We couldn't leave Beijing without visiting the Missus' favorite site, the Temple of Heaven (Tiāntán 天壇). We caught a bus to the southeastern side of Beijing and entered the beautiful compound of halls, temples, and gardens.
In spite of the crowds, there's still a sense of tranquility here. There aremany older women doing various forms of dance and other exercise. There are three main compounds on the temple grounds. The main one being the Hall for Prayer of Good Harvests, where the Emperor would come during the winter solstice to pray for a bountiful harvest.
The three tiered round structure is quite stunning.
So here are a few places that I thought were interesting. They may not be the most well known sites around the Temple of Heaven, but I enjoyed the stories and history. It's these little things that keeps me entertained.
So why not start with this.......yes, it's a wall.
The wall surrounding the Imperial Vault of Heaven is known as the "Echo Wall". It is said that one can hear the other when on opposite sides of the North wall. We tried it.....but I think the courtyard was too noisy and it didn't work out.
And then there's the door to the right. It's just a door, right? Yes, but there's an interesting story about this door. In the year 1779, Emperor Qianlong was 70 years old and not quite the robust healthy man he used to be. The walk to the Hall of Prayer was getting difficult. His ministers convinced Qianlong to build this door. He would be carried here on a chair, then walk the short distance to the hall. According to the story, Qianlong was worried that his descendants would become lazy and abuse this convenient door he declared that only his offspring that reach the age of 70 can use this door. So it's not called the 70 Year Old Door. Interesting tidbit, none of the emperor's after Qianlong lived to be 70, so he was the only one ever to use this door!
Then there's this.
In a design of three levels of marble stones stands what is know as the circular mound altar. There's a lot of symbolism, much of which refers to the number 9. The inner wall represents heaven. The most entertaining part of this was watching people queue up to have their photo taken standing on the Heaven's Heart Stone in the middle of the top level.
I heard it's supposed to be good luck......
Since this is the Missus' favorite place in Beijing, I'm sure we'll be visiting again. On this day, we were getting hungry and decided to find a restaurant MrD had told us about the night before. So we caught the bus. There's an interesting side note to what we saw with regards to the boom in China. It seemed that many of the traditional manners we being forgotten by the younger generations. The bus we caught was full of middle school kids, chatting on cell phones and smoking cigarettes!! Being cool I guess. When an elderly woman got on a couple of stops later, not one of them stood up to give her their seat. Not the way I was raised so of course I gave up my seat......but stuff like this bothers me. In this China, both parents have to work, so children seem to be raised by grandparents. Children are also treasured so they seem to be treated like they're the most important thing in the world. Nice, but not without consequences. I saw a grandmother try to scold her granddaughter for poor behavior on the bus. Instead of being sorry, the little girl made a fist, reared back, and slugged her grandmother! On the bus, in public.....
Anyway, we got off the bus in the general vicinity of where we thought the Wushan Fish Restaurant was. But of course we couldn't find it. So the Missus eventually called MrD on the phone...first question, "What restaurants are around you?" Like I said MrD, being the foodie that he is, uses restaurants as his main landmarks. He doesn't know the names of the streets! The instructions were something like, "from hot pot restaurant you need to go two blocks, there you'll see the lamb restaurant, keep walking until you see the baozi place, then make a right....."
We got to the restaurant just in time......there was a torrential downpour just as we got there. Funny thing, the place was right across a huge bus station. If we knew that, it would have been easy to ask for directions. But as MrD said, "I don't catch the bus, so I don't know about bus stations...." You gotta love it!
The interior of the restaurant was very modern and the patterns on the wall were made of post-it notes which had been filled out or signed.
After going through the menu, we made up our minds and the Missus placed our order as our tea arrived.
This wasn't particularly flavorful, more bitter than anything.
The radish sprout salad was much better, balancing the pungency with some acid.
Then of course, was the Wushan Fish. This Sichuan style of cooking fish is really popular in Beijing. The fish looks grilled, but it is really marinated, fried, then roasted. We chose the "No 1 Hot and Spicy" flavor and sole as our fish.
While it looked spicy, it really wasn't that hot. I wished everything was a bit more crisp instead of kind of water-logged, making it seem greasy, and perhaps a bit more of the multitude of flavors they call guaiwei (怪味 - strange flavor). The fish iteself was not bad and as you can tell it isn't bland, but nowhere as good as the "ugly fish at Mocuomen.
Still, it was a nice meal and we were full, even though we didn't order any carbs. It was time to head back for a nap.