on April 2, 2010
The Temple of Heaven is one of Beijng's most truly stunning sights. A clear reflection of this was the fact that, in 2008, as the country's marketing machine geared up for its Olympic extravaganza, it was not the Forbidden City or Tiananmen Square that was the image most widely used to attract visitors, it was the Temple of Heaven. And, when you come face-to-face with the Temple, this becomes less than surprising. The Main Hall is a truly stunning affair. As soon as you enter the temple's grounds, you cannot help but be transfixed by the circular hall's stunning blue roof. The shade of the tiles couples with the magnificent glaze give it in an almost hypnotic feel. On a summer's day with the sun shining down on the tiles, the light that reflects is of a truly unique quality. As you get closer and inspect the details, the picture becomes even more impressive. Not only are the roofs of the hall circular, they are also corrugated. This works to create a bizarre feeling of staring into the sea.The Main Hall alone would be reason enough to visit the Forbidden City. However, there are plenty of other reasons. The grounds are also truly beautiful. Even in the driest of summers they are kept well-watered, giving them a wonderfully lush quality. A fantastic reflection of this is the amount of locals you see enjoying them. In a morning you can often see joggers getting in shape as they wind between the trees and in the afternoon, there are plenty of old people enjoying a cup of tea and flying kites. I must have visited the Temple of Heaven six or seven times. The first time was when I was simply a tourist visiting Beijing. Then, during the four years I lived in China, I took several friends and family members who came to visit. Alas, despite these many visits, I never managed to develop any true affinity with the temple and failed to develop the type of intimacy I felt with the Summer Palace. Much of this stems from my first three visits. All of these were pre-Olympics as Beijing was 'enjoying' dome pretty dramatic cosmetic surgery. Because of this, on each occasion, the main hall was closed and cloaked in scaffolding, which took away a major part of the visit. Another major reason was the crowding. Whilst the temple has large grounds its main areas are clustered together. On a warm summer's day, the crowding can get decidedly claustrophobic - far more so than the much more spread out Summer Palace or Temple of Heaven.The Temple of Heaven is located in the south of Beijing, around 200m from stations on subway line 5. However, it is not too far from the center of the city, so I cab would be less than 20rmb from most places. Admission is around 35rmb and is certainly worth the price. I would, however, recommending avoiding holidays and weekends as it can get uncomfortably crowded.
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