Tuesday, June 3, 2008

China Day 04: Beyond the Red Doors

We opened the doors and beheld... Rain. Mist. It was getting kind of thick by this point. But through the moisture we could see that we were on a high platform (I would have said 'plateau' if it were only slightly larger) with the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests
atop a triple terrace like we saw yesterday.

There are a lot of cool things about this building. It is done in blue - the color of Heaven - after an earlier version in several colors (blue for Heaven, yellow for the Emperor, and green for the Heir to the Throne) was struck by lightning. They rebuilt it in all blue on the theory that the lightning strike was due to jealousy on the part of Heaven. It is constructed entirely without nails, and the inside is supported by four huge columns:
The light was bad and there was a lot of competition for the doorway so sorry this picture isn't better!

As we mounted the terrace to look in the Hall, we climbed past several of those beautiful carved marble ramps I've been calling "cloud pavements" - one with clouds and mountains,
one with phoenixes (tilt your head to the left),
and one with dragons (tilt your head to the right).
Dragons were also prominently represented on the little posts decorating the terrace railings:

If you turn and look out from the terrace, you can see that the large flat area in front of the Hall is framed by several other buildings:
In one of them (maybe the one on the right?) there is a cutaway diagram of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, but we ran out of time and didn't get to see inside. The structure dead ahead is called the Gate of Prayer for Good Harvests (you may have noticed that the Chinese name EVERYTHING, usually with long and poetic names). Through the gate you can just glimpse a grassy space:

This is the main park belonging to the Temple of Heaven - the part we have seen is only a tiny corner of the whole. Fred and Lilian told us not to go past the gate, because if you go out you have to pay admission again. If/when I ever come back to China, one thing I want to do is to explore this park and its gardens.

At this point Murphy's Law struck me: my camera's batteries ran out (not in itself unusual), but then I put in my spare batteries and fired up the camera and it said... "Replace batteries"! I tried my other spares and got the same message! Aaargh!

Dad is 1) a good guy and 2) a smart guy. He realized that I was going to be a crazy loon who was very unpopular if I had to go through the rest of the day without a camera. He also thinks I'm a better photographer than he is, although that is debatable - with these digital cameras you just point and shoot, there's not that much technique. So he gave me his camera to use for the rest of the day!

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