Cait Comes to Visit continued

West Heaven Gate

Walking to the Temple of Heaven

On Saturday morning, Cait and I took a taxi deep into the capital, to the south of the Forbidden City. We entered the West Heaven Gate and proceeded to walk through the silence of a park draped in fog and filled with music from the surrounding speakers.  At the end of our walk we reached the ancient world’s manifested connection from heaven to earth—the Temple of Heaven.

In front of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest

The Temple of Heaven was erected in 1420 by the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, who also ordered the construction of the Temple of Earth in the north, Temple of Sun in the east, and Temple of Moon in the west. The emperor, or Son of Heaven, resided at the center of these four temples in the Forbidden City, organizing the Old Beijing according to feng shui, or the right alignment of objects with earth.

The Temple of Heaven, which also consists of the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Circular Mound Altar, most commonly refers to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the three-layered circular building.  Within this Temple, Emperors throughout the Ming and Qing Dynasties would hold annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest.

Next we walked through the world’s largest square, Tiananmen Square, on the way to the Forbidden City.

The Tiananmen Rostrum--The Entrance to the Forbidden City

Photo-op with Mao

The Iconic, Hall of Supreme Harmony

As we left the Palace, we were convinced to take a rickshaw tour through the hutongs, the small alleyways that neighbored the Forbidden City. These tours are becoming popular due to the nostalgia for Old Beijing and a promise of a glimpse of the “real Beijing.”

Rickshaw-ing through the Old Beijing

Our driver/tour guide

Our tour guide took us through the old hutong district showing us the new developments, and describing the significance and characteristics of the old courtyard homes.  The doorway in which we are standing was of an extremely important military official.  The officials’ homes generally had two main features depicting their function and stature.  These were most readily exhibited by two stone carvings of lions on either side of the door, as well as wooden pegs above.

As you can see above, the lions are atop round drums which signify that the person who lived here was a military official, versus a square which would signify a political official.  Four pegs above the door, rather than 2, distinguished the official as of great importance.

On Sunday, Cait and I made our expedition to the Great Wall of China, since “he who does not climb the Great Wall is not a true man,” according to Mao.  We travelled via train from the Beijing North Train Station to Badaling, the closest section of the Great Wall to the city—an hour and a half away.  When we arrived at Badaling, we took a gondola farther up the mountain, within hiking distance to the Eight Watch Tower, the steepest and highest peak at Badaling at 888.8 meters. We spent the next couple of hours climbing along one of the greatest achievements in history. United States President Obama, who visited the Great Wall on November 18, stated, as written in China Daily, that climbing the wall “gives you a good perspective that a lot of day-to-day things we worry about don’t matter so much. Our time here on Earth is not that long. We better make the best of it.”

Although we had only a few days, we hit every must-see spot in Beijing and I even had time to bring her to the Worker’s Stadium area to show her Beijing’s clubs as well as the to the Silk Market.  Showing her Beijing enabled me to see it again through new eyes and also made me realize how comfortable I had become with the country, culture, and way of life.

Wangfujing at Night

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