The Temple of Heaven is round because the heaven is round, explained our guide. It’s also painted blue, but here in the 21st Century, the sky is pretty smog-laden, and a blue sky backdrop is a rarity rather than the norm.
Nevertheless, the weather Bruha (that would be me) was batting 1,000, and we got to see quite a bit of pale blue in the sky overhead during our visit. (We were told it is sometimes years without seeing blue sky in Beijing.)
The temp was in the low 90s, but there was enough shade and breeze that it was not too uncomfortable, despite the fact that sweat poured off me most of the day. I truly cannot describe this multi-tiered temple, kind of like an intricately-decorated layered cake I guess.
A well-known landmark, the Temple of Heaven is often the site of weddings and tourist promotional materials for China. We saw both of those things happening during our brief stop.
Our guide took us out the back way from the Temple, where we traveled a long length of covered walkway with many 90-degree turns. The walkway was wide, and had benches along each side. Groups of men and women sat on the benches, or pulled up folding chairs they brought from home, and played cards or a checkers-like board game.
At each big turn, a group of musicians or performers gathered, and delighted us with their songs and dances. But what an eclectic combination of sounds! First a group singing Eidelweis, a capella. Then a young gal in a belly-dancing gold coin belt moving her hips rhythmically to a CD playing (are you ready for this?) a Chinese rendition of Hey Macarina!
At the next corner, a multi-player group, maybe a high school band ensemble, struggled through something none of us knew, then we encountered an elderly guy, and I mean ELDERLY, playing something akin to a bag less bagpipe or a flute. I asked another tour guide what it was, and he said, “scheen”, or something like that…
Anyone is free to purchase yearly passes to the immaculate and serene Temple grounds, and it is clear that the locals take full advantage of it.
And I was grateful for this opportunity to “eavesdrop” on their daily lives.