I spent a week in Beijing. The same week during which the National Day of China falls on. This meant that Beijing was a million times busier and crazier than it normally would be.
This was definitely not planned.
With a city that holds more than 22 million people, you quickly become tired and exhausted from the endless traffic, pollution and noise. When you add in the fact that practically everyone else from the rest of China all seemed to visit Beijing for this week, it was unbearable and I desperately needed to escape.
The grounds of the Temple of Heaven provided the perfect respite.
The name Temple of Heaven is a little misleading as it actually more than just a temple, it is a huge park as well. Inside the park, there are three main sections: the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and Circular Mound Altar.
Upon entering the park, I felt insulated from the noise and stress of Beijing.
As I wandered around, heading in the general direction where I believed the important things to be, I passed hundreds of locals lying in the shade, relaxing. Around the park people were assembled around game tables where they were playing chess or other Chinese board games.
There were still vendors present, selling snacks, drinks and small trinkets, but it was much more relaxed and you weren’t harassed Shanghai style.
My first stop was the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, which is where the emperors used to come to sacrifice animals and burn incense to pray for good weather for their crops.
Located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is the Imperial Vault of Heaven, which is surrounded by the very popular echo wall.
The wall utilises the theory of sound wave. If one person stands on one side of the wall and whispers something their voice will be transmitted around the wall and can be heard on the other side.
I wanted to try out the echo wall but as I was alone I didn’t have much success with it. I tried whispering at one side and sprinting to the other side to hear myself, but I guess sound travels faster than Lauren as all I could hear were excited Chinese mumblings.
Just inside of the echo wall are two chambers containing tablets of the gods of different elements. The left chamber contains gold, wood, water, fire and earth. The right chamber contains tablets representing wind, rain, thunder and lightning.
The mound was built with extremely smooth materials, which cause sound waves to spread quickly to the edges of the mound and reflect back towards you. This process takes less than a tenth of a second so it appears to happen instantly combining your original speech with the echo created. This results in the volume of your voice doubling.
For the entire time I was there excited children would go running up to the altar and stand there screaming loudly.
I didn’t stay very long.