Tuesday, October 30, 2012

temple of heaven.

Finally, as promised, I'm telling you about my visit to the Temple of Heaven! I went with my new friends, Katie and Alanna, during our vacation at the beginning of October. And it was probably one of my best days in China so far. 

We had gorgeous weather. It was warm, but not too warm, and the sun was shining, and there were clouds in the sky. White, fluffy clouds. The kind I love, but don't get to see very often now that I'm living in Beijing and there's so much pollution. (I think that when I get back to Canada I'll probably develop a permanent kink in my neck from staring up at the sky.) 

The first thing I noticed when we entered the Temple grounds was all of the green. Beautiful green grass and trees. The girls and I kept saying we could spend all day there just laying in the grass (and staring at the sky :) We swore we'd pack a picnic if we visit again during warm weather!

One of the types of trees at the park was the Chinese Juniper. This one is over 500 years old and is called the "Nine-Dragon Juniper" because the trunk is covered with "spiral grooves which twist up vertically along as if nine coiling dragons were wreathing up into the sky."

There were quite a few people there (although it wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be), which made it even more interesting. It's fun to people-watch, to see how they're reacting to all the sites, and to listen to all of the different languages being spoken. 

This guy was selling paddle ball toys and feathered "hacky sacks." Katie bought a hacky sack (5 RMB) and convinced him to play with her. He was a pro! Seriously, he had some serious skills and I loved watching them play.

This man was playing the most beautiful music. I can't describe it except to say that it was one of the most peaceful, magical sounds I've ever heard. It gave me chills and made me realize that I was in a special place, even with tourists everywhere.

One thing that surprised me was the amount of people who stared at us. The little boy on the left couldn't seem to take his eyes off me. The girl in the photo on the right asked (mimed) if she could get her photo taken with me. While Katie was taking my photo by the Hall of Prayer, I caught a girl sneaking a photo of me with her phone. She looked embarrassed but I just smiled and said "méiguānxi" (it's okay) to her. And we noticed that parents kept nudging their kids towards us and trying to snap a photo. A few teachers who have been here longer than us said that it's because depending on what part of China they're from, a lot of people here aren't used to seeing foreigners. 

The details on all of the buildings were exquisite. I stopped and stared at pretty much everything. 

And finally, I caught my first glimpse of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. (When people talk about the Temple of Heaven, this is usually the building they're thinking of.) I gasped, yelled "You guys!", and began to walk (and maybe skip) a little faster towards it.

I wasn't prepared for how seeing this building would make me feel. I think I was surprised by how in awe I felt. I'm smiling now just thinking of it and my heart is beating a little faster. 

We weren't allowed inside the Hall, but we could peak in and take pictures. Again, the details. 

After spending a good amount of time just walking around the Hall, breathlessly staring at it (at least, that's what I did), we decided we should go explore more of the grounds. I had a hard time leaving, though, and kept looking back. 

There were a few other buildings that we could have gone into, but we decided we'd save them for another time. We were content with just walking around and soaking everything in. (And to be completely honest, we were all kind of tired.)

And you can't go to the Temple of Heaven without visiting the Pearl Market across the street. Well, you could, but then you'd miss out on buying pearl earrings for under $2 CAD (assuming you've been working on your bargaining skills). 

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