June 1, 2010

Day 3: Temple of Heaven, Beijing

“Tian Tan Park, East Gate. Just remember that name and I’ll meet you by the ticket booth at 9:30.” These were the instructions that Devananda gave to me as we Skype the night before. This morning, I told it to the bellman and he explained the instructions in Chinese to the taxi driver.  And that’s how I get around, sort of like the game “Telephone”, and it usually works.

I get to the park early to settle in to enjoy the throngs of tourist, who arrive in two, threes, and tens. The big groups arrive in formation, usually led by ambitious women with sunglasses and large umbrellas.  It’s getting hotter, and I am becoming breathless waiting. It’s easy for me to loose patience in the stifling heat. When from amongst the crowd I see a familiar smiling face wrapped in a big red bandana. It’s Devanada, radiating such joy and delight that I forget about being anxious. He leads me into the park, where I immediately buy a straw hat and join in with the other missed-matched tourists. Devananda waves me over to a crowd of couple’s ballroom dancing.

Joy of Dance, Tian Tan Park, Beijing

 A few groups over and 50 -75 people are line dancing while others watch. Drifting up the stairs to the colonnade, we follow the sounds of windpipes, then move on pass the classical opera singers and the cello players. Where’s the Frisbee throwers, the dogs, the runners? I thought this was supposed to be a Park! I am moved by the Chinese people’s great sense of happiness from these simple pleasures. As I ascend the marble steps to the Temple of Heaven, I am reminded of Jerusalem. The Temple mount’s vast expanse feels the same, the layout similar.

Tian Tan, Beijing

Temple of Heaven Fire Grates, Beijing

We pause, glimpse inside and take photos in the Temple’s arches. We move to the grounds below, where amongst the sparse Aspen trees, we find the place to do Tai Chi. Here is Devananda second home. He’s been practicing in the park for years, with his special master. Soon, others watch as Devanada shows the locals how a specific exercise is preformed. He explains in Chinese the reasoning behind the action. Suddenly, the crowd breaks into applause impressed by Devananda’s power and fluid graceful movements.

Devanada Tai Chi, Tian Tan Park, Beijing

Unfortunately, I have to leave the peace and tranquility to attend the panel discussion with the Beijing Cultural and Historical Preservation society. It’s about to begin shortly.

Then I plan to join up with Ira and May for some classic Peking duck. Its only Day 3 and I am already falling in love with this country and the people.

Peking Duck Surgery,  Xiheyaju  Restaurant, Beijing

Tomorrow is Day 4 and I move to my new hotel Lu Song Yuan and then off to the Summer Palace.

Mt. Ararat

Marla Mossman

My photo
One woman traveling alone, in search of her religious and cultural heritage.