September 25, 2016

Temple of heaven, Beijing…A haven for the lazy art of people watching

Located south of the Forbidden City, the original Altar of Heaven and Earth was completed together with the Forbidden City, which was later renamed the Temple of Heaven in the reign of Emperor Jiajing. It was here that the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties offered sacrifice to heaven and prayed for bumper harvests. Tiantan Park as it is otherwise known, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Unlike the Forbidden City with its majestic awe, if I had to name one thing I love about Temple of Heaven, it would be the unique Chinese park life. It is hard to think of better scenes to partake in people watching. Silver-haired citizens doing line dancing and tai chi or squaring off on chinese chess.There’s the impromptu performances of Chinese opera and jam sessions with traditional chinese instruments like the pipa and erhu. Then there’s my old childhood game “chapteh” ( Jianzi) played by senior folks. During this game, these silent generation players keep the shuttlecock (with a rubber sole/plastic disk) off the ground using their feet and other body parts, but not their hands. There was around 70 people patting their thighs 30 times, then their knees, shoulders, backs and heads to allow their Qi to flow freely. There were a few who were shouting, almost yodelling: “voice exercises”. Several people appear to be wrestling with trees, gripping trunks and pushing against them.

I love this lazy art of observing and admiring unique cultures and happenings of day-to-day park life in China. Next to no skills needed, other than some discreet positioning. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…


September 18, 2010

Forbidden City (Imperial Palace), Beijing…Awesome! Mind-blowing!

Gu Gong, as the Chinese call it. A not-to-be-missed sight in Beijing. With a supposedly huge total of 9999 rooms (because only heaven could have 10,000 rooms) it was the Imperial residence to the 24 emperors who ruled during the Ming and Qing dynasties; it IS the largest palace in the world. This is the most vivid reminder of China’s Imperial past.

Completed in 1422, this grandiose maze of courtyards and ceremonial halls surrounded by towering walls is designed to make you feel tiny. And it does. It was very very exciting to think what actually went on around there in in ancient times! Here the emperors lived in surroundings of ultimate opulence and luxury, surrounded by hundreds of concubines and the eunuchs who acted as the emperors’ attendants. During those times, common Chinese were not allowed to enter the city, so they now do so by the millions!

A sad note: the staff in the souvenir shops looked so bored and uninterested that you think their goldfish had died.

Here’s a tip: wear comfortable shoes and go slow. The scale of the grounds is overwhelming. Get one of the GPS-based audio tours (available in many languages) and cost 40 yuan to rent. (with a RMB100 refundable deposit). Go there to savour the history and admire the architecture and remember it for what it was- it was fantastic and still is! This is the true truth because I always say it as it is…

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