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.