THE Altar of Heaven, according to ancient Chinese belief, was the center of the universe. But it was carefully placed in a remote corner of the city, as if to keep the greatness of the universe from interfering with the grandeur of Peking.

Peking was already more than 2,000 years old when one of its invading conquerors decided to make it a place of splendor. The Mongol Emperor Kublai, grandson of Genghis Khan, ordered the building of Green Mount, a hill that was dotted with evergreens brought from far and wide by imperial elephants, paved with a layer of green copper ore...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!