Temple of Heaven

Nicholas Quirke was completing the quartet of Temples that the ancient Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would worship at when on 15 May 2020, after previously seeing the remains of the Sun, Moon and Earth, he visited the most complete and most distinctive temple, with a supreme status still existing today, The Temple of Heaven. When he arrived in Beijing on 31 January 2020 the hotel he stayed at was on a road opposite the park in which Heaven is situated. It was closed to the public and had been since his return but now like other public spaces it had reopened and it was time he enjoyed the sights of this marvel. The buildings were situated in another vast park that was dense with trees and greenery and the spectacular colours, the imperial reds and yellows, blues and greens rising out of white marble alters and vast expanses of stone was another great feast for the eye. It was a grey and cloudy day and they did not shimmer with the same vibrancy that he’d experienced at the Forbidden City, but the images still fed the soul and the sense of history and ceremony fed the soul. The path through the the temples started in the south of the park just after one had passed the Abstinence Palace with The Circular Mound Alter which led through To the Imperial Vault of heaven and the echo wall, which performed exactly as described. and as the central path had previously been the walkway exclusively for the Emperor, this was the passage he trod. In the centre of the alter is a round stone slab, the Heavenly Centre Stone where it appeared to be traditional to have your photo taken and he enjoyed for a few minutes the parade of families getting that special shot. The design of the temple, built within a wall that is semi-circular in the North and square in the south, based on a belief that heaven is round and the earth square, is another expression of the perfection of ancient Chinese design. After visiting the Vault there was a long avenue leading to the Hall of prayer for a Good Harvest and the Imperial Hall of Heaven. The avenue is the Danbi bridge, and is constructed To rise from the south as if walking to heaven. He explored the site extensively and the most tantalising historical fact that aroused his senses, was discovering a grubby portal named the Seventy year old Door in the Surrounding west wall of the Imperial Hall of Heaven which was built for Emperor Quianlomg when he was 70 to shorten the distance of his walk to the ceremony. He was fearful that he would set a precedent and his offspring would abuse the convenience so he issued a decree that only an Emperor who had reached the age of Seventy could enter and exit through the door, hence its name, and as none of the successive Emperors reached such an age he is the only person in history to have used the door during ceremonies. It had taken 4 hours to explore and he still felt he had not had enough and at 34 Yuan he would probably return And maybe do a sketch but after sitting and enjoying a late lunch of nuts and green tea, as it was starting to rain he cycled home. He’d encountered a very large earwig on the bedroom floor and in true vegan spirit he put it out the window onto air vent. He then proceeded to watch and in fact film its progress when to his surprise he learned an earwig is afraid of heights. It was an enjoyable pastime though when a sudden gust blew it off its small terrace and into a 5 floor descent he Felt guilty about putting it out the window and hoped its armoured body would have protected it from death. He devoted his evening to watching Fedora on Mubi and then bed.

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