Yesterday was another blue-sky Saturday where our NSLI-Y group went to see a major historical site in Beijing together. This time our destination was the beautiful Temple of Heaven (Tian tan, 天 坛)! I hadn’t looked up any info or photos of the temple beforehand, so I went in with completely fresh eyes. The buildings of the temple were surrounded by a large park of evergreens and other trees that had yet to turn their fall color. I was surprised at the sheer number of foreign visitors and locals present, clearly all drawn by the beauty and history of the temple and its gardens.
Imperial Hall of Heaven and gate
Once inside the walls encircling the main temple area, I got my very first view of the colorful towering Hall of Prayer for a Good Harvest and was struck by how absolutely stunning it was in the brilliant sunshine. After a quick group photo we were allowed to disperse and explore the area at our leisure. While walking around the base of the temple I saw no less that 7 wedding photo-shoots, featuring both white dresses and the more traditional red Chinese ones. I’m not surprised that they wanted to take wedding photos at such a lovely location.
The temple was built during the Ming Dynasty (completed in 1420 AD) by the same emperor to build the Forbidden City and is the most famous of imperial temples. UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site in 1998. While not allowed to enter the temple itself I snapped a quick photo of the interior where you can see one of the altars.
Interior of Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest
Exterior View of Paintwork and Carvings
Photo taking seemed to be the main activity of the day, by us and everyone around us. On our way out of the main area we got stopped by a group of Filipino tourists who wanted to take photos with us. They were very friendly and taught us a popular way to pose for photos in the Philippines.
After we left the temple we headed to the nearby Pearl Market, a place where you can buy extremely realistic counterfeit goods and stereotypical souvenir items. The majority of the customers were other foreign tourists, and the store workers were very assertive in trying to get us to look at their products. Not interested in buying anything, several classmates and I hastily made our way to the top floor, where a garden balcony provided the perfect view to get a last glimpse of the Temple of Heaven.
Vast Greenery with Temple in Distance
Finally it was time to take the subway back to my host family, but not before a quick pit stop at McDonald’s. I enjoyed eating a green tea ice cream, which while delicious is unfortunately the only flavor of ice cream McDonald’s currently has here. Lastly a classmate and I decided to try out some of the Jack O’Lantern cookies in early celebration of Halloween. While they weren’t the most delicious of cookies, they sure were cute!
Happy almost Halloween!
I had a great time touring the Temple of Heaven and urge anyone who stops by Beijing to check it out!
Abigail is currently spending a year abroad in Beijing, China with the NSLI-Y program. She is excited to share her experiences with family, friends, and others on this blog.