Skip to main content

Temple of Heaven Beijing

The Tian Tan -  this was a place of sanctity, a site of privilege, for only the Emperor (aka the Son of Heaven) and his inner sanctum in dynastic Chinese days could use with protocol, respect and ritual.    The fate of the nation, especially its agricultural wealth and status, significantly depended on the strength of prayers performed and the viability of the Mandate of Heaven.   The cultural and religious head of the huge kingdom connected with the Universe and the sublime on this very chosen spot.    It was the vital link between the masses and the unseen powers in the skies, through which one man, the Emperor, was the only medium of communication, power and influence.

This place of importance has circular shapes in construction, as if to replicate the roundness of the planets, the Sun and the Moon.   The highest structure sits on elevated platforms, with tall pillars inside the halls and round topped roofs.     The size , shape and lay out of the place is connected with astrological beliefs and practice.    Grand institutions of Chinese background seem to have wide open spaces to transverse before approaching the main focus in a specific building.    Here the visitor, since it was turned into a public park in 1918, can approach at will and ease, as the underlying foundations of the philosophy behind the Temple of Heaven have been under emphasised in contemporary times.    In its royal past, pomp and ceremony accompanied visits performed only on days and certain hours calculated on precise pondering of the stars, astrology and the Chinese Zodiac.

Nevertheless, one does not lose the sense of vibes in the air as you explore with eye, feet and a heavy appreciation of history.    Of all the cultural sites for a tourist to Beijing, the Temple of Heaven perhaps is the most kind of all in requiring  exertion and climbing.    I also observe the emptiness of spaces -  there are no longer much furniture or adornments inside those great round shaped halls, where have they gone?     In its glory, the Temple of Heaven did not look so emptied out.    Now the reverence has gone, but human beings scramble over its stoned plazas.   To its credit, the government does maintain restoration works and does repairs.    

The other part I like about the Temple of Heaven is outside , along garden paths lined with fruiting trees and just walking along outside the inner walls.    On a nice day like in September, the air is warm and the sun is kind.    Why was the Temple of Heaven built on this spot?  What is the relationship with Taoism and Confucianism?   This is a tribute to higher powers and so separated from the earth bound goings on in the Forbidden City.  

The colours that still stand out today are red, dark blue and white.      They all have purposeful meanings, not just the whims of officials nor the practical choices of maintenance.     Located south-east of the Forbidden City, in Dongcheng District, the complex was built in the early 15th century by the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty and renovated by the well respected Qianlong Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911).

UNESCO recognised this as a world heritage cultural site in 1998.   During the Boxer Rebellion, troops from the  eight foreign nations which occupied Beijing desecrated the Temple of Heaven in the first decade of the 20th century.  The most impressive building, the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests, remains the most beautiful sight in proportion, stature and aesthetics.   It is also remarkable for being a construction that uses no nails and all wood, reminding me of another spectacular building in Japan - the Horyu-ji Temple in Nara, with five roofed tiers.   This Hall has three layers of gabled roofs with a fairy tale effect.   It is also graced with marble floors.

We were expecting much with what is called the Echo Wall, surrounding the Imperial Vault of Heaven.    Did we not shout not with some force from our lungs, or was there too much of a crowd that afternoon?    We did not get any effect of an echo liked we hoped for.   The complex itself can be accessed by four gates synchronised with the directions.    Numbers play a meaningful part in Chinese culture, for example in the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests, you can see four inner pillars, 12 middle pillars and another twelve outer pillars - they represent the four seasons, 12 months and twelve clock hours.

East of the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvests is a seven Stone Group, meant to represent the seven peaks of Tai Shan, a mountain with celestial meaning and purpose.


Popular posts from this blog

Chung Ling Alumni Association Petaling Jaya Klang Valley

Telephone Contact:  +603 7957 0318

85 Degrees Bakery Cafe Hurstville NSW

There are several outlets of this bakery cafe for several years now in Australia.  Did they coem from the USA?

Each franchised outlet is in a busy area, often in suburbs so-called by a diverse Asian demographic.   The one in Hurstville is rather roomy and lots of baked stuff on its shelves.   The base of Sydney operations is in Chester Hill, a suburb south-west of the Sydney city centre.

Some of the cake creations would be viewed as rather leaning on the East Asian dimension  - Strawberry Angel (with chocolate base and top) and Mango Cheese ( with yoghurt).   However, to counter this perspective, there are also Death by Chocolate, US Cheesecake, Coffee Brulee and Blueberry Marble options.    

The pastries are definitely filled with ingredients more suited to perhaps Anime loving fans and non-mainstream cultures - for example, garlic, pork, tuna, green tea, red bean, shallots, pork floss, coconut, Hokkaido butter cream and Boroh or pineapple buns.   Sung seems to be a variation emphasised…

Penang - Lor Mee

Lor mee is another of those street foods that are not commonly available in Western societies, but are easily found in southern China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The dish is iconic of the Teochew Province in China and has been mainly brought to equatorial climes by immigrants over the last few centuries. It combines snippets of ingredients in a thick savoury sauce. Above, the lor mee with roast pork and sliced hard boiled egg accompaniments at the Fong Sheng Cafe, along Lorong Selamat in Georgetown, Penang - the place was introduced by May Wah and Henry Quah.

The cafe harks back to the seventies or eighties - and maybe earlier - what caught my eye were (above) freshly blended fruit and/or vegetable juices and (below) metal and plastic contraptions of the food trade.

Hot and cold drinks are easily on offer from the cafe (above and below) at very reasonable prices.

Another version of the dish (below) taken whilst Bob Lee was enjoying them in another cafe or coffee shop in Georgetown…