Beijing, Winter '23, Day 2 - The Temple of Heaven

Published by Bill Glover on

This post is part of the Beijing Winter 2023 series.

I’ll start with an admission. I spent all day shooting photos with the camera only to get home and realise that I had left the memory card at home. I’m kicking myself for disabling the warning in the camera. I’m even more annoyed that I didn’t review the images while out. I would at least have picked up on my error. I’m gutted. Photos today are the few I took on the phone.

When I first visited Beijing, we were able to turn up at the gates of the park and pay a small entrance fee. These days, it’s not that simple. I can find no information on how to visit the park as a foreigner so please don’t consider this travel advice. Chinese nationals have to book tickets online the day before visiting. No more spontaneous trips to the park. Foreigners can pre-book but the website is only available in Chinese. It isn’t clear what happens if you turn up at the gate and try and buy a ticket. The position on foreign children is unclear.

Given the temperature, we planned where we’d eat ahead of time. Minyuan restaurant, a short walk from the west gate of the park, is excellent. It is reasonably priced and the food was good. In the summer, the dining hall was air-conditioned. Today it was toasty warm. The food is traditional Beijing dishes. For us that’s a win as we know the boys will eat without much of a fuss.

We loved the 炙子烤羊肉. Roast lamb with lots of cumin, red onion and corriander.

We loved the 炙子烤羊肉. Roast lamb with lots of cumin, red onion and corriander.

Outside the ticketted temples, Tian Tan Park was quiet. Major footpaths were clear of snow and ice. You didn’t have to wander far from the main path before you were surrounded with untrodden white snow.

A view down a main walkway inside the west gate of the Temple of Heaven.

A view down a main walkway inside the west gate of the Temple of Heaven.

Inside the temples it was another story. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were on the set of a period drama. Photographers, long lenses, costumes, make-up artists, you name it, they were here. The park and its temples are now nothing more than the backdrop to the latest social media post.

A view inside the echo wall

A view inside the echo wall

I suspect the Echo Wall is best appreciated in absolute quiet. With all the crowds it was hard to pick out single voices. We heard renditions of songs, shouts of 我爱你, and more. I’ve visited the wall many times now, but I’ve never heard an echo. And I’ve never been able to converse with someone on the other side of the temple. It doesn’t stop me trying though.

Looking away from the Circular Mound and it felt like you had the place to yourself.

Looking away from the Circular Mound and it felt like you had the place to yourself.

Looking towards the Circular Mound with the sun low in the sky.

Looking towards the Circular Mound with the sun low in the sky.

Looking over the wall at the temple behind. This was a popular spot for costume photos, but look up above the mele below and you can find relative stillness.

Looking over the wall at the temple behind. This was a popular spot for costume photos, but look up above the mele below and you can find relative stillness.

Tiantan still remains my favourite of the big parks in Beijing. If you come in the evening you can catch locals socialising under some of the covered walkways. I’m not expecting there were many out in the cold today. But when the days are warmer, you’ll hear music, laughter, and debate. There will be smoking, lots of smoking, and even the odd card game. These are the things I remember more than the temples or the gardens.

Our trip to the park was the only thing we did today. We ended up leaving as the sun started to set. By the time we got home it was dark and the temperature had dropped still further. Our second day here was cold, but a success.