Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Beijing has enjoyed a long history as China’s capital. First capitalized as Khanbaliq or Khan’s City it was rebuilt and expanded on a massive scale by Kublai Khan under the Mongol Empire.

The city was walled with two main opposite gates with smaller alleyways connecting broad straight roads. A few of the big roads still exist as do the alleyways- called hutongs, which are a tourist destination in themselves. When the Ming Dynasty took control from the collapsing Mongol Empire, they renamed the city BeiPing (Northern Peace) and moved the capital to Nanjing (Southern Capital). In the 1400s, the capital was moved back to the newly renamed Beijing (Northern Capital) and it has remained the capital ever since.

Beijing metro with holograms projected onto the passing walls

After checking in to our well-appointed and well-located hotel, we took a metro to the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven is a gigantic park and temple complex where the Emperor, priests and select entourage would go annually to pray and make offerings for a successful harvest.
Temple for Abundant Harvests, Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is about 10km from the Forbidden City (Emperor’s Palace) and he would be carried by hand on a dais through the streets with much ceremony for this event. Like the Forbidden City , the temple was off limits to all except a select few members of the government, clergy and royal court, and no women (even the Emperor’s wife) were permitted in the Temple of Heaven.

The blue-roofed temples are circular, set upon square marble foundations, representing the belief that heaven is round and earth is square.

The Long Corridor, Temple of Heaven

We entered via the east gate and through the impressive Long Corridor –I could certainly envision this lengthy and ornate hallway made for a stunning processional.

Ceiling detail, Long Corridor, Temple of Heaven

Next we climbed the marble platform to the Altar for Good Harvests and enjoyed the view from the top.
Temple for Good/Abundant Harvests

We pressed on through the next gate on the 450m raised pathway connecting the two main altars, known as the Red Stairway Bridge. Only the Emperor was permitted to tread upon the wide center marble pathway. This was beautifully decorated with gigantic flower sculptures and the ubiquitous red and gold lanterns.

Red Stairway Bridge, Temple of Heaven

The Bridge links the Abundant Harvest temple to the actual Temple of Heaven and to the sacrificial altar (the Circular Mound) a massive tiered marble structure culminating in a raised sacrificial altar. According to superstition, standing on the altar puts you closest to the gods and wishes made here have a good chance of reaching their ears. I elbowed my way up there and made my wish. Still awaiting a reply…

Inside the Temple of Heaven
View from theCircular Mound (sacrifical altar)-Red Stairway Bridge connecting to Temple of Good Harvests
Gate detail, Temple of Heaven

Roof Guardians, Temple of Good Harvests

We left through the south gate, heading next to the Silk Market for tailors to make us custom dresses. It was fun pawing through the gorgeous silk and other fabrics, but the intense haggling over prices was exhausting. We got a good idea of price and sewing time for the type of dresses (traditional Chinese style) we wanted in the Silk Market, but actually ended up using a tailor nearby our hotel. They took detailed measurements that afternoon, make them overnight, and they would do a fitting check the next morning. If no alterations were necessary, we walked out with the dress right there. Talk about service- and for a tenth the price you’d pay for a custom-fitted garment back home.

Does this roll of fabric make my butt look big?

After a much anticipated PIZZA !!! supper in our wicked penthouse floor hotel bar, we attended an astounding Chinese acrobat performance.

Their incredible moves and flexibility was shocking (and inspirational---definitely going to do more stretching back home!), especially to Suzanne; who as an orthopaedic nurse declared the contortionist as having severe physical abnormalities. Looking at the way her spine and limbs were bent, I had to agree.
Chinese Acrobats- did not dare take a snap during show in case they blew a vertabrae

Crashed immediately after the show, super-psyched for tomorrow’s main event- climbing the Great Wall!
Chinese Bloodmobile, Beijing

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