|TAI CHI IN THE PARK|
|HALL OF PRAYER FOR GOOD HARVEST|
TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
It was a cold, brisk, sunny morning in Beijing, and we headed out to find the Temple of Heaven Museum and Park which was about two miles from our hotel. It took us awhile to find it because the small map we were using was missing some of the street names (at least that's what Ron said), and our sense of direction was a little off. We finally went into a hotel for assistance, and it turned out to be an easy walk from there.
We entered the 660 acre park about 9:30 am; and to our delight it was full of older people, dressed colorfully, and having a great time. This was the happiest group of Chinese I saw the entire trip. Some were doing tai chi and many others were dancing to loud music, and a leader who often sang as well. There were couples dancing together and groups of women dancing alone (with men watching).
We enjoyed the variety of Chinese pop music that was coming from the different groups. Mainland China is currently experiencing a rise in the popularity of Mandarin pop songs and the release of many new albums.
There were ensembles playing live music for crowds that were singing along using the provided songbooks. It was kind of hard to believe that the park would be so active on a 30 degree windy day in March, but I suspect it would be the same in January. I was glad for my winter coat, hat and gloves.
There were games being played like Chinese Hacky Sack, which has been a popular sport in China for more than 2,000 years. It looked like a lot of fun. They also toss a soft hoop around and try to catch it around their neck. A man playing a mini badminton game invited Ron to join him. Ron had a good time playing and he entertained a few spectators as well. Then there was a long covered corridor with a sitting wall that was full of men and women playing games like dominoes and poker. It was here that I spotted two older woman, involved in a game of cards, they were a perfect picture in their red, pink and blue flowered jackets, silk scarfs and colorful warm hats.
By the time we left at 11:30, the crowds were thinning. I imagine everyone was heading home for lunch. In warmer weather, retirees return to spend the afternoon relaxing, reading and socializing in the park.
The surrounding homes and apartments are extremely small, which I expect is an incentive for the locals to go to the park for entertainment, exercise, and camaraderie. For whatever reason, it appears to be a healthy lifestyle. Judging from the wide variety of vegetables, fruits, egges, beans and rice offered at the markets, their diet is hearty as well. I did not observe any obesity among the Chinese people.
TYPICAL MARKET BEIJING
In the midst of this popular park is the Temple of Heaven, considered one of China's finest examples of religious architecture. The complex was built between 1406 and 1420 and visited by Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to heaven for good harvests. The wooden buildings are constructed without nails. An old Chinese cement mixture, made from raw materials such as egges, rice and kiwi juice, was used instead.
It was last used for ritual ceremonies in 1914, and then turned into a park, and opened to the public in 1918. All of the buildings within the Temple have special dark blue roof tiles, representing the heaven. The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, with its three tiered circular roofed levels, was the most spectacular. It was worthy of my slow vintage walk around to enjoy it from many viewpoints.
The cleanliness of the area was no doubt due to the many warmly dressed cleaners we observed. They used brooms, made of straw, and dustpans to pick up any trash in sight.
From here we headed over to the Forbidden City by subway.
TEMPLE OF HEAVEN
|DANCING IN THE PARK|
ON A WINTER DAY
|LONG CORRIDOR |
GAMES IN PARK
|DANCING THE SWING|