After 3 days of walking on places which are out of Beijing it is time to return in center of the city. Beijing where I lived.. I had for breakfast Bao Zi filled with meat. It is one of my favorite Chinese dishes and during these 10 days I ate it almost every morning. I finished breakfast and I got out on street -towards Dongsishitiao metro station.
It was again sunny day with clear blue sky. I am on road to Yonghegong Lama Temple. This temple is in heart of new Beijing. Area of temple is in middle of huge residential blocks and wide streets and on first view it seems that there cannot be any temple. This temple is not so big as Forbidden City or Beihai Park to be more visibly separated from modern buildings as these mentioned sites are much larger than Lama Temple. When you are standing on some wide and modern street watching residential blocks from 1970s or 1980s you don’t imagine that if you go deeper behind street are already hutongs or old temples or parks. That’s what makes Beijing specific. I am going now next to one wide street. Many cars are passing in both directions, nothing shows even idea that temple is nearby. But as much as I was coming closer and closer to temple area started to show it. First shops of religious commodities appeared on both sides of street. Shops were full of Buddha statues. Small and big, from porcelain, bronze, wood or jade. They were colored in brown, green or golden color. Except Chinese happy fat Buddha without hair Tibetan version was sold too. There were various sizes from small figures of few cm and those who were more than 50cm. Small incense burners were sold too. Large number of chaplets was sold. -Yellow or brown color. Those chaplets are used for praying and relaxing in garden of temple next to the old tree. Some of chaplet balls were decorated with small paintings of Buddha. And of course here was big choice of incense sticks They were yellow, red or pink and they strongly smelled on sandal. Some of them were thin some of them very fat and long. Mantras were played on CDs in few shops. Everything was in Buddhist style. Sellers seemed to be so friendly and careful. According to Buddhist teaching they must be tolerant and show peace and love to others. In one shop on floor there was a plastic washbowl with turtles inside which were swimming. There were ordinary turtles and one Chinese turtle with bit longer nose. It was visible that they care about turtles in Buddhist style of giving life to them, they were not determined to be in soup, in turtle soup which is very healthy. It really seemed that these turtles were their pets.
I am finally approaching tall gate of the temple. There was one rope above gate which was decorated with many flags in different colors,- pink, red, green, blue and white. In inner garden of temple on both sides are many trees. But this temple was untypically overcrowded. Usually temple you imagine as quite place, where you can come to pray, to have a tea with monks, to sit under some old tree to meditate and have chaplet in your hands which will make you calm. There are thousands of such temples in China but there are many like this one too. Yonghe Temple became tourist attraction.. But in such case they lose this mystical and unique in them and they lose their identity as place of peace and silence. In temple you want to see few monks sitting, maybe meditating, few visitors praying, few visitors which are just sitting and relaxing and few looking around. Here are 50 people praying, almost 100 sitting and relaxing in part while hundreds are walking around ,taking photos and speaking something in very hard understandable way. Many foreigners were here that day. But still this temple is beautiful especially its halls, decorations and paintings of main halls and light brown golden roofs touching light blue sky.
While sun is shining and trees are around you, when you are standing next to incense burners, feeling smell of incense sticks, watching people burning incense, when you are discovering halls- part of temple atmosphere is still present. There is still something mystical in this garden of temple and in its halls. Temple still stays temple in part. So I came to conclusion that still something mysterious and spiritual stays but it isn’t same like some calm temple which is out of city. It was built at the end of XVII century by Qing dynasty. It is largest functioning temple in Beijing.
In first hall was golden color Tibetan Je Tsongkhapa statue in front of which were oranges and peaches and flowers in one white porcelain plate with dark blue decorations. Some people were praying inside on the floor. On both sides were statues of other Buddhist followers. They were ordered with aim to symbolize process of enlightenment and reaching inner peace. Each of them had different position of body and expression of face- from most angry to most peaceful and happy. This hall is called The Hall of the Wheel of the Law.
In another inner garden between halls were a few Wheels of Luck- few dark red wheels decorated with golden letters in Sanskrit ,each wheel had one sign. They have shape of prism and are hanged on sticks on low pillars. These wheels are typical for monasteries in Tibet autonomous region and in some areas of Qinghai and Sichuan provinces. These wheels symbolizes circle of life and Buddhist monks while they chant their prayers they are turning them. One monk passed next to me. He had dark red robe which are common for Tibet, in other parts of China Buddhist robes are light orange.
