Another day out with Mr. Wang, and this time we were off for two key sights in Beijing: the wonderful Temple of Heaven and the huge Summer Palace, which is maybe 30 minutes outside of town. Of these two, I thought the Temple of Heaven was the best. It is situated in a beautiful park, and is a place where a lot of locals spend time. Some were playing tennis, and, down one long walk, older people were having intense games of cards and chess.
The highlight of the Temple is the Good Prayers for the Harvest Hall, a huge central temple where the emperor would regularly come to give blessings both to the empire as a whole, and to the upcoming crops for the year. It is set on the top of 3 marble slaps, like at the Forbidden City. I am starting to realize that in China being set up on these slabs means something is very special and important. Inside the Hall itself a large number of birds were flying around. The park surrounding the main hall was also a great place to walk, full of ancient trees, tall grasses, and in general a lovely setting where you could easily spend most of the day.
After the Temple, we raced out to the edge of Beijing to take in the Summer Palace, which is exactly like Versailles in France. A retreat for royalty in a beautiful setting. The Palace itself is set around Lake Kunming, and has tons of different bridges, buildings, and temples surrounding it. The bridges especially were beautiful, mainly because they were unusual in appearance. The arches were tall and exaggerated, with one incredibly short, but really high up in the air.
The other great part about the Palace was Longevity Hill, which dominates the Lake, and is topped with a grand temple that you can only reach by climbing a set of really steep stairs. It is a bit of a tough climb, but the views back out over the area are worth it.
After the Palace, I returned back to Beijing, and am enjoying another nice evening over some tea and dumplings. With the heat so intense, by around noon it’s best to have most of the sight-seeing done, and you can just relax in a nice cool spot and people watch.