Without a doubt my favourite excursion during our pre-cruise stay in Beijing was a visit to see the Temple of Heaven. As its name suggests it has a religious basis to it but the true wonder of the place came from the park area surrounding it which drew in thousands of Chinese people daily to take part in numerous group activities. It was an enthralling spectacle and I could have stood and watched everyone for hours.
With Taoist tones present in the buildings the Temple of Heaven complex dates back to the same era as that of The Forbidden City (thirteenth century) but it was only opened as a park to the public in the early part of the twentieth century.
From a photography perspective I didn’t take anywhere near as many photos as I probably should have, depending instead on some video footage on the really cheap camera I had with me to capture some of the sounds and motion. A group of Chinese people engaging in tai chi:
Musicians and choral groups were also dotted around, mostly under some of the covered walkways in the Temple of Heaven park area.
The covered areas in the park were also home to people knitting, playing cards, playing dominoes, playing mah jong, or just talking and laughing. For the most part it was all very friendly but we did see one elderly Chinese man getting – we think – accused of cheating at dominoes and there was a bit of a scuffle as he was manhandled out of the area by aggrieved fellow players.
By far the most popular pastime that we could see was group dancing of some form.
And it wasn’t just limited to the older generation. They start dancing in the Temple of Heaven on Beijing at a very young age, it turns out.
The final type of people we saw taking part in some form of gentle exercise or group activity as we waited for our tour group to congregate at the appointed exit time were the ribbon-twirlers. Like the tai chi people it’s almost as relaxing watching people taking part as it would be doing it yourself. And that’s my reasoning for not doing it myself.
As indicated earlier, the only downside to the Temple of Heaven was that we didn’t spend nearly enough time in it. Outside the complex as we waited for our coach to move around to pick us up we spotted our final fantastic sight from the excursion; a Chinese man writing poetry with water on the paving slabs.