The Temple of Heaven

Another massively hot day here in Beijing, and I must say that the number of smells is quiet impressive.  Of all the places that I have been, China has a remarkable manner in which it can manipulate it’s scent.  I headed out around 11 this morning to one of Beijing’s most famed tourist attraction, the great Temple of Heaven, located south of Tiananmen square.  The park which holds the Temple of Heaven is (I believe) the largest park in Beijing, so even if you have no interest in seeing the more pedestrian sights, it is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of urban Beijing.  Huge amounts of shade from trees, the sound of cicadas and any number of groups of elderly Beijingers doing Taichi, singing and finding places to cool off are characteristic of the summer months.

I am not typically a huge fan of this kind of attraction within China, as they tend to be similar to the point of predictability.  Beyond this, it seems that you always find yourself in need of purchasing a different ticket.  I wanted to head to the park simply because I knew that it was going to be another furnace-like day, and the shade of trees and feel of something other than concrete were calling me.

You can enter the park on a basic ticket that costs less than the cost required to enter the Temple of Heaven itself, but once I was in the park I figured that I would probably only visit the attraction once, and why not today.  It was an uncharacteristically blue skied day for Beijing, and great for some photos.  The place was very crowded, but I suspect that it can get much worse.  Once again, I found myself skittering from shady spot to shady spot, chugging down large amounts of water as I crossed what seemed to be miles of paving stone.

Despite it’s name, the Temple of Heaven is not quite a temple in the traditional sense.  According to  the Lonely Planet guide,

“The most perfect example of Ming architectural design, the Temple of Heaven is not so much a temple as an altar, so don’t expect to see worshippers in prayer.  As it’s essentially Confucian and esoteric in function and cosmological purpose, don’t expect to find any of the intriguing mystique of active Taoist temples or the incense-burning of Buddhist shrines here.”

Do expect to find the standard and ever aw-inspiring temple colors, each representing elements of the earth.  The same colors are also found throughout the forbidden city.  While the temple certainly is quite old, they spend a good amount of time making sure that one of the City’s prized sites remains in great shape and color.  No fading round these parts.  The sheer size of the structure is something to behold, along with the throngs of domestic tourist that crowd around any of the opening to the inside, a cathedral-like opening to the top.  The main building served as the sight at which the emperor would have giving offerings to ask for good harvest and the prevention of natural disasters.  Better be quite a grand place.

I ate some dumplings on the way to the temple on one of the most ‘authentic’ streets that I have been on so far.  They gave me quite the look when I asked them if they had any, and on further investigation I came to the conclusion that it was actually a dumpling factory of sorts, with a small (small) restaurant as a front.  I haven’t felt quite right since, so I’m hoping it is just too much grease and not a less savory issue.  Until our next encounter-

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