The Beijing Spirit
Walking around the Temple of Heaven today was a real eye opener. The architecture was magnificent: the round sculpture was both traditional and innovative, and the bright colours shimmered. A picture (and a decent caption!) can do the work of 1000 words (probably better than my ramblings could, anyway), so I won't try to describe the Temple of Heaven to you in my travel blog. However, if you do get a chance to look through my pictures, note the sneaky photographs of notice boards explaining the history of a few of the more interesting attractions within the grounds.
Instead, I want to talk about the atmosphere (well, I am an arts student after all!). It really was uplifting to see the number of tourists flocking to the temple; and not just westerners, in fact most of them were Asian. The Chinese seem very proud of their heritage (and why not be?!), I got the feeling many had seen the temple before but just fancied a day out. The photographers amongst us (ok yes, that was the westerners!) had the opportunity to capture not just the temple, but Chinese street musicians, artists and dancers. There were a few amateur dance groups who seemed to be running a work out session in the grounds, just for fun. The singers attracted couples who wanted to dance and at one point a mini flash mob began in a court outside the main attraction (we were too scared to join in although the dance routine was quite simple!).
In the grounds we saw elderly groups sitting in the shade playing chess and youngsters climbing rocks, just as you'd treat your local park! But this was more than a local park and they knew it: this was a gathering place to enjoy your heritage, glimpse the temple and then enjoy the space. I felt so much more of a celebration than, say, Windsor Castle on a grey afternoon sitting in the tearooms with Granny. I'm not saying the English aren't proud of our history (we've got enough of it!), but I've never seen such celebration before, maybe I'm going to the wrong sites?!
As I said earlier, the Chinese seem very proud of their heritage. I've taken this from a number of sources. Firstly, when my mum taught TEFL she came across many Chinese students and she commented that, 99% of the time, they showed themselves to be hard-working and patriotic. Helen has spoken to many Chinese citizens during her travels also and she has found this too. After all, I don't know many countries where you can walk into a shop to be greeted by 'We welcome your presence!' - The Chinese are genuinely proud receiving visitors and also proud to visit their own heritage sites, which is lovely to see. We've come across billboard adverts for 'The Beijing Spirit', claiming that 'Patriotism, innovation, inclusion and social morals' are the characteristics of Beijing - I can confirm I definitely saw these traits at the Temple today.
I was chatting to Helen about Chinese ethnicity and she told me there are 56 ethnicities within China who move throughout China as they wish, with no friction and no bias. She's even bought the playing cards. Modern China is proud to host such a diverse ethnicity; after all, they all have China common, why would they argue?! I certainly couldn't tell which groups were members of different ethnic groups today when I saw the celebrations at The Temple of Heaven.
I was talking to Helen about China's neighbours too, and influences. Obviously, there's only so much two people can see and know but Helen said there's a trend for Korean and Taiwanese culture - they're cool, but it's more original than copying America. Obviously, there is a Hollywood influence in Beijing, but that's a standard in most big cities, China or further afield. We heard some pretty interesting Chinese pop music at the Temple, including ballads, rock and dance music! As a music student, I feel qualified in classifying it 'fusion', I liked it!
Speaking of being proud, I want to finish this (quite deep!) blog by quoting the (hopefully) young, excited child on their first visit to The Great Wall of China who felt the need to graffiti on the path of the wall in black ink. 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!' 'Great Wall!'