Friday, February 22, 2013

Beijing - Temple of Heavan

Event date: 9th December 2006

We were back in Beijing on 8th December midnight from Tianjin and was lucky that the tour agent was kind enough to provide an accommodation in a 5 star hotel towards the end of our stay. Our first stop was at an exclusive tour inside the underground city known as Dixia Cheng, a bomb shelter comprising a network of tunnels located beneath Beijing, which has since been transformed into a tourist attraction. It has been called the "Underground Great Wall" because it was built for the purpose of military defense. The complex was constructed during the 1970s in anticipation of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union and was officially reopened in 2000. Visitors were allowed to tour portions of the complex, which has been described as "dark, damp, and genuinely eerie". Dixia Cheng has been closed for renovation since at least February 2008. In 2006, there was operating mall underground. I bought 2 pieces a nice pink and green soft silk material inside. Due to shopping mode, no photos were taken during the visit.  

Thereafter, we went straight to the Temple of Heaven, located in southeast of Beijing is seen as the most holy of Beijing imperial temples. It has been described as "a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design".

 The Temple of Heaven was where the emperor came every winter solstice to worship Heaven and to solemnly pray for a good harvest. Since his rule was legitimized by a perceived mandate from Heaven, a bad harvest could be interpreted as his fall from Heaven's favor and threaten the stability of his reign. So, it was not without a measure of self-interest that the emperor fervently prayed for a very good crop.

In line with the Confucianist revival during the Ming dynasty, the sacred harvest ceremony was combined with the emperor's worship of his ancestors. This embellishment was also, in effect, self interest on the part of the emperor. For according to the Confucian pattern of social organization, just as the emperor respected his ancestors, so a younger brother should respect an elder brother, a wife her husband, a son his father, and a nation's subjects their ruler. Incorporating ancestor worship within the most solemn ceremony of the imperial ritual calendar, indirectly reinforced the social philosophy that perpetuated the emperor's power.

The design of the Temple of Heaven complex, true to its sacred purpose, reflects the mystical cosmological laws believed to be central to the workings of the universe. Hence, complex numerological permutations operate within its design. For example, because the number 9 was considered to be the most powerful digit, you will see that the slabs that form the Circular Altar have been laid in multiples of 9. Similarly within the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the interior 28 columns are divided into 4 central pillars to represent the seasons, 12 inner columns to represent the months and 12 outer columns to represent the 2 hour tranches that make up a day. There are many such examples of this intense numerology at play.

During imperial times, commoners were not allowed to enter the enormous park. Now for a minimal fee, Chinese citizens and foreign tourist can enjoy it all day long. At dawn, there are many people performing their morning exercises. The older person would practicing the slow and flowing movements of Tai Qi (Chi) whilst a younger one performing vigorous karate like punches and kicks. One group might be learning the ancient martial art of sword fighting, while another might be practising a traditional dance. For those who may be interested to witness the scene, it is well worth waking up early one morning and visiting this park to watch such events.

The Temple of Heaven, located in the southeast of Beijing, was the place where royalty prayed for excellent weather and harvest. In Ming Dynasty (AD 1420), the emperor Zhdli built this Temple which covers an area of 2.72 million square meters. The Temple of Heaven has been listed as one of the World Cultural Relics by the UNESCO.

The place open from 8am till 6pm daily at a small fee ticket of low Season, Y10-30 and High Season at Y15-35. Take note of the royal garden at the point of entrance as it was surrounded by big pines. For ease of reference, the overall arrangement and single building both reflected the relationship between the sky and the land. The 2 relationship was the core of the Sense of Universe at that time. The emperors played an important role in that relationship.

Hubby kept on whispering a visit to the "Temple of Nike" throughout the tour. He had enough of the ancient temples. Later, after we finished with a tour inside the Temple of Heaven, the coach drop us at Wanfunjing street to do our free shopping until very late. Shopping in China was really great as the price is overall reasonably cheap and 1 can apply a rule of 50% bargaining power.
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