Sunday, August 31, 2008

Temple Of Heaven

Sunday August 31, 2008 Autumn is approaching here in Beijing and from what our hosts tell us the cool weather is coming. Saturday it was overcast and rainy but Sunday was beautiful. The skies were blue and only a few passing cotton ball clouds could be spotted. We decided to check out the Temple of Heaven.

History from Wikipedia:
The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yongle Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor in the 16th century. The Jiajing Emperor also built three other prominent temples in Beijing, the Temple of Sun in the east (日坛), the Temple of Earth in the north (地坛), and the Temple of Moon in the west (月坛). The Temple of Heaven was renovated in the 18th century under the Qianlong Emperor. In 1914, Yuan Shih-kai, then President of the Republic of China, performed a Ming prayer ceremony at the temple, as part of an effort to have himself declared Emperor of China. 
The Temple of Heaven was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and was described as "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations..." as "the symbolic layout and design of the Temple of Heaven had a profound influence on architecture and planning in the Far East over many centuries." According to Xinhua, in early 2005, the Temple of Heaven underwent a 47 million yuan (5.9 million USD) restoration in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the restoration was completed on May 1st, 2006.

We took the subway to the site. We started on line 13 transferred to line 2 and then again to line 5. It took about an hour and was fun. We always get a seat on the subway especially when Olivia is in her pack on Shawn's back. We exited the station and we were right at the East Gate to the park. We paid our admission fee of 35 yuan (a little over $5) and that entitled us to entrance to all buildings in the park. Alternatively you can  pay 15 yuan and that entitles you to entrance to the park grounds only. We entered the gate and walked up a beautiful tree lined roadway that framed the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests building. This building is a famous landmark here in Beijing.

As we approached the site there was another structure called the Long Corridor similar to the one at the Summer Palace. People were sitting around enjoying a relaxing Sunday in the shade.

We entered the courtyard of the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests and were absolutely blown away by the beauty of the place. The blue tile roofs gleamed in the sun and were a nice contrast against the clear blue sky and the white marble really popped in the bright sun.

Interesting fact about this building is it's made from all wood and no nails were used in its construction. The building is on a high hill in Beijing and gives some great views especially on such a clear day. You can even see the mountains in this picture.

Pictures of us at the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests. Olivia peeking out the side of her pack.


Shawn and Olivia

We stopped for a break and had a nice ice cream bar. We turned Olivia loose and she had a great time socializing with all of the other visitors. Here she is trying to push the great door closed.

We moved along to the next building and walked along what is known as The Vermilion Steps Bridge. You can see the Beijing center line passes through this complex as well.

The bridge connects the Hall of Prayers for a Good Harvest with The Vault of Heaven. This is what it looked like from the back side.

This building is surrounded by what is called the echo wall. We noticed many people shouting at the wall and could hear it echo around. We tried it and you could hear my voice echo about. View from the interior of the court yard.

Sandy at the Vault of Heaven.

Shawn and Olivia.

Next stop on the tour was the Circular Mound Altar. This is where the Chinese Emperor would pray for favorable weather. He must have prayed hard because Sunday was a beautiful day.

Here is Sandy at the top of the altar mound.

Here we are on the center stone. Supposedly anyone who stands here and speaks can be heard clearly around the whole altar.

The veiws were pretty good from atop the mound. This is a picture of the CCTV building which is very unique in its design. Notice the cranes in the shot as well. This city is under going a huge boom in new construction.

Here is another shot of Sandy by one the many dragon heads protruding from the altar.

We headed back to where we came in and decided to take a stroll through the parks that surround the site. The Olympic Marathons passed through this site and in this picture you can see the blue line painted on the road that led the runner along the way.

We stopped along the way and took a rest. Olivia was happy to run around for a while.

Back in the pack and ready to roll.

We made our way back to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and found ourselves on the opposite side we had originally entered. There was a beautiful flower display there and we noticed that it had been changed to reflect the Paralympic games that are going to start next week.

This is nice shot of the temple. Looks like a postcard...

We made our way along the long corridor and there was so much going on. People were singing and dancing and there was even a whole band set up playing traditional songs.

We watched a woman make a bunny rabbit out of grass fuzzies it was preety cool when her little girl came over to us and presented one to Olivia.
As you can see she was pretty excited about it too!
There were women dancing with ribbons which was fun to watch.

People were playing jianzi which is like hacky sack except you use a shuttlecock.

I have been playing this at lunch break with the associates and I'm getting pretty good.
There were also people doing water calligraphy on the roads. They use a giant brush which is a sponge and they use water to write on the sidewalks and roads. Its peaceful and relaxing for them to do and leaves no permanent marks.

The Temple of Heaven has been our favorite spot in Beijing so far but we still have so much more to see. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Men's Marathon

Sunday August 24, 2008
The Men's Marathon came past our community this past Sunday and we were there to cheer on the USA runners.
Here are some shots of the race as it passed by.
This is the official time keeping vehicle.

