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Ascending to heaven

Last night was marred – as is always the danger when staying in a hostel – by an old guy in my dorm snoring like a hippopotamus. I got up in the middle of the night to apply my patented earplugs – pieces of tissue mushed up with spittle and squeezed into my ears. I slept well after that – but got up at about 9:30 – a bit late.

I went to the Temple of Heaven for the duration of the afternoon. The central hall is a spectacular, circular, three-storied edifice – but there are a number of other buildings within the huge, park-like compound. Wikpedia says:

The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven (traditional Chinese: 天壇; pinyin: Tiāntán; Manchu: Abkai mukdehun) is a complex of Taoist buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It is regarded as a Taoist temple, although Chinese Heaven worship, especially by the reigning monarch of the day, pre-dates Taoism.

I spent a good long while slowly making my way round, photographing comprehensively. Although the central axis of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven (another beautiful but less monumental circular building and linked to the first by a wide raised road) and the Circular Mound Altar was fairly crowded with tourists, the rest of the place was less visited.

There was also the Abstinence Palace, where the Emperor hung out before performing the ceremonies, and the Double-loop Longevity Pavilion, which was populated by elderly Chinese folk hanging out in the late afternoon. I also passed a man playing a scratchy traditional violin while the woman sitting next to him sang. In the same little square hidden amongst the cypresses were a few kite fliers – one man had a kite that was so high I couldn’t find it in my camera’s viewscreen to photograph it.

After finishing at the temple I headed out of the West Gate and walked to Beijing South Railway Station, where I came into Beijing from Qingdao, to buy a ticket for Wednesday to go to Tianjin. And after subwaying back to my hostel to pick up my computer I went to a duck restaurant and ate duck. Not roast duck, though – perhaps a mistake, but it was a little expensive. On the subject of which, I have 700 yuan left (about £70). Apart from food and drink, my main expense is a trip to the Great Wall – which will probably use up about half of that, all told – and a night’s stay in Tianjin. I also need to keep 30 yuan to be able to get out of the country.

Tomorrow, Charlie and I and maybe Mark will go to the Summer Palace.

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