Saturday, October 9, 2010

China - Day one: The Temple of Heaven

....before we knew it, our bus came to a halt! We've reached our first destination: "The Temple of Heaven"

The Temple of Heaven, which dates back to 1406, is a Taoist building which was originally used by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties to pray for good harvests. In ancient China, the emperor was regarded as the “Son of Heaven”, who administered earthly matters on behalf of, and representing, heavenly authority. To be seen to be showing respect to the source of his authority, in the form of sacrifices to heaven, was extremely important. The temple was built for these ceremonies, mostly comprising prayers for good harvests. Twice a year the Emperor and all his entourage would move to the Forbidden City (which I’ll tell you about later), wearing special robes and abstaining from eating meat. No ordinary Chinese was allowed to view this procession or the following ceremony. In the temple complex the Emperor would personally pray to Heaven for good harvests. The ceremony had to be perfectly completed; it was widely held that the smallest of mistakes would lead to a bad omen for the whole nation in the coming year. Today, the Temple of Heaven is only for sightseeing and commoners, like us tourists, are still not allowed to go inside. But judging from the outside alone, it’s quite spectacular with its royal blue and gold paint and ornate design. What makes it even more breathtaking, is that it made of wood but not a single nail was used to keep it together. UHM-MAZING!!!!!

First we took a lovely stroll through the beautiful gardens that leads to the Temple of Heaven. It was also in these gardens that we got our first taste of the aggressive sale strategy displayed by Chinese hawkers – something we would soon become accustomed too. As we entered the gates to the temple though, I couldn’t help but gasp for air. Majestic and gigantic, I couldn’t believe  how pretty this temple was and for the first few minutes I became one of those typical tourists that just took hundreds and hundreds of pictures. Soon however, I realized that the Temple of Heaven, beautiful as it may be, wasn’t the only tourist attraction!!!! Among the shimmer of this blue and gold beauty, the camera flashes was pointed in quit a different angle, away from the temple, in the direction of….. me and Gill!!!!!!. Yes, my lovelies, for the first time I got a little taste of “celebrity life” and I must admit that I was quite thankful for my sunglasses as a barrier to all the camera flashes going off around us. Gill and I just giggled nervously, but then the bravest among our fans dug up the courage and asked to be photographed with us. Soon we had a line of about 15 “fans” all awaiting their turn. What could we do? We just smiled sweetly at the camera until; at last, Gill politely excused us! We were, after all, the “tourists” and there was some sightseeing to be done!!!!!
....(to be continued)

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