The morning started off with a hearty breakfast and we had the opportunity to meet many of the people from our tour group. One crazy thing happened; I saw someone who looked familiar but then I thought, nah, can’t be. But sure enough, a co-worker was on the same tour and we didn’t even know each other was going. And to make it more interesting, she was travelling with a guy who used to work on my floor and his wife. Talk about a small world. The other interesting fact about our tour group, 9 of the 37 people are from Tampa-St Pete.
All aboard the bus was 7:45 to start our journey to the Temple of Heaven. Construction of the temple was completed in 1420, during the reign of the Yongle Emperor. It is made up of 3 main buildings: the Hall of Prayer, Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Circular Mound Altar. The temple grounds cover 1.05 sq miles and were built to show respect to the authorities in the form of sacrifices, but was mainly used for prayers for a good harvest.
The grounds had many gardens and a large number of the trees were over 300 years old.
One of the gardens was named Seven Star Stones that was made of stones that were left over from building the temple. The one thing that was odd, there were 8 stones and not 7.
Behind this garden were rows of people who had small posters laying on the ground. The posters had details about their sons and daughters; they were actually trying to find a spouse for their children. They did not want their picture taken so I respected their wishes and did not take any. We had read about this tradition and were glad we got to see it. I did see many men playing mahjong and women knitting and crocheting.
It was a beautiful temple and it was pretty amazing to be walking around buildings that are almost 600 years old. Many of the surrounding buildings were under renovation and were not accessible.
A view of one of the ceilings:
Some of the carvings, the large elongated dragon was a water drain.
Next stop, The Great Wall……..