Followed by what I think was some kind of camera vehicle. Maybe a high definition camera?

This is a shot of the 3 medal winners as they went by us.

A great shot of a Chinese runner. (I was too busy cheering on the American guys and forgot to take a picture of them).

The sidewalk was crowded with spectators.

This is what happens EVERYWHERE we stop in Beijing.

The Forbidden City

Saturday August 23, 2008.
We have been wanting to go back to Tienanmen Square to see the Olympic displays. Since the game's closing ceremony is on Sunday we thought we'd go down. Well it was closed again probably for a receiving party for foreign dignitaries. All was not lost so we decided we'd check out the Forbidden City.
Quote from wikipedia:
The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the mid-Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the Dongcheng District, in the middle of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost five centuries, it served as the home of the Emperor and his household, as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government.
Built from 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 surviving buildings with 8,707 bays of rooms and covers 720,000 square metres. The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture, and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere. The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

We walked around and checked out the many museums and collections on display. The weather was nice and the air was clear and the skies were blue as you can see in this picture.

To get to the Forbidden city you have to pass through a series of gates the first being Tienanmen Gate. This gate has the portrait of Mao hanging on it. Here we are across the street from the first gate.

The next gate is the Meridian Gate pictured here.

Here is a shot from atop the Meridain Gate looking towards Tienanmen. Notice the pathway in the middle. This is the center line of Beijing. It actually bisects the city in 2.

Once through the meridain Gate you are officially inside the Forbidden City, we know this because this is where they collect the tickets. The cost for entry is 60 yuan or about $9. We then passed through the Gate of Supreme Harmony. This is a smaller building/gate.

After passing through the gate you are in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony which is probably what most people see in pictures of the Forbidden City with its carved marble steps and shiny yellow tiled roof. This building was recently revovated. When I was here in January the building looked like this.

Today it is has been renovated and all of the brighly painted decoration have been restored.

We made our way to the rear of the forbidden city where the imperial gardens are and what we needed most shade. We had lunch and Olivia made some new friends.

We enjoyed our afternooon in the gardens and headed back out and along the way we checked out the many museums and collections along the way. We also made some new friends too.

We will return to the Forbidden City when Sandy's Mom visits in a few weeks.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Olympics at the National Stadium, A.K.A. The Birds Nest

Friday August 22, 2008
The events scheduled for the day were the final for the men's 50KM walk, prelims for the men's decathlon discus, pole vault, 110 meter hurdles. The events kicked off at 7:30 AM but we didn't arrive at the stadium until 9 AM. Getting all of us out of the house that early would have been impossible. The grounds of the Olympic complex are beautiful. As we approached the stadium we could see the walkers on the track outside the stadium. The morning weather was perfect and the skies were very clear with great air quality.

The Bird's Nest is very impressive in person and is very big. You really have to see it in person to appreciate the size. You can see in these up close shots just how grand this structure is.

We entered the stadium and caught the last heat on the hurdles.

You can see there is a Chinese athlete in the first lane and he won the race. The crowd roared inside the stadium. It was so loud.
Next up was the discus throw where the American guy threw a Olympic record 53 meters. We were very proud of him for that and we were happy to cheer him on. On the discus throw they had a remote control car to return the discus back to the next thrower. It was pretty cool.

They had a break in the action after the discus as we waited for the walkers to finish their race. The Fuwa came out for a visit and Olivia was happy to see them. This is Beibei:

Here are of a couple of pictures of us.

We watched the walkers on the screens as they made their way into the stadium to finish the race. An Italian named Alex Schwazer was ahead of the pack and set to break the Olympic record. Here he is entering the stadium.

It was really cool to watch him break the Olympic record finishing the race in 3:37:09 way ahead of the Aussie silver medal winner who finished over 2 minutes later.
Olivia was an attraction at this venue too. It's really beginning to be quite funny as we can't go anywhere with her without being paparazzied. Everyone here wants a picture of her or wants to hold her or just be near her to adore her. It's quite a site that you have to experience to really appreciate.

Jenny coming to the rescue.

The last event of the day was pole vault. This went on for a long time as each guy gets 3 tries to make it over the top. Each guy who does moves on to the next level until only 1 guys remains. Here are some action shots.

We ended the day with a walk around the Olympic Green to see the sights. It was quite spectacular to see this place in person.
Here is a panorama of the inside of the Bird's Nest

Outside the Bird's Nest

The top of the Ling Long Pagoda.

The Today show set.

Sandy with her new friends.

Sandy with the Bird's nest in the background.

The Water Cube

Another of the Water Cube, The National Indoor Stadium is to the right and in the back ground you can see the Media Tower.
I had to include this picture because I thought it was cool. You've seen Olivia in our back pack in many of the pictures. This is the Chinese version.