14 May 2011

The Irritating Irony of Getting Lost while Looking for a Taoist Temple + the Temple of Heaven

LB + I like to walk + walk we fucking did. We walked to the subway, from the subway, back to the subway, through a street market, around landmarks we couldn't find an entrance to or didn't understand culturally, we wandered around--by accident--looking for temples + street signs + got lost the whole fucking day. All in a good day's walk.

Eventually, after spending several hours trying to figure out where the fuck it was, we saw the White Cloud Temple, which is one of the most important Taoist temples in all of China (not to mention, Taoism is the only truly indigenous religion here, unless you count Confucianism, which many don’t). It was pretty fucking dope. Not only were there a million little miniature temples + courtyards within courtyards, but we got to see a group of Taoist monks (one of them was passed out on a chair in one of these temples). I kept thinking about the 7 Sages of the Bamboo Grove, how taken I was with them in college: Their eccentricity, self-awareness, their tranquility + unorthodox devotion to the Tao.

Because everything always takes longer in a country you don’t know, especially when you can’t speak the language almost at all + often there aren’t street signs, or the street names change every three blocks, or you have to walk a mile just to see the name of the street you’re walking on before you realize that you’re walking on the wrong fucking street, or because five different people give you five different directions to get to the same place (four of whom are right + one of whom, is not, but you don't know that because you can’t speak the language, the Mandarin tone system fucks with you + often times there aren’t any addresses, or the street names sound like the one you're looking for but they're actually different), we were several hours behind schedule in every possible way--spatially, existentially, metaphysically. Out of desperation + extreme hunger, we decided to eat at the first decent-looking restaurant we saw, which ended up being fantastic.

By this time, we had abandoned hitting the Temple of Heaven because we’d read that they stop selling tickets into the temple at 4:30 even though the temple is open until 6 o’clock. At 5:20pm, well past the window, we decided to walk to Tiantan Yuan (the Temple of Heaven Park) anyway, just to spend some time there. Miraculously, after we pleaded with the woman at the exit door to the temple, she was kind enough to let us into the courtyard of the Temple of the Heaven, even without tickets to the temple (after 4:30, tickets are only sold for entrance into the park itself, not the temple). I have to say, the Temple of Heaven was fucking amazing. Even despite the four blisters on my right foot, today was worth every step of fire in my shoes.

A few other things I’ve noticed in Beijing:

8. For some reason, it seems like little Chinese kids (1-2 years old) are forced to wear these weird, crotchless pants where their bare ass cheeks + tiny genitalia stick out. Must be cold.

Here are the pics:

Our Walk from the Beijing Subway:

White Cloud Temple:


Pics of Tiantan + Tiantian Yuan (the Temple of Heaven Park):

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