Temple of Heaven

We arrived at the Temple of Heaven on a clear, crisp day in autumn. It was that perfect temperature where you could wear anything from short sleeves to a Burberry coat comfortably (as shown below in a photo). Tai chi Master Luo greeted us after we entered the park. After lining up in two horizontal lines, all facing the Master, we first learned how to properly greet your master with a bow. Afterwards, we all attempted to mimic her fluid movement. It did not seem like it was going to be that hard of a task; however, her years of practice trumped our youthfulness. I cannot speak for everyone, but even the parts I could follow, I felt like a baby deer struggling for footing. Overall, it was a fantastic experience that provided us with some insight into the martial art many elderly Chinese partake in every day.

Tai chi with Master Luo (looks like Dragon Ball Z)

After Tai chi, we walked  up and around the Temple of Heaven Park. For some background, the imperial complex was first built in the early 1400s. The intricately colored and crafted buildings cover just over one square mile. The circular temple in the middle is perched on a few layers of marble to give the illusion of it resting of clouds. All of us had time to explore the first grouping of buildings; but, given that most of the information was in Chinese, everything had to be processed visually.

The Main Temple

After looking around the main part of the Temple of Heaven Park, we walked down the very long path connecting the temple with another part of the complex. The path was perfectly smooth; however, there was about a 6 foot decline over the course of a few hundred meters. This spoke to me, as it was just another example of how technical Chinese architects could be hundreds of years ago. At the end of the path, there was a second temple. There was a a circular wall around this temple, so supposedly on a quiet day you can hear someone talking into the other side of it. It was pretty crowded when we were there, so Bradford and I just found ourselves yelling at separate sections of a the wall like madmen…

The long pathway between temples

The bottom temple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The park was beautiful and was complemented with amazing whether. We couldn’t have asked for a better day to see another historical site in Beijing!

Tiger Leaping Gorge

On our way from Liming to Shangri-La, we were able to stop at Tiger Leaping Gorge because of the extremely pleasant weather. The day before we had visited the First Bend of the Yangtze River, where the river takes an almost 180 degree turn, from south to north. At the bend the river spreads out over hundreds of yards, providing us with a stark contrast to the narrow passage of the gorge (82 ft at its smallest). This section of the river gained its name from a local legend which states that a tiger jumped over the narrowest part of the gorge to escape hunters.

To set the scene, the river lies in a deep ravine with steep cliff faces and looming mountains on either side. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain can be seen from the bottom of the ravine, with a peak of 18,360 feet. The river lies at just under 6,000 feet in elevation, which provides an idea of how impressively deep the gorge is. Not only does this disparity in elevation make you feel tiny at the bottom, but it also provides for a wide array of biodiversity from river to mountain top.

Upon arrival we could hear the roar of the river. The view from the top was spectacular, but it didn’t do the power of the river justice. Below (top) is a picture looking up the gorge, (bottom) shows you the fierceness of the river in comparison to the people standing on the platform (where we were headed).

 

 

 

We purchased our tickets, and began the decent towards the angriest flow of chocolate milk (as one of my peers put it) any of us had ever seen. With every stair, the thundering of unfathomable amounts of water smashing into rock got louder and louder. At the bottom, we finally gained some perspective on how terrifying  this section of river actually was. On the scale of international ratings of whitewater from Class I – Class VI (flat water to risking death), I would rate it somewhere around a Class VII. The only people known to have attempted rafting this section of the Yangtze, unsurprisingly, were never seen again.

In the middle of the first photo below, the water plummets into a hole seemingly 20+ feet deep and then periodically erupts in a plume of water droplets. The second photo below, looking downriver, is of Alex (left) and Lucas (right). The platform they are standing on is the one the tiny people are standing on depicted earlier.

 

 

 

The hike back up on wobbly knees proved to be slightly challenging, but was a good way to wrap up this side excursion to a pinch point of the Jinsha River, one of the main tributaries of the Yangtze River.

The river’s immense power tantalizes those who want to harness its energy. With a hydroelectric dam, energy could be provided cheaply for countless people throughout the Yunnan Province. However, the introduction of a dam would displace thousands of local minority people (Naxi) who live along the river. Fortunately, plans for dams have been written off in recent years due to a large portion of the river being protected as a World Heritage Site. This issue raises many questions, posing economical reasons against the ethical. Having been exposed to Naxi culture during our trip, it does not seem right to destroy culture, homes, families, and lives in general, for economic gain.

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