Monday, November 22, 2010


Touring Beijing, part 4

Monday, 15 November

I had planned to head to the Forbidden City alone on Monday. I ran into IETF colleague Dave in the breakfast room, and joined him for breakfast. While we were eating, Ray and Ro came by on their way out, and we talked for a bit. They said they were going to the Temple of Heaven at noon, and we both said we’d join them. Plans are fungible.

In a while, Dave and I met up with them in the lobby and we cabbed it (half hour taxi ride, cost about $7.50) to the temple, and spent the afternoon, including a light lunch. As I said the other day, the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan, 天坛) is the largest of the four temples at the four main compass points from the center. It’s quite extensive, and easy to spent a few hours at, with areas for this purpose and buildings for that purpose, along with generally beautiful grounds and gardens. And it’s UNESCO World Heritage Site number three.

Entering from the south gate, one starts with the Circular Mound (圜丘坛), surrounded by the Lingxing Gates (棂星门), with a stone in the center, the Heavenly Center Stone (天心石), that’s a popular photo spot: everyone has to take a turn standing there having her picture taken (the Chinese often posing, everywhere, with a hand making a V, for reasons none of us know). Then there’s the Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇), followed by the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿). And, of course, a general walk around the gardens and grounds, which are beautiful and peaceful.

Many of the sites have long corridors (长廊), a popular feature (see photo, right) that provides a nice, framed walkway. At the Temple of Heaven, the long corridor is a place for locals to gather and play cards, play checkers, read, sing... and sell things.

Back at the hotel, the four of us met back again for hot-pot dinner. Very tasty. One of the things about hot-pot, though, is that you do it yourself, and the staff decided — perhaps because we’re westerners — to do everything for us. We joked that there were touch sensors and trip-wires, because every time someone tried to ladle something out of one of the pots, the waitress appeared, took the ladle, and said, Please, I help you. It was well meant, but we’d have rather done it ourselves.

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