Beijing - Temple of Heaven
The Beijing Autumn continues to be kind to us, with just enough cloud cover to keep the 26° days comfortable for active days exploring this amazing city.
Our first stop this morning was through the South Gate into the Temple of Heaven. Another special historic location, steeped in tradition and ceremony, it was visited twice yearly by the Emperor in hopes of securing bountiful harvest. The beautiful grounds of manicured lawns and established trees provide a community space that is enjoyed by many locals and visitors alike.
Activities are on offer around the park for social and physical enjoyment – everything from dominoes to dancing, water calligraphy to calisthetics, there is something for everyone. In some areas, outdoor fitness equipment has been installed to encourage exercise. These were popular with young and old, and there is now a strong request for these to be installed in a Junior School fitness circuit. The children found a few unique apparatus to test their balance and core body strength, while the teachers discovered fabulous massage stations. It was agreed that Kristin play time (and supervision) would be enhanced with this equipment! Might need to check the budget.
Lunch was ‘fast food’, with a choice of beef, pork or chicken on rice, before heading to the centre of Beijing. The city is organised by a series of concentric circles moving out from the Forbidden City. The inner section has been designated as protected, in an attempt to preserve this valuable area of Chinese cultural history. The district immediately to the north of the Emperor’s domain, is made up of a series of narrow streets or alleys, called hutongs. These traditionally housed courtyard residences of the higher ranked officials to the Court, around Shichahai Lake.
We formed a pedicab convoy to appreciate these narrow, busy laneways before visiting a 4th generation home and garden. The children were fascinated by the age of these dwellings, and hearing the stories of communal life here before the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.
From ancient perspectives to modern purchasing – with our first taste of shopping in China. Top bartering produced bargains, with jewellery, sunglasses, transformers (the toys!) and extendable remote camera operating devices (okay, selfie sticks) being some of the top buys of the day. To be honest, for the most part, this group of students is more concerned about buying gifts for family members back home than for themselves, and there will be plenty of lovely Chinese souvenirs winging their way home to share.
We stayed in this old part of the city for the afternoon, visiting both the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower. Originally used to announce the time, both tall buildings sit along the ‘spine’ of the inner city, in line with the Forbidden City, giving lovely panoramic views from the top. With legs still recovering from yesterday’s ascent of the Great Wall, there were a few groans as we set to tackling the steep staircase up 33m to the Bell Tower, then down and up 47m to the top of the Drum Tower. Both were definitely worth the climb, with a drumming presentation on the giant drums that is still resonating through all our bodies.
Like the weather, the traffic is looking after us as well, keeping us moving and back to the hotel in time for another refreshing swim before dinner at the local Lantern restaurant. The children are starting to identify their favourites on the menus – sweet and sour pork, Mongolian lamb and garlic broccoli, and trying new things every day, like tofu, garlic shoots, and red bean paste spring rolls.
An active day in the sunshine, a successful shopping mission, a fun swim in the pool and a delicious meal – they will sleep well again tonight!