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Imperial prayer hall closed for maintenance
2005-05-08 03:23:02 XinhuaEnglish

BEIJING, May 8(Xinhuanet)-- The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests,the landmark of the Temple of Heaven in downtown Beijing and a popular UNESCO's World Heritage site, has been closed for a year-long maintenance project.

The main structure of the temple, called Qiniandian in Chinese,served as an imperial worship site where emperors prayed for good harvests on the 15th day of the first month of the traditional Chines lunar calendar every year since it was built in 1420.

The round hall, 38 meters high and 30 meters in diameter, has undergone numerous major overhauls in its 600-year-long history, and the upcoming renovation is the largest of its kind since the founding of new China in 1949.

The project, which is to begin on May 17, is expected to complete before the golden week-long May Day tourist period next year, said Jiang Shimin, an official with the management of the Temple of Heaven.

During the one-year closure, the price of a through ticket, which covers all major sites of the temple, however, will remain unchanged at 35 yuan(4 US dollars), he said.

The opening of two other sites near the Circular Mound Altar, Nanzaishengting, or the south offering slaughter pavilion, and Nanshenchu, or the south sacred kitchen, for the first time, he acknowledged, is, nevertheless, expected to offset visitors' loss.

The two sites were never opened to visitors before.

The original looks and style of the ancient architecture will keep intact during the maintenance. And the cement ground of the hall's court will be removed and replaced by quality grey bricks, Jiang said.

The project will also improve facilities of water supply, fire alarming, safeguard, monitoring, communication and power supply inthe Prayer Hall.

The facelift of the Temple of Heaven constitutes part of the national capital's efforts to restore its ancient appearance before the Olympic Games in 2008.

The municipality will inject 300 million yuan(about 36 millionUS dollars) this year into the protection of its cultural relics, according to the municipal bureau of cultural relics. Enditem

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