Thursday, October 23, 2014

Xiannong Alter and Hutongs

This past summer I took another tour with China Culture Center. This one explored the area south of Tian'anmen Square.

This is a picture of the paifang at the north end of the Qianmen Street. The paifang is framing the Zhengyangmen Jianlou. The jianlou is the archery tower outside the gate itself. The walls that connected the archery tower to the gate proper no longer exist. The Zhengyang Gate is known colloquially as Qianmen or front gate.

This is the inside of Zhushikou church at the south end of Qianmen Street. Yes, churches exist in China. It was established by the Methodists in 1904. Regular services are held for the Chinese parishioners.

This is a small structure at the Xiannong or Agriculture Temple. This was a silk burning furnace for making sacrifices.

Generally, the temple was used in the spring time for the emperor to perform rituals to ensure good harvests in the fall. The emperor would take off his imperial robes, put on farmer's clothes and plow a few ceremonial rows among other tasks.

This is the platform where rituals were performed. That basketball court is where the plowing took place.

Much of the complex has been converted to a sports complex and middle school.

One of the main buildings from the 15th century has been restored and displays artifacts and exhibits about the architecture.

This is a ceiling from another building that has been put on display here.

This is another ceiling that has had its original colors restored. It is hard to get a sense of scale from the picture but the circular part is about 15 to 20 feet in diameter.

Click to enlarge.

These next 2 pictures give a sense of the carpentry skill involved in building and restoring roof structures.

Another example.

After we left the Agriculture Temple we wandered through old neighborhoods. Keeping birds as pets in Beijing is pretty popular. These 2 were enjoying some fresh air.

So was this cricket. The point of keeping crickets as pets is lost on me but it apparently it is pretty popular.

After awhile we came to this structure (actually 6 buildings together) that was built about 1915. Currently it is used by dozens of families as living space but during WW2 the Japanese converted into "comfort station". Look it up if you aren't certain what that is.

The building is scheduled for restoration soon.

Across the street we found a fruit and vegetable market. These peaches come in 3 different quality levels 4 RMB/jin, 10 RMB/3 jin, and 10 RMB/ 4 jin. A jin is half a kilo or about 1.1 lbs. Actually, I'm not sure whether there are really 3 quality levels or just 3 prices levels.

4 RMB/jin is about $0.59/lb.

I thought this was colorful.

As we wandered through the alleys we came across this doorway. I'll get a translation and update the blog.

The shape of the stones say something about the occupation of the owner. I don't recall the details. Maybe Margot can fill them in.

I think these signs are mostly advertising houses for sale or rent.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tianning Si

I've  been a real slacker when it comes to posting pictures on the blog. I'm way behind but hope to catch up soon.

These pictures are from a Buddhist temple called Tianning Si. I took these pictures on a walking tour organized by the Chinese Culture Center back in July.

The temple contains a 900 year old pagoda built of brick and stone. Although it is not hollow, it is built to resemble similar wooden structures with over-hanging eaves.

The name Tianning is made up of the characters  天 (tian) and 宁 (ning). Tian means heaven or sky and ning means calm, peaceful, or serene.  Si means temple.

That is the same tian as in Tian'anmen Square.

The stone carvings are starting to show their age but look pretty good for 900 years old.

Click to enlarge.

This wooden Buddha is in one of the temple buildings on the grounds.

I see coconut milk powder, oranges, peaches and crackers left as offerings.

It is a working temple and you can talk with the monks (if you speak Chinese). I believe this monk is a woman.

I wish I could tell you more about these murals. I'm sure there is a story in them.

These are incense sticks burning in one of the incense burners in the temple.

The person on the right is our tour guide, Feng Cheng. He always makes a point to engage with the locals and almost always learns some interesting tidbit about the location. This was back in July. I don't recall the discussion.

When this temple was built it was out in the countryside  or suburbs surrounding Beijing. Many years ago the city grew to surround the temple and the city wall was extended to include it. Now there is a heating plant next door to supply heat to city residents in the area during the winter.