I came into another hall- Hall of Everlasting Protection. Here is statue of healing Buddha. Here people come to pray for their health or health of their family members or friends and their healing if they are ill. I came out and I came in front of biggest hall here- Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses. It had double roofs, decorated with small animal figures. Above entrance was dark blue board with golden signs. I mentioned that almost all historical buildings have such board with Chinese signs but this one was different it had signs in Mandarin Chinese, Sanskrit and Manchu. Behind board was wall decorated by hard describable combination of colors and paintings. This hall is taller than usually for temples here. Inside was biggest statue of Buddha which I ever saw. It was 26m dark brown statue of Maitreya Buddha made from sandalwood. This Buddha in Buddhist teaching still didn’t appeared on Earth. Statue on first view seems like giant which is dangerous and can run over all people. But if you look at his calm and peaceful face you will see that he cannot do any harm to anyone. Sunlight was falling on his head from one of windows. Such falling of rays on his face with combination of low light in room created strange combination of light and dark. He seemed enlightened with such expression of face and light of sunrays on it.
When I was child for me Yonghegong was place of fun, where I could burn as much sticks as I want to make big fire and play with fire what I always liked. Now in my todays visit of temple I saw it in more deeper and important way as I described above.
I got out from Yonghegong. I crossed wide street and continued going through long hutong street with shops of religious commodities and incense sticks. I was heading to Confucius Temple. It is one of most famous temples in Beijing, devoted to Confucius -one of greatest ancient Chinese philosophers.
He lived between 551 and 479BC. His thought became special direction in Chinese philosophy like Taoism which was created by another great philosopher Lao Tzu. Confucian teaching became one of most important beliefs and way of life in China. One of his greatest quotations is”Do not do to others what you don’t want to be done to yourself”. Confucius emphasized on high importance of ethics in society. He considered that each person must follow some moral principles about behavior in many spheres of life: respect towards other people, behavior in public, in house, on table with other people, with wealth. Basic ideas of Confucius are that main value for society and government should be ideal family. In his teaching family is basis of everything. Ideal family according to him is family where younger give biggest respect and loyalty to elder, wife to husband, and all alive members of family to ancestors. It was emphasized by him that people should follow ancient rituals related to worshipping Heaven and ancestors. Another crucial thing in Confucianism is importance of learning. Confucius decisively considered that each person through all his life must learn many spiritual, ancient, political and practical things. Main purpose of this learning wasn’t just status and respect in society but way to improve yourself, become educated, open minded and self-achieved person. In all China there are many temples devoted to Confucius. They started to be built during Tang dynasty.
Beijing Confucius Temple was built at beginning of XIV century. It isn’t very big temple but is interesting. It has typical decorations of halls like other temples in and around BJ. But unlike Taoist and Buddhist temples here are not images inside on walls of temple. On road to main hall is stone statue of Confucius, old man with rare hair and long beard and wise face. Paved in stone ground was very old. Between cracked stones grass was growing. Old trees were in inner garden and one of them was old for 700 years. I could imagine some old philosopher under that ancient tree. Tree was so old but tough, stable and strongly standing and unforgotten same like ideas of Confucius. In garden was old well too. Water from that well was believed that has power of refreshing mind. Students from Imperial Academy which is nearby temple, before exams in imperial China used to drink that water.
In one of halls was imperial throne were emperor was examining students for state service and those who passed were accepted in imperial service which was biggest honor in imperial China. This is importance of this temple. Towards main hall were stairs with engraved dragons in stone. Main hall is called Dachengmen.(Hall of Great Achievement) In one of halls are big stone tablets with carved wisdoms and sayings of Confucius. They had function to save great ideas of this great philosopher. His ideas are recorded on this stone tablets like they are recorded in Chinese history and philosophy. There were probably 100 of these tablets. From the stone time will never delete sayings, wind, rain or anything else. Biggest was stone tablet on back of giant stone turtle. As I said once turtles were symbol of wisdom in ancient China. I totally didn’t had idea what was written on that biggest tablet, and why its biggest tablet, and why exactly that one on back of turtle. Probably one of his most famous and most appreciated wisdoms is written on that tablet. One of halls served as shop of souvenirs and there was big collection of Chinese paintings made on white panel. Some of them were calligraphy, another were describing scenes of everyday life in past: women in traditional clothes sitting in garden or pavilion who were talking, drinking tea, feeding ducks or taking care of children, fisherman in boat in lake, peasants in rice fields… There were paintings representing sceneries from nature: birds on branches, cranes, pandas in bamboo forest, moon behind bamboo and moonlight in water, fishes jumping from water, two fishes ( one black one red) ordered to present yin yang, mountain peaks, tigers , dragons, swimming ducks.. I spent more than 30 minutes there looking these great paintings.
