing, and would rather have a leisure time in viewing the autumn leaves in downtown Beijing, Ditan Park ( The Temple of Earth ) is definitely your best option.

Autumn Ditan 1

Ditan 1

Ditan 1

Autumn Ditan 2
Ditan 2

Ditan 2

Autumn Ditan 3
Autumn Ditan 3

Autumn Ditan 3

Autumn Ditan 4
Autumn Ditan 4

Autumn Ditan 4

Ditan Temple Fair during the Chinese spring festival
As a foreign visitor, if you are in Beijing during the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year),  visiting a temple fair is definitely a good choice to experience the traditonal  Beijing custom and Chinese culture.

Like elsewhere in the world, temple fairs (Miao Hui)originated and developed as groups of vendors did business near temples when many pilgrimes came to pay tribute to the gods during traditional festivals.

Now there are over 10 major temple fairs held each year in Beijing during Chinese New Year. Most of them are in the parks, wide streets and other non-temple areas. Though some commercialization is greatly reinventing the essence of the Beijing’stemple fairs, and old Beijing culture is becoming a smaller part of the fairs, going to a temple fair is still one of the opportunities to know something about our Spring Festival traditions: eating, shopping and entertaining.

Eating and drinking at Ditan Temple fair. Shopping at Ditan Temple Fair

Shopping at Ditan Temple Fair

Shopping at Ditan Temple Fair

Entertaining at Ditan Temple Fair
Entertaining at Ditan Temple Fair

Entertaining at Ditan Temple Fair

Any questions, just drop a line

2 Responses to “How to Visit Ditan Park”

  1. Petal says:

    Hi
    If visiting on Chinese New Year’s Day 2014 which gate should we enter and any tips of where to go. I didn’t realize it is so big so would like to know if you can recommend a route through the fair. I am most interested in the entertainment at the fair.

  2. Daniel says:

    Hello Petal,

    Actually,the park is not very big. For your convenience, you may enter the park from its south gate. You may take subway line 2 or 5 and get off at the station of Lama Temple ( Yonghegong ) 雍和宫 and use the exit A. Then you will easily see the festively decorated gate. Inside the park, you just follow the throng ( there will be large crowds of people and vendors in the park! Walk around the park. Have a good time !

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