In a series of posts about my first visit to China, I shared information about culture, history and food in four cities.
At the end of this summer, I had an opportunity to return to China. During this visit, I spent most of my time within Shandong province (read about it in this post), but on the final two days of the trip I had the good fortune of another personal guide, my friend Emy in Beijing.
Later, we met with mutual friend, Kelly and had dinner and a nice walk along the luxury shopping area of Beijing.
The following day, before my flight out, I also visited the Temple of Heaven.
For me the Temple of Heaven was more exciting than the Forbidden City. Both attractions are tremendous and expansive in their size and lay-out.
Both places are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Each place offers examples of ancient culture, architecture and history of China. I view the Forbidden City as representing the past. The Temple of Heaven however, seems to represent the the heartbeat of this city.
To start, I must admit that I had a completely different concept of the place prior to entering; I had an idea that this was a place strictly related to the historical culture of the Middle Kingdom and the Oriental view of the universe, ie, celestial worship in relation to the lunar calendar. There is indeed that aspect of the place, but there is much more.
Picture this in your mind; It is a dynamic scene to enter early in the morn and witness, people meditating, practicing traditional Tai-Chi, walking, bike riding and other exercise. As the morning progresses there are, of course, many tourists, but what a lively thing to experience as one walks throughout the complex; seniors singing Peking Opera and folk songs, others playing traditional instruments.
Continuing, there are ladies, knitting and talking.
Men playing some sort of board-game that uses disks similar to American checkers, but bigger and thicker with Chinese characters painted on each…. and taunting each other with words as they aggressively slam their piece on top of the opponent’s piece in a capturing movement.
Still, others are out batting a shuttlecock to and fro, but not with rackets, rather, these were more like paddles. The birdie appeared to be heavier than those used for badminton and there was no net. One of the players invite me to take-up a paddle and join the fun, but I declined.
Later on the walk, I watched others tossing a heavy ball. My guess it was about the weight and size of a baseball, with some sort of semi-soft and flexible net-like paddle for catching and throwing. Two fellows offered to let me in and one gave a fun show of his skill handling the ball! The last thing I wanted to do was get all sweaty before flying for 14 hours.
Finally, on the outside of the gate, there was a gathering of still more locals doing exercise and dance. One man was doing a very interesting sort of slow-motion-isotonic-dance-work-out, another couple were engaged at dancing feverishly fast to an up tempo jazz tune….both the man and the woman dancing were drenched in sweat!
The Temple of Heaven was fun, exciting, alive and well worth a visit.
Someone said that dancers live long lives and it is assumed that the single greatest contributing factor for longevity is good health from the exercise of dance.