Thursday, October 8th, 2009 – Early morning tai chi at the Temple of Heaven!
The early morning risers and the brave (Ellen, Trish, Joe, Gerald and I) arrived at the magnificent and beautiful park and gardens surrounding the Temple of Heaven monuments seeking to join in the daily tai chi exercise routines of the locals.
We first encountered a group of women exercising to music. Further, into the park, we then came upon a group of women playing the Chinese version of hacky-sack. Joe decided this was for him, so he motioned to them, asking if he could join. With seeming delight, they motioned, “yes.” Joe practiced his dash and back kick moves; a definitive crowd pleaser.
A little more into the park, we can across our tai chi destination. The master, an attractive woman dressed in what looked like red-silk pajamas, was leading the Chinese local group. She was leading the Chinese group in their tai chi moves to music. Trish, Ellen, and I were welcomed into the group and we tried our best to keep up. Our efforts, photographed by Gerald and Joe, proved to bring many a smile to the laughing Chinese onlookers. After “tai ching” to a sweat, our little group was offered a private lesson by the master. She not speaking English and us not speaking Chinese, she instructed us by moving our hands, legs, feet, and even Ellen’s hair in place and then motioning for us to follow. This was great for us and we hope for the tai chi woman leader. Afterwards, still panting, we all posed for pictures and many thank yous. Mission accomplished, we now set our sights on the seeing the fabulous features of the Temple of Heaven.
The Temple of Heaven Park is my favorite place to be in Beijing, I find it spiritual and serene. It consists of many beautiful temples, plazas and buildings, all set aesthetically in well-manicured gardens of trees and flowers.Its historic significance was the place where the ancient Chinese emperors would come twice a year to offer worship and animal sacrifices to the gods for a good harvest. It is where earth meets heaven.
During our visit here, we encountered many other groups performing many other types of public group exercises. These are open to all, free and spontaneous. There are also locals playing musical instruments, cards, chest, mahjong, painting and we even say a Taoist monk practicing water calligraphy on the pavement.
The others in our group arrived at the park shortly after us for their visit and we all gathered at the south gate to begin our next adventure. From the Temple of Heaven to the Temple of Commerce-Hongchow Market.
Hongchow Market has become a destination in Beijing for tourists. It is two buildings, five floors each, jammed packed with small booths, kiosks, and shops of vendors selling everything from clothes, shoes, phones and suitcases to makeup and sunglasses; but mostly iconic Chinese items—such as pearls, silk, jade, carpets, chop sticks, fans, reverse painted jars and lots of wonderful souvenir junk. It is a loud, boisterous, and colorful place with nearly every sales girl and sales guy beckoning, leading and pulling you into their booth or stall and immediately becoming your best friend. It is also a great place to learn to sharpen your haggling skills—a requirement.
Judy was most eager to begin shopping, so our group first headed to Sharon’s Pearls. Silk Road Collection got its start selling fresh water pearls purchased at Sharon’s store, so we feel it a tradition to visit the store and Sharon every time we visit Beijing. Later Silk Road Collection embraced antique Chinese furniture.
The sales clerks warmly greeted our group and we returned the warmth by making several bargain pearl purchases. After this, our group members were each on their own to haggle and purchase and sight see as each wished, until the designated time to depart and have lunch next door at the KFC. After a week in China, one does need a Western fast-food fix.
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