Not the Red China of my youth

Today was my last full day in China, and once more, I discovered that it’s most definitely not the “Red China” I learned about as a child. Just a few examples:

  • CNN has been “All Pope, all the time” for the last 36 hours or so. If I want to hear about anything else going on in the world, I have to turn to CCTV9, which is run by a State-owned company.
  • I spent part of the afternoon at The Malls at Oriental Plaza, which is what Valley Fair would be if Valley Fair’s customers had money.

    1007 rolls:

  • I also spent part of the afternoon wandering through Dashalan, which is an old area, laced with hutongs which are filled with shops of various kinds. One shop, graced with this sign:

    1006 sign:

    sold merchandise which was very definitely not G-rated (also not office-safe!). I don’t think Mao would have approved, much less the Gang of Four.

On the other hand, I spent the morning in purer cultural pursuits, wandering around the grounds of the Temple of Heaven (Tiantan), an official World Heritage Site. This is a huge park, about 2.7 million square meters, filled with buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties, where the Emperors would offer sacrifices to Heaven.

I took a taxi from the hotel to the South Gate:

925 - south gate:

where I was faced with a choice: Pay 15 RMB for park admission, or 35 RMB for a “through ticket”. I decided to splurge, and I’m glad I did.

Soon after entering, I saw several people writing Chinese characters on the ground, apparently with water. I don’t know the significance of what they were doing — whatever it was they wrote didn’t last long.

927 - writing:

The first opportunity to take advantage of my “through ticket” came soon, when I reached the Lingxing Gates:

929 - lingxing:

931 - lingxing:

which guard the Round Mound, which in turn contains the Heavenly Centre Stone. By tradition, one’s voice becomes especially sonorous when standing on the stone — but I couldn’t detect any difference when I tried it.

937 - on the stone:

(Perhaps I should have said “Beam me up, Scotty!”?)

My next stop was the Animal-Killing Pavillion:

940 - sign:

where I made what was apparently an unauthorized visit to the interior of the Pavillion; soon after I took this picture, someone chased everyone out of the Pavillion.

941 - interior:

The Imperial Vault of Heaven (also known as the Hall for Appeasing Gods) was the next historic site:

944 - vault:

But first, I paid a visit to one of the park’s 4-star-rated facilities:

945 - 4 stars:

(Later, I encounted one at the North end of the park which was only rated at 3-stars, though I thought it was just fine.)

There are a number of buildings inside the Imperial Vault of Heaven, as well as the Echo Wall (which I couldn’t test, since I was there by myself). The buildings include the East and West Annexes, where they store the divine tablets of the Gods, as well as the Imperial Warehouse itself.

But the rest of my visit to the Temple of Heaven must wait.