Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tian Tan

It was on Thursday morning that we realized after the day was done, we would only have ONE more day left in China. There was still so much to see! We rushed out in the morning to go see Tian Tan, the Temple of Heaven; and we wanted to get there early because we were told that, every morning, big gatherings of locals did tai chi there. With the sky above and the temple above, we were told it was a sight not to miss.

But we had not counted on transportation difficulties. It was our 12th day in China and we had managed the streets, subways and taxis without too much difficulty, so perhaps we were a bit overconfident. Because after our subway ride we got confusingly lost. So confused that I began to hallucinate math equations on bridges. Or was that real?
Anyway, by the time we got to Tian Tan, instead of crowds of people doing tai chi there were only two.

But Tian Tan was still a sight to see. Instead of the city, the temple stood against the backdrop of the blue sky--giving it a majesty and dignity I hadn't quite felt before.
And this, of course, was the intended impression. Built as the place where the emperor would make sacrifices and pray to heaven, it was meant to convey spiritual stateliness. For example, while most building have yellow or green tiled roofs, the tiles at Tian Tan are blue--the color of heaven.
The most common misnomer of Tian Tan is that there is an actual Temple of Heaven. There isn't. What I thought was the Temple of Heaven (the building above) is really Hall of Prayer. The Temple of Heaven refers to the whole complex: the Heavenly Gates--
the Hall of Prayer--
the Vault of Heaven--
and the Round Altar--
And connecting all these is the Red Step Bridge--the raised marble axis walkway which did not look very red to me...
so I was happy to add that bit of color myself.

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