China Day 1 – Temples, Temples, And More Temples
Destinations: Heaven of Temple, Yonghe Lama Temple, and Confucius Temple
(天坛, 雍和宫, 北京孔廟)
We had a long day planned ahead of us and so we got up extra early for our first breakfast in Beijing. Beijing has a lot of great food that I love but I still crave their fresh, hot soy milk now that I am back in America. It’s a must-try when you’re there! The soy milk comes unsweetened so you can add just the right amount of sugar you want to the drink.
Temple of Heaven
After breakfast, we made out way to the Temple of Heaven. It was a really bright and sunny (and unbearably hot) summer day so apologies about the lighting in these photos. The picture on the upper right is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest and is the biggest building inside the compound. In ancient times, the Ming and Qing emperors would come here once a year to pray to the heavens for good harvest. Nowadays, it is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for a lot of tourists.
We grabbed a quick lunch from a nearby shopping mall and they had these awesome, moving transformer robots in the middle of the mall. I thought it was pretty cool and a lot of people were snapping pictures.
Yonghe Lama Temple (Yonghegong)
We made a quick stop by Yonghe Lama Temple after lunch. It served the residence of Prince Yongzheng before he ascended the throne. The residence was then converted into a lamasery some years later. The name Yonghe Gong translates to “Palace of Eternal Peace.”
Our last stop of the day was the Confucius Temple, dedicated to the great educationalist and philosopher himself. We scurried to join our tour group as they had already started and we didn’t want to wait 15 minutes for the next one.
There’s a pretty famous tree inside the temple called the Chujian Bai, which translates to Touch Evil Cypress. According to legend, an evil and corrupted government official came to the temple to make prayers on the behalf of the emperor. As he passed by this tree, his hat was snagged by one of the branches; and because he was well-know for being corrupted, people believed that the tree was able to tell between good and evil. The tree still stands there today.
Our tour guide then stopped us before a gate and began to explain to us the ancient Chinese proverb of “Liyu Tiao Long Men” or “the carp jumps over the dragon’s gate.” In Chinese mythology, the dragon’s gate existed at the top of a powerful waterfall. Carps would swim upstream and those that could make the final leap over the gate were transformed into dragons. In the past, Chinese government officials were selected through rigorous exams in which the brightest and most intelligent candidates were selected. The exam was based on the idea of merit and so even the poorest boy could become a government official if he passes the test. In modern day, this proverb is often used to describe students who passed difficult University exams. We jumped over gate to symbolize this.
Our final stop was a temple filled with red, wish placards. Since the Confucius Temple is dedicated to the great educationalist, many people (mostly grandparents) make the long journey to come here and pray for good exam results. Apparently you can only make one wish for one child and you can only come here to do so once in your lifetime. It makes sense since China only recently lifted the one-child policy so I doubt people will have a problem with this. It cost 300RMB to make a wish (roughly $15USD) and I figured for $15, I could work a little harder so I skipped out on it.
End Day 1