Our self-guided tour today started in Zhong Shan Park where Pres. David O. McKay dedicated the land of China for the spreading of the gospel almost exactly 92 years ago. (January 9, 1921) This park fittingly used to be the altar where the Emperor would offer sacrifices to insure a good harvest. Some of the trees here are over 400 years old. This one has a tree growing inside a tree.
As we followed directions to find the tree where Pres. McKay offered his prayer, we saw some soldiers in formation.
Soldiers in Zhong Shan Park
We found the tree in a grove along the moat. Unfortunately, it doesn't look in very good condition--only one branch of it had foliage. We read the dedication prayer and enjoyed pondering the changes that have come to China since it was offered.
We dodged the hawkers trying to sell us Mao hats or take us on a private tour and took ourselves into The Forbidden City, the largest ancient imperial palace in the world.
|Gate of Heavenly Peace|
|Jade Ribbon River|
You have to look closely to see the difference in the different "halls". So many of them look so similar. In front of the building you will often see a pair of lions. The one on the right is the male, and his foot rests on a ball symbolizing the world and his control of it. The one on the left is the female, and she has her paw on a baby, as the nurturer. This is part of the yin/yang philosophy. "There must be opposition in all things."
|Hall of Supreme Harmony|
Inside some of the halls were thrones with incense burners and other urns, but the halls were mostly barren.
|Notice the dragon on the carpet--dragons and benevolent creatures in China.|
|Throne Room in Hall of Preserving Harmony|
|Throne Room in the Palace of Heavenly Purity|
Stone carvings were abundant with dragons, phoenixes, mountains, seas and clouds all signifying that the emperor unifies the country.
There were halls for affairs of state, then through another gate behind those, continuing in a straight line, were the living quarters for the king and royal family.
|Large copper vats held water in case of fire.|
The female has her paw on the baby. We see these paired lions (Shishi) all over town in front of any significant building. They demonstrate the power and security of what goes on in the building to alleviate your worries--they keep out the evil spirits and signify strength and protection.
|Behind the tree is the Hall of Imperial Peace|
|Poppy noticed the nice clean smile on this dragon!|
|Pavilion of Myriad Springs, built in 1535.|
Accumulated Beauty Hill is composed of Taihu Lake rock, reserved for Imperial Gardens. On top is the Pavilion of Imperial View from which the Qing Imperial Family would enjoy the view during the Double Yang Festival.
|The Forbidden City Wall at night.|
Tiananmen Square is the largest public square in the world. It has a Monument to the People's Heroes, a couple of Statues to the People, a Memorial Hall for Mao Zedong and is flanked by The Great Hall of the People and the China National Museum. We were searched and frisked before we were allowed to go onto it.
|Facing The Forbidden City Gate of Heavenly Peace|
|The Great Hall of the People - main government building|
|China National Museum|
|Monument to the People's Heroes|
|Archery Tower of the Old Beijing City Wall|
|Zhengyang Men (Qianmen) Gate of old city wall and Archery Tower|
|Tiananmen Square at night with Mausoleum of Mao Zedong|
|Archery Tower at Night|
|Tiananmen Square towards The Forbidden City|
I like to see important places in the daylight and at night. We had gone to the square the first night we arrived in Beijing, although it was closed to the public and we just had to walk around the outside (in the bitterly cold wind)!
The Temple of Heaven is from Ming Dynasty times, also translated as the "Altar of Heaven" where the Son of Heaven (the Emperor) would fast for 3 days, then walk by foot from his palace to offer sacrifices and pray for a good harvest. He also sought divine "clearance" (repentance?) and atonement. I was amazed to find many very Christian similarities.
|Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests|
|See the animals? I saw 8, but they were in groups of 4. Are they oxen? The Emperor and his retinue also wore special robes to perform the ceremonies.|
|Round represents heaven and square represents earth--the round building stands on a square base. 4 inner, 12 middle and 12 outer pillars represent 4 seasons, 12 months and 12 hours.|
|I love the sculptures on the eaves of the buildings.|
|This is the oldest stone bridge in China.|
|500-year-old Nine Dragons Juniper--the bark looks like dragons.|
|Imperial Vault of Heaven - used to house "the Lord's tablets" which were used in religious ceremony. They also stored ancestral history here. Hmm, genealogy.|
|Interior of Imperial Vault of Heaven|
|The surrounding round wall is called "Echo Wall" because if you whisper at any point, you can hear the voice at any other point around the wall.|
|The roof has a dragon with a pearl in its mouth symbolizing its power to ascend to heaven.|
|These girls kept trying to 'sneak' a picture of me, so I finally just pulled them in and we had a photo shoot. It happens all the time here! I'm such a celebrity!|
|That's the city wall Archery Tower in the background.|
|Haagen-Daz -- $10 for two small scoops!|
What a beautiful sight to remember our trip to Beijing. Happy New Year!