The Fourth Weekend
04.07.2008 - 05.07.2008 25 °C
The next Friday, July 4, Mindy and I chose to break away from our neighborhood and go to Alexander Creek Park restaurant for dinner. Our experiences this evening are a good example of Beijing hospitality.
The Female Taxi Driver.
It was raining lightly outside as our (female) taxi driver sped toward Chaoyang District. I had recently become infatuated with China’s most famous folk song, Mo Li Hua (Jasmine Flower), and when I prompted her to join me in song she did so happily.
The singing died when we could not locate Alexander Creek restaurant. The soft rain had become a dark, blurring downpour. But our driver was on a mission to deliver us safely. She drove around the block and talked to both Yao Yao, my Chinese roommate, and the restaurant staff on the phone before dropping us off at the restaurant’s doorstep.
The Restaurant Staff.
In the few feet between the cab and the restaurant door where four waiters awaited us, Mindy’s right flip flop broke. Mindy’s Chicago-style wail caught the attention of the staff, and once she’d successfully limped her way through the puddles to the restaurant’s doorway, the waiters were ready with stapler, string, and needle in hand. They whisked her flip flop away and seated us.
During our (delicious and MSG free) meal, the staff brought out a temporary pair of plastic sandals for Mindy to wear. Later they returned with a successfully repaired, though less comfortable, black flip flop and then insisted she also keep the plastic sandals.
The Chinese Tour Guide.
The plastic sandals were a lifesaver during the two-hour attempt to hail a taxi after supper. Apparently taxis don’t drive in heavy, cold rain. During our wait a Chinese man advised us on how to take the bus (that never came). He coincidentally spoke excellent English because he gives Chinese people tours through Europe.
The Old Beijing Taxi Driver.
When the moment finally came, two taxis pulled over. We chose one. Our conversation with the driver about his family and job left us happy and satisfied in spite of our soggy mishap of an evening.
Once at CET I immediately went to bed. I had to wake up at 7:00 the next morning for my day long outing with the boys.
The Temple of Heaven was first on our itinerary. All of my information on this temple complex comes from Lonely Planet’s Beijing Encounter March 2008 Edition.
The temple grounds are known for their complex symbolism and numerology. For example, “the temples are round and their bases square, a pattern chosen to reflect the ancient Chinese belief that heaven is round and earth is square. The shape of the 273-hectare park also reflects this, with the northern end a semicircle and the southern end a square” (18).
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is so important it requires a separate ticket for entrance.
The blue tiles represent heaven, yellow tiles represent the emperor, and green tiles represent commoners and earth.
The Temple of Heaven was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a period of social stability, international trade, military growth, and cultural development. Journey to the West, Outlaws of the Marsh, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms were all written during this period.
A miniature model of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.
The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest uses no nails, cement, or steel. Rather it uses wood shipped in from Oregon in 1890. The structure “burnt to a crisp” from a lightning bolt in 1889 and was rebuilt the next year .
Next to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. The miniature models are inside this building.
According to Wikipedia the Temple of Heaven was restored from 2005 to 2006 in preparation for the 2008 Olympics.
The Chinese dragon, which is long and scaly, is an auspicious symbol associated with water, weather, and sky.
The dragon coupled with the phoenix resembles the marriage of male and female. In the Taoist yin/yang philosophy the male dragon figure is yang (positive, white, hot, emptiness) and the female phoenix is yin (negative, black, cold, substance).
The dragon and tiger couple symbolizes heaven and earth. When matched with the yin/yang philosophy the dragon is still yang (heaven, white, hot, emptiness) and the tiger is yin (earth, black, cold, substance).
Maybe this will make your next trip to a Chinese restaurant a little more meaningful.
One of the walkways in the Temple of Heaven. Will’s photo (more of his photos at www.flickr.com/bellumdeus).
A place for people to play cards and chat.
Unlike the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, these casual gazebos and walkways have no fee.
The rose garden.
A few benches down a Chinese couple was making out. This type of PDA is rare. During the day I see a lot of hand holding, specifically among college aged people. At night the streets and parks are sparsely occupied by kissing Chinese couples.
According to my Chinese friends, if a Chinese couple is holding hands you can assume they have been or plan to be together for at least a year. If a boy and girl kiss, then they will become a couple.
After Mindy and I returned from Alexander Creek Park restaurant and walked into the West Building at 11 p.m. the night before, we ran into a Chinese roommate standing alone underneath the balcony. Although Mindy didn’t know why he was oddly stiff and terse when she stopped to talk, from where I was standing I could see his girlfriend (another CET Chinese roommate) hiding behind a column.
The times are changing in Pleasantville.
Walking from the Temple of Heaven to the Underground City, I ran into the Olympic Mascots. From left to right are JingJing, HuanHuan, YingYing, and NiNi.
And here’s BeiBei.
Their names come from the Mandarin phrase “Beijing huanying ni” which means “Beijing welcomes you.”
“Beijing huanying ni” is also the title of a 2008 Olympic theme song. Released 100 days before the Opening Ceremony, this song could be heard in every subway, bus, shop, restaurant, and street in Beijing prior to and during the Olympic games. Several of China’s popular singers contributed their voices to the song, including Jackie Chan.
You can watch the video on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFQ1JDw-d70.
The stars are singing in Beijing’s famous historical spots, some of which you may recognize.
The Underground City was closed for renovations. The Underground City is “an underground labyrinth where [Mao] could send the population (all five million of them) in the event of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union.” (Lonely Planet p.69)
Next we headed to Dong Jiao Shi Chang (literally East Suburb Market), an authentic local market, which I regrettably took no pictures of but can easily return to.
The Dong Jiao Lu Shan Jiu Tea City (literally East Suburb Green Mountain Nine Tea City) is located a little past the East Suburb Market.
Since I have almost no interest in tea I used the opportunity to practice using my camera.
I also contributed to this event by accidentally spilling my cup of tea onto a disk of dried tea, effectively ruining its quality.
The tea ceremony.
Will was pretty intense about his tea.
I deleted the in-focus version of this photo because Jacob did not like the googliness of his eyes.
They successfully purchased tea and stood on a bridge! After drinking a lot of high quality tea I became embarrassingly sweaty and intoxicated. I’m not sure if it was the caffeine or some other tea component I’m unaware of that caused this.
For dinner we went to Makye Ame Tibetan Restaurant. They had live performers who sang, danced, and played traditional Tibetan instruments, making an otherwise overpriced experience more than worth it. The music was great, but they did not have a CD for sale. This photo and the one below are both Will’s (www.flickr.com/bellumdeus).
We filled out the evening with a walk to Ritan Park’s Stone Boat Bar. Will shot this photo of Ritan Park’s front gate with a long exposure while he waited for Jacob and I to finish using the restroom.
The next day I caught a cold that took three weeks to recover from. One friend said, “Sarah, I’ve forgotten what your voice sounds like,” because I did not have one for so long. There’s also a significant drop in my activity level from this point on due to a combination of factors, including the cold.