Thursday, November 11, 2010

Exploring the Temple of Heaven

We awoke to a light smog blanketing the city and met Dad for breakfast at the same restaurant we ate in the night before. Again, pretty spendy but tasty. We ran into our guide Jimmy in the lobby and he gave us some tips and hints for surviving Beijing on our own, including how to spot real taxis and make them run the meter and a list of places to see in Chinese so we could just show the cabbie and go. He listed about a dozen places to see. First on my list to see was the Temple of Heaven. One of my favorite Chinese places has a huge picture of it on the wall and I've wanted to see it for a long, long time.

We got a cab at the hotel and headed out. Dad was grinning from ear to ear, for most of the day really.

The cab dropped us off at the park, and we headed in. This was a bit of a surprise to me. I don't know what I expected really, but the Temple of Heaven is not just the one pagoda in the picture, but an entire complex of buildings and walkways and pavilions and such. It was HUGE as well. We realized that exploring this would probably take most of the day, so off we went. We came across a great many groups doing different activities in the open spaces.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi with swords

There were ballroom dancers, hacky sackers - though the hacky sacks had feathers attached and looked like giant badminton birdies and ribbon dancers like this one.

Finally we approached the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvest, the round pagoda that most people think of when the Temple of Heaven is mentioned. We had to climb some stairs, but then we came around the corner of a building and the temple came into view.

It was awe inspiring. In fact, I got a lump in my throat just standing there seeing it. I don't remember being so moved by an architectural structure before. It was incredible.

I was amazed at how many people were there, yet how much open space there was in the plaza surrounding the structure.

The architecture and decor inside of the buildings was beautiful too. I half expected to feel like it was gaudy based on the pictures I had seen. But in person, it is anything but. Intricate and highly detailed, it really is a work of art.

Even the downspouts were fancy!

As we were exploring the area, a family approached us and wanted their picture taken with Dad. At first we thought they wanted us to take a picture of them with the temple, but no. They wanted a picture with Dad in it. We were baffled, but cooperated.

I was quite taken with the glazed tiles that topped the structures, especially the blue on the Temple of Heaven. They also had glazed dragons protecting the corners much like European gargoyles.

After seeing the Temple of Good Harvests, we walked around more of the park, seeing many more structures like the granary here.

For lunch, we stopped at a little noodle shop next to the granary. I had some delicious spicy chicken and rice, complete with a little plastic Chinese spoon!

Another interesting thing about the park is the trees. They are mostly original, and age around 400 - 500 years old! As such, they don't trim the trees, they put supports up for the drooping branches, as such...

Jason is demonstrating proper branch support technique.

We saw the Imperial Vault, and had fun with the Echo Wall, where one could stand facing the wall on one side and another could stand facing the wall clear across the plaza, and thanks to the acoustics could hear each other quite clearly!

The final stop on the long walking tour was the the Circular Mound, complete with a Heavenly Center Stone

When we stood on the center stone and spoke, the acoustics of the mound were such that our voices resonated back only to us! It was really fun.

We exited the opposite end of the park, having spent most of the morning and a little of the afternoon there. It was a remarkable thing to see. If you ever get to China and Beijing, the Temple of Heaven is a must see.

Next up, the Lama Temple!

More Later

1 comment:

Grammy said...

I LOVE this, John! I feel as though I were right there with you... but I didn't have to walk! Thank you so much for posting this review of your trip. What a fabulous trip it was!!!!