The Temple of Heaven is another major tourist site to see while visiting Beijing after the Great Wall and Forbidden City. Many others may venture to the Summer Palace and this gem may be missed. It was my favourite place over the Forbidden City and after the Wall of course. It was not something we had planned to see and was put as a maybe if we have time. A co-worker casually mentioned it and if they had not said anything we may have overlooked this altogether.
This was our last day in Beijing after a whirlwind of 3 nights and 4 days. After all the walking, hiking, cooler temps and some pollution problems we debated about going, but decided to suck it up and head out to the Temple since it was close to the hotel and we may not get back to Beijing, so best make the most of it. After a few metro stops we exited the trains and were not sure where to go. Generally major attractions have signs posted to point you in the right direction. A few other tourists had the same issue and we followed each other around. Eventually we found ourselves on the street and a posted street map gave us the direction we needed. We found ourselves at the main gate and paid our admission. The admission was more than posted on the Travel website we read. We worried we may be getting ripped off since the woman was adamant it was 40RMB not 20 (about $6.00). Luckily we paid the higher price since it afforded us entrance into the main attractions and not just the park.
Throwing the Hoops
Soon after we entered the gate we noticed older local residents playing games and chatting in the sun. A small pavilion had wall to wall people playing shuttle cox (small weighted feathers that must be kept in motion; like hacky sacks that were popular few years back), cards, majong, badminton and dancing. Some ladies were knitting and making crafts which they offered for sale to the passing tourists. The energy and happiness filled the space. No one blinked an eye as a few tourists stopped to snap photos, although a few modest people would turn away or cover their faces.
From there we saw these men playing this hoop game. They would catch the hoop around their necks. As we took pause to watch they gave one to John to throw. After a bad first throw he quickly caught on. They returned the hoops and John was a natural and caught each of them! They were very impressed and clapped and smiled.
Our next stop was the Hall of Good Harvests. A proud grandma and small boy followed me up the steps and he kept saying HI and then mimicked me taking photos. He laughed and would do it again and babbled to me in Chinese. Inside the main building was quite impressive. The detail and colours were dazzling on the round 3 tier building. Inside the detail was just as impressive. This building was used to pray for good weather and good harvests. Animals would also be used for sacrifice and models of where they were held was also part of the display.
Hall of Good Harvests
Next we moved on to the Imperial Vault of Heaven. Similar style as the Hall of Good Harvest, but only 1 tier and smaller in circumference. The tablets used for worship are housed here. Also an echo wall was said to be within the circular walls, although we did not find it, or get it to work for us.
Last stop before we left was the Circular Mound Altar. It reminded me of a 3 tier wedding cake with its white stone and ornate decorations and carvings. The beauty held its tortured past as this was where the animal sacrifices would take place here each winter solstice.
View from the Circular Mound
The Temple of Heaven was my one of my favourite places partly because of the beautiful and peaceful gardens, but also the fewer tourists and more locals doing what they do everyday. It was a glimpse into their lives, culture and traditions. Gone were the pushing and rude crowds all vying for position to get a picture and take a look. Despite its history a calm and peaceful atmosphere surrounded us. Watching the locals play games and be so welcoming and friendly by inviting to join in was priceless.
Be sure to read some of my previous posts on Beijing… which was a whirlwind trip where we fit in a lot in a short time; a real hell of a hike!
Want to see more pictures of the local flair? Stay tuned later as I post on Word Press’ theme Culture…