After two days of smog, fog and rain in Beijing we were pleasantly surprised to wake up on our third and final day to sunshine and (gasp!) blue skies. We spent the morning at the Temple of Heaven, a park and temple complex used by the Beijing locals for recreation and originally used only by the Ming and Qing Emperors (and those they deemed worthy enough).
It was a lovely morning spent wandering around the park, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, which must be almost unheard of in Beijing. People were out playing* badmington, more like dancing badmington really. There was also group aerobic dancing, Tai Chi, dancing with fans, partner dancing, hacky sack. It was always a laugh when we went and joined in.
Dotted through out the park are the various temples and other buildings used by the emperors for different types of ceremony and worship. The round temple in the centre – ‘The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests’ was a stand out, as was the ‘Imperial Vault of Heaven’ and the echo wall that surrounds it.
We also saw rows and rows of people sitting in the park with signs on the ground in front of them, often with pictures of people. Our guide explained that parents of single young adults come to the park (or pay someone else to come) and ‘advertise’ their child as a possible suitor for others to marry, or for another parent to choose as a match. A modern, park-based dating service. I had so many questions as I read the advertisements that described appearance but also education and employment. Sometimes the parents organise a sort of blind date / random meet up for the two young people, who may not even be aware that someone is sitting in the park all day promoting them. Crazy! You have to admire the commitment of the parents to spend their time waiting and hoping to find the perfect match for their sons and daughters.
After spending the morning at the Temple of Heaven we wandered across the road from the east gate to Hongqiao Market, also known as the pearl market for some shopping, bargaining (be resilient but friendly!) and yummy lunch.