No trip to Beijing would be complete without a day-trip to the Great Wall. You heard me: it’s a clean 3-hour bus ride there, in the best of times. I was really lucky because I got to see the reconstructed wall, complete with handrail (you know, for the Mongolian invaders who were differently abled) as well as the epic, crumbling old Wall. Contrary to popular misconception, the Great Wall mostly dates from the Ming period. It’s also not visible from space. There’s also no Santa Claus. But there are probably hundreds of skeletons within the foundations and environs of the Great Wall, because of all the workers who died building it. Cheery, no?
This enterprising lady sold me a t-shirt, and promptly invited me in for tea! She had no idea who I was, and she didn’t speak a word of English, but she made sure I felt darn welcome in Beijing. I’ll never forget her hospitality.
That’s Tiantan–the Temple of Heaven. Actually literally it’s the “altar” of heaven, I believe. Translation is a tricky thing. This is the same park/temple complex that had “pavilion of animal slaughtering,” at one end. Not animal killing, or execution. Slaughter. Doesn’t that make you feel all Zen? Wait no, that’s more a Japanese branch of Buddhism. But “feeling all Dao,” or “feeling all Taoist” doesn’t really have quite the same ring in English…
Just give me a few years more Chinese language study, and I’ll be all like, “Hold on guys, let me go get my I Ching on.”
Roof detail from the Temple of Heaven. China does roofs differently from the West, but it does them well.
Overall I actually enjoyed Beijing way more than Shanghai (don’t tell my Shanghainese friends!). Shanghai seemed very much about shopping and clubbing and status, whereas in Beijing I saw way more people just chilling and playing majong in the street. Suits were older but well taken care of. There was more history. Plus I sort of just like wheat in my food.
Next post: Hangzhou, the Paris of the East (heavy on the Haussman)