Published: June 10th 2007June 10th 2007
Temple of Heaven
This is the building in the Temple of Heaven park where the Emperor made sacrifices for the good harvest.
I’ve been up to a lot of stuff recently. Classes are going well, and on Thursday and Friday we toured around Beijing more, going to the Temple of Heaven Park, karaoke, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I’m going to describe all those places in a bit, but first I need to explain the conditions in which we have been walking around at these places.
Beijing is hot. Really, really hot. On Friday it was 100 degrees, and on Sunday it was supposed to get up to 102. I’ve been trying to tell myself that it is a dry heat, but to be completely honest I have been sweating so much that I’m creating my own personal cloud of humidity. And as March, our assistant program director, said, the only positive thing about the weather in Beijing is that the smog is so bad the sun never really comes out. Before I came to Beijing I don’t think I could have believed that smog could really be that bad, and as someone who has lived in Atlanta for my whole life I feel pretty familiar with air pollution. But the smog here is so much worse than Atlanta. Most
Gaudy gaudy gaudy
I thought this paint job, which in this picture is in the rafters of a building but was really everywhere, detracted from the beauty of the buildings. But who am I to criticize?
days you can barely see the blue of the sky above you, and the horizon is a thick gray mist. So needless to say walking around outside doesn’t feel nice. When you combine the heat and the smog with heartburn from massive amounts of Chinese food, walking around can be not an entirely comfortable experience. That said, I have had a lot of fun. None of this stuff has stopped me from really enjoying Beijing, which I really like so far, but I just thought it is important to set the scene.
So first off, the Temple of Heaven Park. This is the place where the Chinese emperor went every year to perform the intricate offerings, etc. etc. It is also one of the major tourist spots in Beijing. Basically the place is a really big park, with flower gardens and long stretches of really pretty trees, a long raised walkway that the emperor used on his way to the ceremony, and a couple very large buildings that were used in the ceremony. I really liked the park itself, and even though it was hot I spent most of my time wandering around, looking at the flowers and the
This is what I want in my historical places. Boring rocks that leave no doubt about their historicalness.
old people who were hanging out in the park playing music or just socializing. The imperial buildings were impressively massive, but because we didn’t have a guide to tell us about the history it was hard to appreciate it all. The buildings had also recently been repainted, so they looked brand-new, which kind of took away from the historical aspect for me. I think I expect my historical places to look a little bit decrepit and weathered, like the fort in St. Augustine, Florida. In a shallow minded and stupid way I want to be able to tell that something is old simply by looking at it. But with these buildings they looked as if some Chinese billionaire with very historical tastes had just decided to build a massive, and somewhat tacky, temple to himself (which actually does kind off describe the Chinese emperors, at least their bad side).
When we went to the Forbidden City (the compound where the emperor, his concubines and eunuchs lived) the next day I liked it a little more, but it was still very overwhelming, even though the garden at the end was beautifal and a nice way to end the tour. Another
Mao and Me
I'm in Tiananmen square, and that's the famous portriat of Mao in the background. We be keeping it real together.
problem with the Forbidden City was that a lot of the major buildings are under construction, so the scaffolding mars the view (I think someone said the construction won’t be finished until 2014).
Still, my criticism aside, I really liked both the Temple of Heaven Park and the Forbidden City. Anyone who is visiting Beijing should definitely visit both places. The main reason is to simply see how big these places are. From a historical perspective it helps explain some of the problems that the Ming and Qing dynasties experienced financially. To build and maintain these two places had to take a massive amount of money, and it is really hard to comprehend just how much money it probably took unless you actually go to these places. And even for someone who isn’t that interested in history, the opulence of these places is overwhelming, and definitely worth the heat, the money, or whatever other inconvenience you have to experience.
Tiananmen was also interesting, though it wasn’t quite as big or impressive as I expected. Just hot, and filled with people trying to sell anything and everything. The one funny thing was when two Chinese girls came up to
This is another picture of Tiananmen. It is very big, just like everything in China.
me and asked if they could take their picture with me. Apparently this is pretty common, cause it happened to one of the other guys from the program also.
On Thursday, after we went to the Temple of Heaven, we had two tacky/interesting Chinese experiences. First, we went to the Red Theatre and saw what our program director described as “kung fu theatre.” The play was called “Chun Yi: The Legend of Kung Fu,” and it was visually impressive, but still incredibly tacky. The theater itself was a tourist trap, and the whole play was dubbed in English with Chinese subtitles playing on a screen above the stage. The play was a basic plot line: boy joins studies under Kung fu master, becomes really good, encounters the evil within himself, eventually overcomes it and becomes the master of the kung fu monastery. It had a lot of interesting kung fu stuff, but it was also way over the top visually. There was dry ice, people flying around the stage, actors breaking boards and metal poles on their heads, and bubbles. Think a cheap Cirque de Soliel with better karate but a worse plot line and a narrator who has
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City is also massive. In this picture, those buildings on the right side are just minor buildings, with the one in the foreground on the left being one of the bigger buildings. Then, after this square, there are two or three more squares that are this big, if not bigger. So its a big place.
eyebrows down to his knees.
Then, after the play and a brief break for a shower to stop smelling like sweat, we went out to a karaoke bar. This was absolutely nothing like karaoke in America. It was at this really nice building. Imagine a fancy hotel, except instead of getting a hotel room, I and the other 10 people I was with rented a room for karaoke. The room was plush, with sofas, a flat screen tv and two microphones. Then we pretty much just sat and drank vodka and ate free food. It was a lot more fun than it sounds. There were a lot of Chinese songs, because most of the people I was with liked Taiwanese and Hong Kong pop a lot, but there were enough bad American songs to keep it interesting. So yeah, we got our karaoke on, I got my drank on, and during the taxi ride back to our apartotel I had a good conversation in Chinese with the cab driver about basketball, the Olympics and how hard it is to study English. Always exciting.
There are more photos below