I left the temple and I went back to metro. It wasn’t sunny anymore like in morning and smog came down again. Next place on my trip was Ritan Park(Temple of the Sun) . I came here to see if my traces from childhood disappeared. Path which goes from main gate towards center of park goes between trees and fields of beautiful roses. Policeman was shouting on children which were jumping on flowers and on grass. Probably 15 years ago he would shout on me too. I am approaching decorative wall with paintings of: few flying creatures, Chinese dancing women and one crane in the middle with background of sun during sunset or something what reminds on that. I didn’t forgot this place. I came to old altar. It is large and wide clear place surrounded by tall red walls and white arches. While temple was in function it was used for religious ceremonies determined for worshipping Sun -one of most important components of Heaven. In my years of life in China father was taking me to play here with small gum balls. I used to throw them there from taller part of altar determined for bringing sacrifices to Sun. I was often shouting very loudly here and sounds echoed from tall walls. It was interesting like that I was speaking with myself. While I did it I used to run around all circle altar. Unfortunately today gate to altar was closed. It was never before like that. Since when it is closed I don’t know. I was just watching at altar with wish to at least pass again there if not to run. .Just if I could get in there and feel that ground over which I was running so many times. We went to lunch in one restaurant nearby altar which stayed since that time. It is called “Little Wang”. But my favorite meal wasn’t there -something which we called nest, fried potatoes ordered in shape of nest and a lot of spicy beef meat inside.
After lunch I continued between trees which had very low green trunks. I was passing here many times. I was trying to find something else for what I came here. But, there wasn’t anyone with cage with thrush inside. I remember often I walked here with parents in late afternoon, before sunset and many older people in traditional cotton clothes were sitting under trees. On branches used to be hanged wooden cages with thrushes inside. Thrushes used to cheerfully sing and enjoy nature. They were pets of this people. It is long Chinese tradition- coming with birds to nature and letting them sing. It brings mutual harmony and happiness. Bird enjoys nature, sun, fresh air and feels some part of freedom and can sing cheerfully , while its owner except sitting in nature and listening his/her bird is even more happy when his/her bird is happy. Their voices relax your brain so you can be cheerful and calm all day or you can go relaxed to sleep. In new China it is just practiced by old people. But today in Ritan I didn’t saw them. I asked myself: “Does this tradition still exist? Did it died when these old people died?” I don’t believe that such common thing could disappear so easy. It was around 2Pm, probably that’s why I didn’t saw them. I think that such tradition must be alive but just I didn’t came at time when they usually do it. As I remember they usually did it in early morning or late afternoon when people go out to enjoy fresh air and listen to beautiful sounds of their pet. I was thinking about that while I was sitting on stone next to lake. Water wasn’t visible from big number of lotus leaves, flowers were closed as sunlight wasn’t visible today anymore. Small pavilion was there on another side of shore in which few people were lying like drugged from this wet heavy air. I was sitting there digging through my memories related to this place. I was thinking why there wasn’t t at least one man with trush in cage hanged on tree.
I was thinking on so many things related to this park which I did and saw before – such as throwing small gum balls in the altar, and watching kites in the blue sky which were flied by people in altar. I remembered how kites were balancing through wind and disappearing in the heights, becoming less and less visible like memories by years are fading in your head until you try to refresh them by your thoughts or visiting place to which this memories are connected. That’s what I did now. I came to Ritan with aim to refresh my memories of this what I did there and also to see if I will perceive this place in same way like at that time. Like many other places in Beijing which I visited few days ago didn’t have just value of my memories from childhood but also bigger historical and cultural importance which are related to ancient China.
I realized importance of this place for Taoist ceremonies and past, but here in Ritan I wanted my memories from childhood to dominate. I stood up finally and I started running around another bit bigger lake. I was running like I did it when I was 6. I was still running. Behind me was my brother. I was leading him around this lake, running over traces of my childhood, running over path over which I run and played so many times. I led him to climb over rocks which were standing next to lake. We passed through small cave and we climbed on top of rocks. I continued running towards stone bridge on another side of lake. I took him to bridge and I told him how I threw my bus toy into water there, when I was 3 and half old. No one, even me didn’t knew why I did it that day long time ago.
