Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven

A muffin at McCafe was breakfast this morning.  I never thought I'd enjoy eating at McDonald's so much!  We went to the Silk Market and did some bargain shopping.  That is always very satisfying!  I love my silk table runner with a huge dragon on it!

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.
Dedication Tree

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
Mao's portrait hangs on the Gate of Heavenly Peace at the entrance to the grounds, across the street from Tiananmen Square.  The complex was built starting in 1406 and used for the Ming and Qing Dynasty Emperors.  Twenty-four different emperors ruled from here for nearly 500 years.  There are dozens of halls and gates and courtyards, each having its purpose.
Meridian Gate
Huge "red" walls surround the city, keeping the commoners out, but also keeping the royalty in.  The Meridian Gate was ceremonial--only the Emperor could go through the middle arch.  An artificial canal was built to bring the proper feng shui to the palace.  It was named the Jade Ribbon River and has white marble railings.  It was the only "decorative" part of the landscaping.  The rest is bleak courtyards of cement tile.

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
Past the living quarters through the Gate of Terrestrial Tranquility is the Imperial Gardens, where the royal family would sip tea, play chess, relax and meditate.  Trees were planted and pruned with a specific purpose and plan, including this tree which looks like the Chinese character "ren" which means "people".  This area had the only vegetation in the complex.  

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
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is completely wooden with no nails.  It was destroyed by lightning in 1889 and rebuilt.
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.
Built in 1530, the third special area was the Circular Mound Altar (again on a square base) comprised of multiples of 9 stones around central round plate called the Heart of Heaven.  Nine represented the Emperor and he prayed here for good weather.  The circular guardrail around this altar reflects the voice and this resonance was supposed to support the prayer in communicating with heaven.  The complex is considered Taoist, although Chinese heaven worship predates the Taois.  I found all this so fascinating!  So much of Biblical significance here if you only have eyes to see it.
Sweet sunset!

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! 
We had a late lunch on Qian Men Emperor's Avenue, a pedestrian mall with upscale shopping.  We had noticed a Haagen-Daz, so we went back for dessert.
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!

1 comment:

  1. I love your coat--I noticed it in some pictures before--did you buy it there? The "ombre" thing (where it fades from darker to lighter) is really big here right now in all the crafty, DIY, sewing things.