April 2, 2004
Today’s full agenda included visits to the Temple of Heaven, Ti An Men Square, the Forbidden City, and the Beijing Opera. We went to the Temple of Heaven first, in the morning. The name indicates that it is just one temple, but there are many others surrounding it. One of our guides, Jenny, told us that the Temple of Heaven is shaped as a circle to symbolize the heavens, and the other square, green-roofed buildings symbolize the earth. At the Temple of Heaven, everything is supposed to be in harmony.
Emperors would go to the Temple of Heaven to pray for a good harvest. A good harvest could mean the difference between feast and famine, so the Temple was very important to the emperor and the people of China. If a good harvest did not follow the emperor’s prayer, it could mean that the emperor had lost the mandate of Heaven, meaning he is [no longer the authoritative figure with unanimous societal support].
Today’s visits [served to remind me] how important it is to be informed when visiting any site. Without background, even the Forbidden City or Ti An Men Square could seem boring. Everything is more enjoyable with prior knowledge.
-- submitted by Tessa Anderson
EDITOR’S NOTE: As foreigners, we received odd looks throughout the day – Dan Rosow’s “dredded” hair combined with Gordon Landenberger’s bare calves and Teva-clad feet were undoubtedly a spectacle. Various blonde-haired girls from the JE troupe were stopped and asked to have their pictures taken by and with random Chinese, and curious fingers were consistently pointed at us over the course of the day. We’ve got a month left to feel like teenage heartthrobs! -- Emma