Posts Tagged China

Temple of Heaven

Beijing, China

The Temple of Heaven was built around the same time as the Forbidden City, dating back to 1420.  It was used by the Chinese Emperors to pray for a good harvest and well-being for the people of China.  He prayed for Heaven and Earth with sacred ceremonies.  In ancient times, only the Emperor was permitted to pray directly to the heavens, so his times of worship were highly celebrated.  Commoners were not even allowed through the Temple of Heaven gates.

Today, for a small fee, anyone can enjoy this beautiful temple complex.  Chinese people still use this area for personal and group worship.  On special days of the year, the entire complex can still be found full with people chanting and practicing various kinds of worship.

Right now, the inside of the Temple is lined with stone cow statues.  In days past, the Temple was lined with live cattle.  I thought it was because they worshiped cows, but I was wrong.  The statues are there to represent sacrificial cows.  The Emperor would look at the 25+ cows and choose the best one to sacrifice.  Lucky cow.

Colors vibrant and the atmosphere bursting with positive energy.  The Temple of Heaven complex was beautiful and I felt a very peaceful vibe as I walked around the sacred ground.

The Gate to the Temple of Heaven <– This is the gate to the Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is one of four important temples located in Beijing.  Other prominent temples include The Temple of Sun, The Temple of Earth and The Temple of Moon.

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Forbidden City

Beijing, China

The Forbidden City was amazing…  It felt like a real privilege to walk around an area that, only 60 years ago, had been closed to all but the highest ranks of the Imperial government.

Built during 1406 – 1420, the Forbidden City was home to Chinese Emperors for close to five centuries.  No one could leave or enter the city without the Emperor’s permission.

The picture above is a single marble carving of 9 dragons.  It weighs over 200 tons and took 20,000 workers 28 days to move into the Forbidden City.  I wish I could have fully captured the detail on this beautiful marble stairway, because it was outstanding.

Something unfathomable to me was the amount of buildings needed for the Emperor.  He had buildings for sleeping, mating, eating, meditating, writing and the list goes on.  These buildings weren’t exactly tiny either.

Particularly humorous to me was a set of three rather large buildings, in close proximity.  Each building had a different purpose but they were apparently always used in succession.  The first building was solely for the Emperor to change clothes.   Basically, it was a giant closet.  He would then walk, 20 feet, to the second building “to take a rest.”  This building held nothing but a giant couch-like object in the center.  After his rest, the Emperor would then walk 25 feet to the third building.  This final building would be similar to what I think of as an office.  Government officials would meet to discuss business with the Emperor.

In the Forbidden City, everything you see has some sort of symbolism.  Each color, animal and number is chosen carefully and with purpose.  Odd numbers are used for men and even numbers are used for women.  Nine was considered sacred and the Emperor’s building and throne was surrounded by groups of nine statues, steps, animals…

Forbidden City

Animals and their symbolism:

  • Dragon – Male, power, strength
  • Phoenix -Female, power, luck
  • Tortoise – Longevity, strength
  • Crane – Longevity, beauty
  • Tiger – Strength, courage

Colors and their symbolism:

  • Yellow – Color of the emperor
  • Red – Wards off evil spirits
  • Green – Earth (or wood) and growth
  • Black – Water (also meaning fire protection, so for example the library had a black rooftop)

Forbidden City (from Jingshan Park), Beijing Tile work, Forbidden City, BeijingBronze tortoise, Forbidden City, Beijing

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Making Silk

China is known around the world for their silk.  For centuries it was their well-kept secret until someone smuggled out silkworms in a hollowed out walking stick.

1.10.06 Chinese Silk

Now, even I know how to make silk.  ;-)

<– this machine spools the silk threads off silk worm cocoons

Did you know that one silk worm can spin a thread of silk that is one mile long?

It’s true!

One thread by itself is strong, but usually 12 of them are put together to form a super strong thread.  This machine keeps the cocoons wet and  spins 12 threads into 1.  Different dyes can be added to the water to make the silk different colors.

Fact:  Royal palaces had a special room, sometimes even an entire building, with the sole purpose of praying for a good silkworm harvest.

<– the white things are the cocoons of silk

To make a blanket with silk lining, the cocoons aren’t spun into individual threads, they are soaked and stretched.  Actually, in the background of this picture on the left you can see 2 white triangles.  First they stretch 7 cocoons onto the small triangle, one at a time, right on top of each other.  Then they take the 7 (now smushed into just 1) and stretch it onto the bigger triangle.  Finally they create 15-20 layers, of the 7-layer stretched cocoons, to eventually stretch into just one layer of silk blanket lining.

They let us help stretch out one of the layers.  Not as easy as you’d think.

Depending on how thick they want to make the blanket lining, anywhere from 50-100 layers will be stretched on top of each other.  This blanket never bunches and doesn’t even need any quilting to hold it in place.  Alot of work goes into making just one blanket.

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Great Wall of China

Beijing, China

Pictures do not do the Great Wall of China any justice.  There is nothing to write that can convey the awesomeness of being there in person.

Including natural barriers, the Great Wall stretches a bit over 5,500 miles long running from East to West China.  Actual constructed Wall is around 4,000 miles.  It was built for protection and as a physical divider between countries.  Some areas of the Wall date back to 221BC but those original barriers were rebuilt, fortified and moved throughout the various times of war and expansion of country boundaries.  The strong, massive Wall we see today was completed in the mid 1400’s.

Several sections of the Wall are open to the public.  We visited the Beijing portion, which is usually the area that you see in all the magazines and on TV.  The top of the mountain is only 482 meters high, but the climb felt like so much more.

For 2 1/2 hours we climbed, slipped, slid, gasped, sighed, wa-hooed, gripped, enjoyed, rested, and climbed some more.

I am soo proud of myself for making it all the way to the top.  Seth, of course, had no problems.  We did it together and I was soo happy that I was almost in tears.  Definitely a dream come true.

The view from the top was inspiring….

“It looked like someone had unrolled a spool of wire across the mountain.  The wall was pretty great and I’ve never seen soo many Russians.”  That is what Seth had to say about his experience.   We were surprised by the bus loads of Russian tourists, not only at the Wall but all over Beijing.

Great Wall of China:

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