Saturday, June 12, 2010

China Trip: Temples

Temple of Heaven Park

Beijing boasts plenty of interesting old temples, and we wandered through a couple while we toured the city. These places were lower key than the Forbidden City and Summer Palace, but still beautiful and rewarding, and they brought us closer to Chinese going about their daily lives.

First up is the Temple of Heaven Park, a lovely wooded complex where people once prayed for good harvests. The inside of the park was alive with activity. Old people stood in circles, moving swiftly as they kicked hacky-sacks back and forth, while in other areas of the park dozens of people danced to lively music. As we walked along, we passed one man serenading his friends with an accordion.

Joe by one of the many lovely old trees in the Temple of Heaven Park.

The main hall in the park is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, originally built in 1420 and rebuilt in 1890 after it burned to the ground from a lightning strike. This hall is supported entirely by wooden pillars, with no nails.

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

The halls in this temple complex were round built on square bases, shapes which my Lonely Planet informs me signify heaven and earth respectively.

Like the other palaces and temples we'd seen, the inside of the halls here were elaborately decorated.

The second major temple we visited was the Lama Temple, the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. Incredible architecture here as well. The Lama Temple is a lamasery, so we saw monks going about their business, as well as lots of worshippers burning incense, bowing and praying. That's what I really appreciated about visiting this place — getting to witness the process of worship.

(Photo by Joe)

The temple complex was filled with many halls like these.

Couldn't fit the entire structure in one shot.

Certainly a sacred and spiritual place, and a wonderful experience.

1 comment:

AdelaideBen said...

Fantastic photos... I've got a case of itchy feet coming on. I love going to places like this - looks spectacular (and yet, still very accessible).

Shame about the grey skies - but as commented previously, it seems that beautiful clear skies are one of the sacrifices made in modern China.