on August 22, 2008
I really wasn't sure what I was seeing at first. The itinerary said that the first stop of the day would be The Temple of Heaven. Our bus pulled up to the stop and we got out. A huge park greeted us with hundreds of people already there. However I soon learned that they weren't here to see the temple, they came to relax. Children played games with parents, some were people watching, while others were practicing music. I stopped to listen to a familiar tune. It took a few seconds, but I soon recognized it as the Chinese version of Jingle Bells that flowed into Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It was shocking at first, but I had become use to seeing Christmas things everywhere in China, and it was only mid September. The most memorable experience was a small child trying to sell me a candy Santa on a stick.The Temple of Heaven itself is much larger then the Forbidden City. It was used by the Emperor, the Sun of Heaven, to give thanks to the Heavens. The grounds and buildings are amazing, but what is even more impressive is that they were all constructed without nails or cement. Outside the Hall of Prayer For the Good Harvest large stone slabs decorate the center of the stairs. The carvings depict two large Phoenix's flying through the heavens in immaculate detail. Connected to the Hall is the Imperial Vault of Heaven. A 1,180 foot bridge, known as the Red Stairway connects the two buildings. Here the Emperor consulted his ancestors tablets. Each tablet represented a different deceased ancestor who was related to the Empire. The most scared place in the complex, and the most popular with Circular Mound Alter. When I arrived here with my friends we were oblivious to the significance of the mound. Several people crowed on top of the mound, while others waited to be able to get on. I waited my turn eagerly anticipating being able to stand on it. Finally I pushed myself onto it with a half a dozen other people, stood there, and waited enlightenment...it never came. Later I learned that this is where the Emperor would come, after visiting the ancestral tablets, to offer a sacrifice and then consult the heavens on affairs of the state. The mound represented the center of the World according to Chines cosmology. I had very little time to explore everything that their was and found myself rushing through everything. Honestly a minimum of three hours should be spent here just to look at and enjoy the beauty of the buildings, but I could have just spent those three hours people watching in the park.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009