Before I left Ritan I came to check one more place. Small Luna park which was there, and it totally shocked me. When I saw it I realized that still there are few things that actually stayed same and completely unchanged in Beijing. Old wooden fence was still there which was almost falling apart. It was in same condition as when I was here first time in 1996. Benches were same- light blue and dark red and they were peeled off and color was faded. On this benches parents used to wait me while I finished driving toy car. After few minutes I got used and I felt like that I visited it everyday. Full of impressions I left Ritan.
We were passing next to many foreign embassies, I passed next to US embassy. I remember how in beginning of May 1999 thousands of Chinese citizens were in front of that building protesting and expressing anger after American bombing of Chinese embassy in Belgrade. I tried to find silk market which was nearby their embassy. This market was one very chaotic place full of sellers, foreign and Chinese customers, thousands of clothes, smell of boxes and clothes. Most of foreign customers were Russians and Americans. But it wasn’t there. This market now isn’t anymore street market. All market was replaced into new modern building. But still big crowd was in that building and full of foreign customers like before but I didn’t want to stay shopping now. I left further on my trip.
Now we came to one of most modern, newest and most important parts of capital of China -. Beijing Central Business District (CBD.). It is situated in Chaoyang District. During 60ies and 70ies this area was like most of other undeveloped areas of Beijing where simply constructed brick buildings dominated. In 1978 new policy was initiated by Deng Xiaoping -Policy of opening of China and its economy towards world and creation of socialist market economy or building “ socialism with Chinese characteristics” Since that policy started, during 80ies.this area got importance. First modern buildings started to rise here. It became center of business and finance of Beijing and all China. Most important Chinese and foreign companies are headquartered here. Many most expensive hotels are here. Trade between China and other world is made here. Most important financial center in all China are Shanghai and Hong Kong but Beijing CBD isn’t much less important for foreign trade now. In this district development and urbanization of Beijing is most visible. In middle of CBD 3rd Ring Road is situated. It is one of most important and busiest Beijing Ring Roads. Same like on Sanlitun there are many foreign embassies nearby CBD. Here are also important diplomatic residential compounds such as Qi Jia Yuan and Jianguomenwai. This area especially after 2000 changed appearance of Beijing by new tall and modern skyscrapers. It is real forest of skyscrapers. Being here you are in one different world than in some garden or temple in Beijing or in some hutong area. I was passing on sidewalk of Changan Avenue. It is major avenue and artery of Beijing. Changan Avenue goes through CBD until Tiananmen Square. It is probably one of longest and broadest streets in whole world. Thousands of cars are flowing in both directions like 2 rivers of cars.. My father was recording street with camera. Brother was amazed by tall buildings and with big interest he was looking at them. They were tall from around 100-120m to 330. CBD looks so modern and mighty. Specially interesting were LG twin buildings because of their unusual shape. They were covered with blue glass. On top of them was biggest LG logo which I ever saw. Next to them were very tall 2 or 3 rectangular buildings with shining black glass. I saw group of tall grey buildings which had approximately around 150m.. In front of them were 3 taller- in middle was one around 250-260m tall and on both sides was 1 190-200m tall building. It is so called Yintai Center. This complex is one of most noticeable in all district and distracts your attention from other buildings on that side of street. In front of Yintai is China World Trade Center: important complex of offices, shopping centers, hotels and residential buildings and also conference halls and exhibition hall. Between 2 China World Towers (180m) there is China World Hotel. China World Towers 1 and 2 with their shinning black windows were main among tallest buildings and one of main points of attention during 90ies in this district.
