It is a cold day with gales today in Beijing. A beautiful day, as it is sunny and the Beijingers are enjoying the clearness after a day of rain washing out, and then strong winds blowing away the haze. The Hutongs are filled with golden leaves, and live their anachronistic slowness and quietness in the middle of the capital city.
After dinner, before going to bed, I still went to my favorite place in this city, which is The Temple of the Earth. There is no God in the centre of this temple. It is an open space to worship the Earth itself, pray for luck, harvest, and ask for forgiveness. There is no "person" on the other side - nobody you can make a deal with. I love this temple and the park around it. I spend as much time there as I can. Even I am not religious at all, and last prayed in a German kindergarden (when you got beaten up if you did not follow instructions), today I felt like asking for a few things. Of course, I am aware that I can only ask myself, and no supreme being. And then, I can hope for luck.
I regret, that I cannot read Shi Tiesheng's "The Temple of Earth and I" in Chinese. I have to rely on translations and found one on Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping . The book is the description of the Temple of the Earth Park through the eyes a man who has been crippled in young age and spends all his free time there. Even I am handicapped only having the translation to rely on, it is a beautiful record of the place I like most in Beijing.
It begins like this:
"In a number of my stories, I’ve referred to an antiquated park: in fact, this is the Temple of Earth Park. Some years ago, before tourism had developed much, it was as desolate and neglected as a wasteland. People seldom gave it a thought.
The Temple of Earth wasn’t far from my home, or perhaps it’s better to say my home wasn’t far from it. All in all, I felt I was related to it by fate. It had reposed there for four hundred years before my birth, and ever since, when my grandmother was a young woman, she had taken my father to live in Beijing, my family had lived near it: in more than fifty years, my family had moved several times, but always to a place in its vicinity. Each time, we moved closer to it. I often felt this was something foreordained—as if this old park were waiting especially for me: it seemed it had been waiting for four hundred years—through all the tumultuous changes of those centuries ..."