Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven

This was our last day in Beijing and with so many things yet to see it felt as if our time here had prematurely run out.

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The Summer Palace was magnificent. It is a vast ensemble of lakes, gardens and palaces right at the heart of Beijing. Honestly, it was shame that we had left such a beauty till the last day and next time I go back I will definitely be reserving a large portion of my time to simply wonder around this idyllic setting. It was busy as most parts of Beijing are, but it somehow offered a quiet and peaceful retreat from the everyday grind of the industrial city. The long branches of weeping willows floated in the cool water. Lillie’s grew in abundance and flowered under temples. Beautiful bridges and women practicing yoga. The vistas of pagodas and the most ornate structures perched on top of distant hills filled our eyes and just dazzled our minds. Wooden boats crossed this vast expanse of water which stretched out so far it would have taken a whole day to walk. Wonders, from stone boats to beautiful statues. I felt that the variety of architecture combined with nature made this a far more interesting trip than to the Forbidden City.  We got to see some of the beautiful things which we wanted to but not everything and I would love to go back and have a look inside the buildings.

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Longevity Hill is about 60 metres high and has many buildings positioned in sequence. The front hill is rich with splendid halls and pavilions, while the back hill, in sharp contrast, is quiet with natural beauty.

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The Central Kunming Lake was man-made and the excavated soil was used to build Longevity Hill.  I particularly liked the seventeen arch bridge which was truly picturesque.

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By around 1pm it was hot and although the gardens were massive it was starting to feel quite crowded. We still wanted to go and see the Temple of Heaven, so after reaching the seventeen arch bridge we returned back to the metro. We never got the chance to see the Marble Ship 😦 If you go to Beijing make sure you dedicate a whole day to this wonderful place and don’t rush it like we had to.

The Temple of Heaven is a complex of religious buildings situated in the southeastern part of Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest.

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We walked through peaceful gardens and ancient trees to get to the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, a magnificent triple-gabled circular building. Built on three levels of marble stone base, the building is completely wooden and has been constructed with no nails. The original building was burned down by a fire caused by lightning in 1889 but the current building was re-built several years after the incident.

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This site, like the Summer Palace felt very peaceful. These complexes and green areas are so vast that it really makes them feel millions of miles away from the urban streets which lie sprawling off into the distance. These places should be on the top of everyone’s list, especially the Summer Palace and I will make them my priority when I one day return here. For now however, we have to run as we will almost be late to catch our overnight train to the UNESCO heritage walled town of Pingyao.

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