But behind them since 2009 is tallest one and pride of Beijing CBD. It is China World Trade Center Tower 3. It is 330m and is standing above every building here in Beijing, very proudly watching at them and touching grey smog sky. Its glass has light blue color. Over top floors are some kind of white steel bars going to roof. By trying to see whole building from bottom to top you start to feel pain in neck from moving your head behind with aim to see top. And your head is shaking from height when you try to see its top. Comparing to skyscrapers in Shanghai which I saw still just on photos this Tower 3 is not so tall. I continued walking through streets of CBD. Behind Tower 3 are few tall dark green skyscrapers. A bit further is tall rectangular shape and light grey second tallest building (260m) in Beijing 260m. Behind her is Jing Guang Center- light grey, building in flat shape, which was tallest(208m) in Beijing in 90ies. I remember well that building. On another side of 3rd Ring Road ,behind few light and dark green rectangular buildings is CCTV Headquarters. CCTV Headquarters are shining in its light grey glass with few tall anthenas. It is totally 234m tall and is specially looped shaped, having horizontal and vertical sections, creating an irregular grid on the building’s facade with an open center. It is one of most strange buildings of CBD with most modern way of construction and shape. In this streets between tallest and most modern skyscrapers. I noticed biggest advancement and development of modern and urban Beijing. This area definitely decisively shows development and improvement of China and how Beijing changed. In CBD similarly like on Sanlitun not just buildings show prosperity of China but also high presence of middle and higher class citizens…
So many expensive cars were parked here – BMWs, Audis, Porches, Land Rovers, KIA, Toyota, Hong Qi… Most of them were black, white and metallic silver. Even one black Ferrari passed here. One of few which I saw in Beijing. Red light was on crossroad. Ferrari stopped. Driver was younger and sitting inside proudly with sunglasses and fancy hair style which modern young Chinese people often wear, which reminds on crest. Probably he was returning from shopping from one of many expensive malls in this district or returning to job after lunch break. Green light turned on-he disappeared with so big speed like that wind took him away or like thunderbolt which appears and disappears with extreme speed. People which were passing here were some businessmen in working suits. There were not many of them as it was still working time. You could notice only some of them which in hurry were returning to job after lunch break. I saw foreigners working for foreign companies here too. I got inside China World Shopping Mall. I noticed there many teenagers dressed in expensive fancy clothes. They had packages of Prada, Gucci, Dior, Burberry, Sephora and other brands…
Currently CBD is still under development. Now I remembered what guide told us during trip to Ming tombs about new projects in CBD and I will mention them now. In 5 year plan of CCP is included biggest and final expansion of this district. It means even bigger forest of tall skyscrapers will rise. One of them will be China World Tower 3B which is supposed to be tall 280m tall. I saw basement of Tower 3B Under construction is already new pride of Beijing- China Zun, supposed to be tallest one in Beijing and all Northern China and third tallest in all China. It should reach height of 520m. China Zun should have spiral shape of ancient Chinese vessel for wine. It will be next to CCTV building. Windows will be covered by modern glass with self-producing energy with solar panels. Also 2 new parks in district will join already existing parks there. And one lake will be there. Main aim of CCP is to make more ecologically clean buildings and develop more clean and green Beijing. Zun is supposed to be finished in 2016. I saw machines for construction at place where China Zun should be…. Also I saw one skyscraper in distance which is still not completely constructed. Its shape reminds on standing raghbi ball. I hope I will visit this area after 2016 to see new even more modern and more interestingly shaped buildings., And tallest one of course.
As I know there are many modern buildings in famous Beijing Financial Street. In chapter about Sanlitun I mentioned many other modernized areas of Beijing. Those areas experienced most rapid development in second half of 90ies and after 2000. One of most modern areas is Zhonguazun- Sillicium valley of Beijing and main technological hub. It is famous as main place for shopping of technological devices. Samsung, LG,A pple, Sony and Lenovo all of them have shops there. Buildings there are not very tall, tallest one is 160m,but are interestingly and modernly shaped. It isn’t only composed of shops and pedestrian area but of offices too, where this technological companies have their representatives. I was thinking before coming here if I should visit Zhonguazun also because things which I saw on internet and what I read attracted me to see this modern area in real, but I decided that my time and attention I should devote to other places. But when I will come to China for a bit longer I want visit it definitely.
Simply everyone who passes through Beijing or who visits dozens of other most modern cities of China, who is travelling by Chinese speed trains, who sees Chinese airports, who travels across China over modern highroads, can realize that period that just USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and South Korea are famous for their development, technology, rich people, modern lifestyle and fashion is coming to an end. On world scene is appearing new actor- China… At beginning of XIX century great French leader and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte once said “ China is a sleeping giant. When she awakes it will shake the world.” It seems that he was right completely. Today China is world second largest economy, world biggest manufacturer, world largest exporter and second largest importer. It has world second largest military budget, largest army and world third strongest army in world. China and its rising strengthens position of China in world and shakes it peacefully… China overtakes mentioned countries in technologies for production of various goods, robotics, IT, highways, bridges… China has fastest speed trains in world and largest network of fast rails which was built for very short time. China is one of biggest consumers of various types of energy resources. China is developing more ecologically clean sources of energy and building solar panels across country. I already spoke about improvement of living standards in chapters before. Simply Big Red Dragon is awake, standing strongly and proudly on world scene. It is better to say that it is standing again and that China is not overtaking but retaking leadership in many aspects in world. I say that because for thousands of years China was leader in civilization and various discoveries which were discovered in Europe few hundreds even thousand years later. So China is just returning to position number 1, where it belongs. All this is achieved thanks to Chinese Communist party which saves China, leads it to bright future and realizes Chinese Dream for its people.