I mentioned previously that Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City run along a straight line. Well seeing as the ancient Chinese were excellent astronomers this line is exactly north-south and is in the very centre of Beijing (or at least it was in ancient times when the foundation stones of the city were laid. I did some further exploring around this axis this afternoon and went into Jingshan Park which is also on this axis and just to the north of the Forbidden City. In the centre of the park is the one and only hill in Beijing and this hill has a temple on the top. It’s actually quite high and the tallest vantage point in Beiijing.
This is it as you approach the top of the hill.
When you get to the top you have an uninterrupted view of not only the Forbidden City but also the entire present day Beijing. Or at least.you would have if the air wasn’t so polluted.
The Forbidden City is about 3km long and the air was so bad that I couldn’t see that far. Talking about the pollution, I haven’t seen the sun since arriving 10 days ago. Even in the countryside. There has always only been this brighter part of the sky. Eyes always itch, throat is often scratchy.
Anyway, back to the present. I had a good enough of a view to see that this north-south axis actually extends for probably about 8km with a number of really important structures along it starting with the original southern outer city gate – Tiananmen Square – Forbidden City – the shrine where I was standing – clock tower – Bell tower – north outer city gate. The top of the hill was also smack bang in the centre of Beijing.
I then went back down into the park. It is a Sunday which is a day off for most people and there was quite a festive mood. People were hanging out and doing their thing – achoir practice, folk dancing, a littlele band. None of them were doing it for ninety, it just looked like a community thing where they used the park as their gathering place. Then I came across some guys doing Chinese spinning tops.
This was fascinating.and owners up spending about an hour ons park bench just watching them do their thing (I have video footage which I will show when I get home). I’ve never seen it before and it is a mix of ribbon gymnastics, yoyo, ballet, … They have two sticks with a string between and a spinning top about the size of a sideplate. They twirl the string around the spinning top and keep it running up and down the string in mid air. If you remember a few years back there was a market craze where you would hold a stick in either hand and flick a third stick between them? This is a similar concept but much more sophisticated. It is the kind of thing which you would say “make it a sport and put it in the Olympics”. Can’t wait to show you the video.
Then back to the hotel and I purposely walked through the back alleyways. Lots of people around, perfectly safe, and a chance once again to sample a bit of the real life in Beijing.