Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Temple of Heaven, Beijing

On Day 3 in Beijing, we began our morning with a trip to the Temple of Heaven complex, southeast of Tiananmen Square.  You can read more about the complex here.  

The air quality on Day 3 was very poor... somewhere north of 200 PM2.5 (particles per cubic meter of air). As bad as this was, it would be even worse about a week later, after we had left China (the photo in the link actually shows our hotel, to the right of the huge tower).

Suz brought the masks for a reason, and she used hers for much of the day.

Our group disembarks from the bus and walks to the Temple of Heaven complex.

The entrance to the complex.

China is still a land of bicycles.

Tai chi enthusiasts practice their art / exercise regularly at the Temple of Heaven.

This lady seemed like the leader.

One of many tree-covered walkways on the grounds.

Handwritten Chinese characters.

The man responsible for the above.

Too cute for words = couples dancing outside the gate to the Temple of Heaven.

A happy couple indeed.

Their dancing inspired at least one couple on our tour to follow suit.

Equally cute = two kids on the tour dancing with a local lady.

I don't know which one is more adorable...

The girl is 5 by the way.

We get ready to go into the area with the Circular Mound Altar.

I don't remember what this is, but there were a few of them.  Not sure if it's jade or a similar material.

The steps up the Circular Mound Altar, at the start of the complex.

Looking back toward the gate.

The center of the Circular Mound Altar, called the Heavenly Center Stone.

Everyone wanted their photo on the stone.  Apparently if you speak while standing on the stone, your voice carries particularly well.  Ah well, didn't try it out myself...

Another look behind.

More people posing on the stone.

Jing, our tour leader, gives us a talk.

Passing locals wanted to hear her speak (in English).

We venture through to the next part of the complex, with even more amazing architecture.

The Imperial Vault of Heaven, which housed the gods' tablets used in the ceremony of worshiping heaven.

Suz takes a photo of the building.

And I take a photo of her.  :-)

I switched lenses to get a better overall view.

One of the side halls.

A detail of the colored trim.

The same hall as above.

Inside the Imperial Vault of Heaven.

Looking out onto the plaza of the Imperial Vault of Heaven.

The ceiling inside the Imperial Vault of Heaven.

Looking out toward the next part of the complex.

Detail of the marble artwork.

The door on the Imperial Vault of Heaven (I think...).

The Imperial Vault of Heaven.

Suz, with the Imperial Vault of Heaven behind her after we passed through the gate to the new section.

The highlight of the complex awaits, behind Suz.

The Nine-Dragon Juniper tree, over 500 years old.  The tree is named because the nine spiral grooves resemble dragons twisting upwards.

My weak attempt at China Spree advertising.

We were heading straight towards the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, behind the gateway in the foreground.

Up we go!

Many Chinese nationals also wanted to see the Temple of Heaven.

We get our first glimpse of the majestic building (which is frequently on the cover of guidebooks).

Here's a better glimpse.

And here's the scope of the complex.

Tourists look up at the roof.

Here's what they're looking at.

And here's underneath.

It was time to start heading out of the temple complex back into the surrounding park.

We went through this gorgeous walkway.

We emerged into an area of card players and other gamblers.

Heeeeeey, sexy ladyyyyy...

I wish I knew which game this was, because it looked awesome.
This guy was very nice... unlike the tout to his right, selling badminton birds.

I can do that, but I don't wanna.

Coming up = the Summer Palace.

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