[posted on behalf of Abby D.]
We started our last full day in Beijing at the Temple of Heaven, a truly spectacular complex of structures. It was this temple that Ming and Qing emperors visited twice a year to offer prayers and sacrifices to Heaven to ensure a good harvest. The primary buildings in the complex are circular in shape to represent the Chinese view of a circular Heaven. Beautiful blue roof tiles also symbolize the heavens. Erika, who had prepared a report about the temple and shared her knowledge with us, was impressed by the beautiful and unusual architecture.
Exiting the temple, we walked through long corridors and down tree-lined paths. Along the way were many local people dancing, singing, doing tai chi, and other activities which we enjoyed watching. To help celebrate Mike’s birthday, one of the musicians who had been playing traditional music switched to “Happy Birthday” and several other familiar tunes. Many of us were touched by this gesture.
While enjoying lunch at a traditional Beijing noodle restaurant, we were joined by Lisa Li, a young woman from Beijing who spent some time in the United States and is back in China studying for the bar exam. She chatted with some of us over the meal and birthday cake, and then joined a whole-group conversation on the bus. Since we were headed to the Yonghe Gong Temple, a center for Tibetan Buddhism, we asked Lisa for her thoughts on Tibet. Several people had questions for her, including Jeanne who brought up issues related to cultural assimilation and the complicated nature of the Tibetan/Han Chinese relationship.
At the Yonghe Gong Temple, Huajing spoke with us about Buddhist iconography while we walked through the statues and paintings in the many prayer halls. The 60 ft. Buddha in the final hall was an awe-inspiring finish to the day!
Photos: 1) Teachers at Temple of Heaven, 2) Amy and Huajing at Temple of Heaven, 3) Lama Temple