Bug thankfully slept a little better after so much activity, so Momma felt a little better today. Good thing– this was destined to be a long day, with stops at Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven before catching a three-hour flight to Guilin that wouldn’t land until almost 1 am. So here we go!
Our first stop was in Tiananmen Square. It didn’t hit me at the time, but we were there two days before the anniversary of the 1989 massacre. You’d think we would have noticed an increased police/military presence in light of the anniversary, but I actually noticed fewer armed dudes than we saw in November 2008. That might have been because of the crowds– it was WAY more crowded this trip than our mid-November visit. Here’s June clowning around:
Given the majesty of the Forbidden City you’d think we’d have gotten tons of great pics of ourselves there. Alas, it was not to be– Bug was still so tired and jet-lagged she slept through the most of it. Since she was so tired, and G and I had been there before, Forrest suggested we take a side tour to see some of the Qing Dynasty antiquities. It was totally worth it. Here’s the Nine Dragon Screen, which you see as you begin to enter the exhibit. It’s breathtaking:
We then saw a treasure trove of jewels, carved items, jade, and seals that boggled the mind. Here are some jewels worn by the Qing Empresses:
Here are the various imperial seals, each used for different occasions:
And what do you know? We did finally get a cool family picture in the Forbidden City:
After lunch we hit the Pearl Market (score!) and then headed to the Temple of Heaven. G and I didn’t get to see to the Temple of Heaven on our first visit, and I have to say, this is a real highlight of Beijing and we feel fortunate to have made it on this trip. The Temple of Heaven had an almost mystical quality, kind of like Stonehenge.
The Temple of Heaven was finished the same year as the Forbidden City, 1420 CE, but unlike the Forbidden City the core never burned (the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests did burn in 1889). The majority is original. The Temple of Heaven is not technically a temple– it was built as a place for the Emperor to come once a year and perform prayers to heaven for a good harvest. In other words, it was a day for the Emperor to pretend he cared about his people. (Just a joke!) The entire grounds are now a public park for Beijingers, and the entire grounds are larger than Tiananmen Square. All three structures are circular and are built based on proportions of the number nine, which was the Emperor’s number.
The first part of the complex is the Circular Mound Altar, which is the most Stonehenge-like. This is an open-air circular prayer mound where the Emperor would publicly pray for favorable weather. He would stand on the Heart of Heaven to perform the prayer. Here we are on the Heart of Heaven:
The next part is the Imperial Vault of Heaven, surrounded by the Echo Wall. The Imperial Vault of Heaven looks like a shorter version of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, and held the prayer tablets. The Emperor and priests would give lengthy speeches outside, and the acoustics of the Echo Wall allowed everyone to hear. Here’s the Imperial Vault of Heaven:
The last part is the majestic Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, where the Emperor would offer additional private prayers. This building is perfectly round and built without nails. Pretty impressive stuff.
The middle axis leading between the buildings was for the Emperor only, so of course that’s where Bug wanted to run. Here she is running toward the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. This is my favorite picture from our trip:
Here’s the Hall itself, the signature building of Beijing:
And Bug playing peek-a-boo outside the West Hall:
After the Temple of Heaven, we killed a little time at a local mall, had one last dinner in Beijing, and then headed to the airport for our late-evening flight to Guilin, Bug’s home city. While we were happy to have the day to sightsee in Beijing, I can’t say I was overly excited to know we wouldn’t be getting to our lodging in Guilin until 1 am or so. Oh well– it was vacation, and we’d deal. Here’s my lovies hanging out in the Beijing airport waiting for our flight:
Up next– our first look at Bug’s home city!