Beijing day 2: Temple songs
Wednesday morning we planned to go to the Great Wall because of rain forecast for Thursday. But after a leisurely start to our day, our homestay host counseled us to get a tour instead and go Thursday. After Dad successfully negotiated a pretty low price - about $30 per person for the whole day - we instead went to see an ancient temple.
Called the Temple of Heaven, it predates the arrival of Buddhism in China. According to some things Mom and Dad read, the Temple of Heaven's monotheistic practices of sacrifice and repentance closely resemble Old Testament practices. This leads some people to believe the ancient Chinese may worshiped the God of the Bible before turning to Buddhism, even if they didn't come to him through contact with the Jews.
Whatever the original beliefs involved, the temple occupies a very large piece of land in Beijing that must be at least one mile by one mile, if not more. The temple complex entails three or four main buildings surrounded by such a large grove of evergreens that the air inside actually smells sweet. It was the only place in Beijing where I actually enjoyed breathing.
After a leisurely ramble through the grounds, we went in search of a snack or our bus stop to go home, depending on what we found first.
We'd almost given up on food when a friendly waiter beckoned us inside for a drink. This stop greatly cheered us. In addition to the drinks, we decided to try some traditional pancakes they had, filled similarly to the dumplings the night before. We tried a vegetarian one, a beef one and a delicious pork and fennel one.
While we ate and drank, a large party in the private room behind us occasionally burst into song. Someone eventually closed the door, but we enjoyed the main singer's almost operatic delivery, though we couldn't tell what he was singing about or why. Much revived, we caught our bus home through the late-evening sunlight to get ready for our early morning pickup.