Visiting Buddhas, big and small
24.09.2009 - 25.09.2009 85 °F
The Ming dynasty lasted 276 years (1368-1644), in that time five main altars were built in the north, south, east, west and center of Beijing. These were venues for the Emperor (as the Son of Heaven) to intercede with the gods for a good harvest. For the past two days we’ve visited the temple in the north (Di Tan) and the temple in the south (Tian Tan). The northern temple (for the Earth God) was simpler than the south but it still had a large terrace with an altar where animals were sacrificed and some temples for worshiping.
Scenes from Di Tan park.
You’d think we might be “templed out” going back to back to see temples, but surprisingly we’re not even close. Each temple is so unique that it leaves us excited to see what the next one will hold. The Southern temple (for the Sky God) had an amazing 125 feet high temple made of wood that contained no nails. It had a circular design (representing heaven) that was supported by 28 huge pillars. The gods were represented by “spirit tablets” which were also on display. Two things that stood out about the design was that the ceramic tiles on the roof were blue instead of green, they explained that the color was to honor the heaven (sky). The second was that the eves of the temples looked like a deer, though I didn’t find any explanation for that. There was a small museum area that described the many steps the Emperor had to take to move around the temple complex in the correct order. There was a round altar terrace with very unique columns that matched the ones in the north temple. We didn’t see this type of column in the Forbidden City. There was also a sacred music area and some other temples in this complex.
Scenes from Tian Tan park.
We’ve been pretty lucky with restaurants so far. We stopped in one small restaurant and were trying to ask for an English menu when we spotted one on the counter, but the young lady told us “bu something.” You can guess we didn’t know what the “something” was but “bu” means no or not. She pointed out the door and showed us a large three story restaurant which we spotted from across the street. It seems the menu belonged to that restaurant. So we went to eat at the “Golden tripod attic restaurant” (don’t you love that name!) which featured sea cucumbers. We didn’t try them, but the meal we did have was tasty.
Sea Cucumbers advertised.
Close to the northern temple site was a totally different temple… the Tibetan Buddhist Lama Temple (built 1694). It was originally a palace which was changed into a lamasery (a monastery of lamas). It was interesting to note architectural elements of Han, Mongol, and Tibetan styles. We walked through the complex which included several halls with different Buddhas in each. The first had the plump, seated, laughing Buddha with two large guardians of each side of him. They looked a lot like the guardians in the Japanese temples we saw in Glen and Deborah’s blog. Other halls had different Buddha statutes including gilded ones, but the grand finale was an 18 meter (60 ft) tall Buddha in the final pavilion which was carved from a single piece of Tibetan white sandalwood tree. A gift for Emperor Qianlong from the seventh Dalai Lama, it took three years to ship it to Beijing. The building containing the Buddha was reportedly built around the statue after it was put in place.
One of the first Buddah's we found at the Lama Temple was this jolly fellow.
Scenes from the Lama Temple.
Finally we strolled through a hutong called “Nan luogu” which is a popular place for ex-pats to hang out. After the extensive walking we opted for a very expensive cappuccino in a cute café there and looked out on passers-by and trinket shops.
We really loved the "full monty pants" that the babies wear: