Monday 20 October 2014

Beijing's Temple of Heaven and Qianmen Street

Having barely unpacked our bags from our last adventure, the Big K told me to get my gear back on as we were going on another trip. Yay! To be more exact he was going on a two-week training. Read: Do Not Disturb Me I Will Be Working. But I was more than welcome to join him (refer to previous statement: You're On Your Own. Which was totally fine with me!) 

So, where to this time? The beautiful city of Beijing! Unlike my previous visits to this ancient city, this time I was looking forward to a more relaxed tour of the place. Or so I thought.

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests at the Temple of Heaven

I joined the Big K a few days after he got there. Arriving late at night and seeing thick soupy fog I thought to myself it must be freezing cold out there. Hmmm... I hope I brought enough warm clothes. The lovely thick handmade scarves from the Gorgeous H would definitely help! (Notice the not-so-subtle advertising there?) 

Hang on! Why were the flight crew putting on face masks before exiting the terminal?! Uh-oh turns out I arrived in the middle of Beijing's infamous smog season.

This was what greeted me the next day! Oh well, it's indoors for me in
the meantime. If there's a rain dance, I wonder if there is such a thing
as a smog-away dance?

Temple of Heaven

Thankfully the smog cleared up in a couple of days! Time to put on my trusty walking shoes. First stop, the Temple of Heaven. 

Located in central Beijing's southeastern part, it is easily accessible via their convenient subway system (Line 5 to, Tiantan Dongmen station. Take exit A. Turn right once at street level). You enter through the park's Eastern Gate. Entrance Fee: RMB35.00 plus another RMB10.00 for an English guide of the place.

The Temple of Heaven (Tiantan) has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998. It covers an area of 273 hectares with ancient buildings scattered all over the serene, pine and cypress shaded garden. It was built during the Ming Dynasty (1420) and was used as the sacred altar by both the Ming and Qing Dynasties to offer sacrifices to Heaven and pray for good harvests.

The Long Corridor that connects the Divine Kitchen and the Butcher House with the Hall of Prayer
for Good Harvests. 

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests rests on a three-layered white marble round altar. Each layer
is surrounded by marble balustrades with intricate carvings. 

Danbi Bridge connects the northern part of the park where the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is
to the south where the Vault of Heaven and the Circular Mound Altar are located.

The 500-year old Nine Dragon Juniper Tree with its gnarled trunk
twisting up looking like 9 dragons coiling to the heavens . 

The Echo Wall surrounding the Vault of Heaven. According to the brass sign posted at the gate,
the perfectly circular inside wall is so perfectly engineered to carry sound waves that if two
people stand on opposite sides of the wall (a distance of 60 meters apart) they can
still hear each others voices clearly. Too bad the Big K was not with me so I couldn't try it myself.

The Imperial Vault of Heaven where the Gods' tablets are stored that are
used during the Heaven Worship Ceremony.

The Circular Mound Altar where the Heavenly Center Stone is located. The altar was used in
the Ming and Qing Dynasties to worship the heavens during winter solstice every year.

One can even have a nice picnic lunch after touring the place. 

Qianmen Street

The oldest shopping area of the city happens to be the latest shopping attraction in Beijing. Uh, say that again?  

Qianmen meaning front gate started as a commercial street 500+ years ago. It had specialty shops such as silk, jewelry, meat and much more. It was recently overhauled, in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics becoming one of the city's latest attraction.

Subway line 2, stop: Qianmen. Entrance: Free!

The Archery Tower in front of the start of Qianmen street.

The Quanjude restaurant famous for its roast duck. It was right around lunch time so you
get long lines of hungry tourists and locals alike.

Life-size brass sculptures are scattered along the street depicting different scenes of
everyday life in ancient Beijing. 

The sanitized shopping area of the Qianmen hutong. 

More photos in our Facebook page.

Previous Beijing posts:

48 Hours in Beijing, China

48 Hours in Beijing, Part Two 

Next post: Xi'an, the home of the Terracotta Warriors

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