Four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Four Days: Day 3 and Day 4 in Beijing (Part 2 of 2)

In the previous post, I talked about the Forbidden City experience and how we wasted time waiting for two other participants of the group tour. As a consequence, we needed to skip the shopping activity at a posh Beijing street, which street-name I forget. At the same time, we needed to adjust the alotted time for our afternoon sessions: the Temple of Heaven and the optional activity of watching the spectacular Beijing acrobatics.

Unsolicited advise but I think it is important to know that when you join a group tour, suck up your ego – you are not entitled to anything. Signing up for a group tour means cooperation and consideration to the other members who also signed up for the tour. Everyone paid the same amount. Social class or status, that does not count in a group tour.

It is also important that you listen attentively to the pre-departure orientation: know carefully the instructions, the rules and regulations of the group tour. Do not be afraid to ask questions.

Tour guides often leave contact details in case of emergency. Contact him or her in an unlikely event of emergency (a.k.a. being separated from the group). It does not matter if its a foreign number, be creative! Ask a local to help you or the information desk to message the number.

Finally, you have to follow the instructions of the tour guide, especially if you are in a foreign place. As a foreigner, the majority of the things about the locale are also foreign to you. Your tour guide knows exactly what is good for you. Trust him or her, he knows what he or she is doing.

Enough of the unsolicited advise. Let us now move on and go back to the tour.

After lunch, we headed to the Temple of Heaven, an imperial complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. Jayson explained that the complex was used by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for ceremonies and prayer for good harvest.

A view of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest and the Circular Mound from one of the rectangular temples (Photo: SAP Tiatco)

Located at the Tiantan Park in Beijing, the complex was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1998. The Chinese government named the property as The Temple of Heaven: an Imperial Sacrificial Altar in Beijing. The UNESCO website describes the religious property “as a dignified complex of fine cult buildings set in gardens and surrounded by historic pine woods. In its overall layout and that of its individual buildings, it symbolizes the relationship between earth and heaven – the human world and God’s world – which stands at the heart of Chinese cosmogony, and also the special role played by the emperors within that relationship.”

The Tiantan Park is an interesting locale. While traversing the path going to the main complex (the temple itself), there are interesting activities happening around. There are kids flying their kites with their parents, especially with their dads. Other kids play with their paper airplanes. I remember one father trying to console his son whose paper airplane got tangled in one of the huge pine trees in the park.

The most interesting for me are the elders.

A group of elderly playing Chinese board games (Photo: SAP Tiatco)
The majestic corridor leading to the public entrance of the temple (Photo: SAP Tiatco)

As soon as we entered the park, a group of old ladies was calming themselves by performing a slow version of what I assumed to be the tai chi. On the corridors, elderly men and women were gleefully cheering and laughing while they were playing cards and other board games.

We reached the temple complex.

It was majestic!

Four structures stood in front of us: the circular main temple, a rectangular temple on the right side and another on the left, and the gateway to the temple in front of it.

The Temple on top of the mound (Photo: SAP Tiatco)
The main gate of the complex (Photo: SAP Tiatco)

Jayson explained that Chinese cosmology associates circular objects with anything heavenly. In this way, the circular structure is the actual temple of heaven which has an official name of The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, only the emperor could enter the circular temple.

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest stands in on top of a massive mound, an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, each decorated by lavishly carved dragons. The locals call this the Circular Mound Altar.

The two rectangular structures on the left and right of the circular temple are sacred sanctuaries for the other gods and goddesses of the Ancient Chinese religion. Jayson noted that after praying to the god of good harvest, an emperor would go often visit these temples to pray for the other gods and goddesses. Today, these structures are used as museums.

Surrounding the entire structure is an ornate fence of marble and granite and almost squarish. It represents the earth, according to Jayson.

After exploring the complex, we went to a shopping mall for our dinner.

Afterwards, some of us went to the Chaoyang Theater for the Beijing Acrobatic Show. The auditorium is a massive 3000 square meter theatre hall built in 1984 with both downstairs and upstairs seating which can facilitate up to 1400 spectators.

Chao Yang Theater in Beijing (Photo: SAP Tiatco)

The breathtaking show is performed twice a day. It starts at 5 pm and the last show is at 7 pm.

We attended the 7 pm show. It was really an amazing show! I thought our UP Pep Squad back home need to see this and perhaps, train with them.

The tour ended here.

On the fourth and final day, we passed by a jewelry shop before our lunch. Afterward, we headed back to the airport. Jayson did a great job!

It was the 24th of December.

Everyone was eager to celebrate Christmas back home in the Philippines. We arrived in Manila past midnight. We were tired but definitely, the group-tour was all worth it.

Happy holidays!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Do you know which goes and goddess were presented in that temple? Also is there any significance to thafact that the outer structure was rectangle?

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  2. SAP Tiatco says:

    Hi, Salwa. Happy New Year! Unfortunately, I got no names. But the temple was meant for the emperor to pray for good harvest. About the structure – Chinese architecture is based on Taoist philosophy and feng shui. The rectangular structures on the right and left of the circular temple meant to “guide” and “protect” the main complex. Some pieces of literature say that the significance is in the positioning of the structures. The centermost portion of any complex during the Qing and Ming Dynasties was always reserved for the Emperors. Often, the Empresses waited for the Emperor in one of the rectangular structures. I hope I was able to answer your question.

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