The Temple of Heaven in Beijing is one of the most colorful complex of buildings I have ever seen. The park was originally constructed in 1420 and was a place to pay homage to heaven and for emperors to pray for good harvests. In 1998 it was included in the UNESCO Heritage Site list and today is a sprawling park and tourist attraction. You can go for the several acres of green surrounding it or for the historical buildings. Of course, you can also go for people watching as several games of cards are played in its long pavilions, engagement pictures are popular in the Temple of Heaven (why wouldn’t they be, right?) and several groups play music, sing or dance in the huge park.
As with everything in China, it will most likely be packed any day of the week. I was there during the a national celebration- 70 years since the end of WWII- and several tourist attractions were packed to the brim. Expect to have a lot of bodily contact if you want to see certain things, like the inside of the buildings where I think some old people are buried. It certainly smelled like the inside of a tomb. If you need a break, head for the gardens. You will be able to find shade, several little shops for refreshments and some peace and quiet.
I particularly loved to pay attention to the decoration on the roofs, ceilings and construction of the buildings in the Temple of Heaven. I know, it sounds super nerdy, but when you see the carvings in the granite and the intricate details of the paintings, you can’t help but wonder about the society that made those things centuries ago. The skill level and time that it took to get it all done is astonishing. Another thing that fascinated me was the difference in color palettes used in China, South Korea and Japan. Notice the blue and green ceramic roofs, and vibrant colors contrasted with coral reds in China, greens and more muted colors in South Korea and the dominant vermillion and simple black that is used in most of Japan. Those colors tell a story, not only of history- what materials were available- but of a people – how they see themselves, how they want others to see them. It’s fascinating!
I wonder if you have noticed similar contrasting differences while visiting different countries in the same region? If so, leave a comment, I’d love to know about it.
Happy xploring friends!