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Album: By Country | By Date China | July 2001 < Prev: Chengdu to Xian to Beijing | Next: Beijing's Yonghe Gong, Kong Miao, and Guozijian >
Travelogue: By Country | By Date China | July 2001  

July 2001 - Temple of Heaven Park

A pretty but relatively incomprehensible set of buildings used by the emperors to propitiate or worship or get favors from heaven

Reading the news about the Olympics being awarded to China.  It was interesting to see how confident the Chinese were about getting the games.  Olympic poster Nice subway in Beijing Qian Men, the "Front Gate."  On the southern side of Tiananmen Square, Qian Men was once between the Inner City and outer city.  It dates from the 15th Century.  Today, the walls are gone, and it sits amidst large roads.  It's one contribution to daily Beijing life is to give its name to a subway stop.
Peking Duck in the window of a famous restaurant.   In its classic form, the dish calls for a specific breed of duck, the Imperial Peking, that is force-fed and housed in a small cage so inactivity will ensure tender meat. After the entrails are removed, the lower opening is sewed shut. Air is forced between the skin and flesh to puff out the skin so that the fat will be rendered out during roasting and the skin, the choicest part of the dish, will be very crisp. The inflated bird is painted with a sweet solution, hung up to dry for several hours, then roasted suspended in a cylindrical clay oven. Tote painting with help from a very quiet Chinese friend. Harry Potter in Chinese.  Our lunch being cooked.  We don't know what it was, but a good name would be a "Beijing Crepe."
Part of the Temple of Abstention.  The emperor would come here to fast for a few days before performing sacrifices. Ceiling in the Imperial Vault of Heaven.  The Imperial Vault of Heaven is one of the three key buildings in the Park - the other two are The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and the Circular Mound Altar.  These buildings are unique both for the unusual geometric layout and because they supposedly represent the pinnacle of traditional Chinese architecture.  The buildings are linked by a 1000 foot, raised passage, running north/south. On the north end is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and to the south, the Imperial Vault of Heaven the Circular Mound Altar (Huan-ch'iu t'an).  Seen from the air, the wall of the enclosure to the south is square, while the one on the north side is semicircular. This pattern symbolizes the traditional Chinese belief that heaven is round and earth square.  The Imperial Vault of Heaven, first erected in 1530 and rebuilt in 1752, is some 64 feet high and about 50 feet in diameter. The circular building has no crossbeam, and the dome is supported by complicated span work. Its decorative paintings still retain their fresh original colors. Whatever the emperors were doing here, they often did it with "tablets," like the red ones shown here.  These tablets were dedicated to heaven or celestial bodies or both, depending on which interpretative sign one reads. These colorfully painted beams are in one of the small buildings which flanked the Vault and which the signs told us were used as warehouses (?) to store the tablets.
The Vault is in a round courtyard surrounded by a smooth, stone wall, called Echo Wall.  Supposedly, a whisper can travel from one side to be heard at the other.  Not for us. South of the Vault's enclosure is the Circular Mound Altar, built in 1530 and rebuilt in 1749. The triple-tiered white stone terrace is enclosed by two sets of walls that are square outside and round inside; thus, the whole structure forms an elaborate and integrated geometric pattern. The top terrace is paved with nine rings of stones.  To Mark's delight, which everyone else endured, he and Tote discovered that the number of paving stones in each ring is a multiple of nine. This is looking north toward the Vault.  One can see the outer wall of the altar, which is square and the circular inner one. On the gate that guards the Vault is this dragon
This is the long platform which connects the Vault and Altar with the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. Iron baskets for burning things.  This is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, built in 1420 as a place of heaven worship for the emperors.  
The outside painting was beautiful The entire structure, 125 feet high and about 100 feet in diameter, is supported by 28 massive wooden pillars. The four central columns, called the "dragon-well pillars," represent the four seasons; there are also two rings of 12 columns each, the inner ring symbolizing the 12 months and the outer ring the 12 divisions of day and night, according to a traditional system. The centre of the stone-paved floor is a round marble slab that has a design of a dragon and a phoenix--traditional symbols of king and queen. The hall has no walls, only partitions of open latticework doors. Maggie painting.  Though she was obviously busy, she was interrupted four times by people who wanted her to come with them to pose for a photo.  She complied, though she must be sick of the being in photos and was certainly unhappy to be interrupted.
As the sun got lower, we could see the outside better This is the back.  It looks just like the front except there is no large picture frame type thing hanging from this side.  Tote hated the picture frame, so he liked this view better Looking out the gate of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest Floral arrangement
On the east side of the park is a pavilion filled with people singing songs.  They have sheet music and sing quite loudly and well.  The weird thing is that groups sing very close to each other: so close that it's sometimes to distinguish what any one group is singing.  This was one of the biggest groups.  They had a big band and lots of music.  Big intersection at northeast corner of Temple of Heaven Park.  Beijing is no longer a city of shops and street stalls.  It now consists primarily of big, hot streets.  In the neighborhoods, the big streets usually have trees.  Yet, in the main, things in Beijing are separated by long, boring stretches of street.  We have yet to find a place that is "walkable" in the sense of being interesting to walk around in.