Colonels Abroad in China: Logan learns a thing or two about exercise at the Temple of Heaven


Today was somewhat bittersweet. It marked the last day of Beijing, but it is also the halfway point of this incredible trip. I have learned so much already, and I honestly don’t want it to end.

Anyway, enough of the sadness and on to the next experience. For our last day of Beijing, we toured Tian Tan, known as the Temple of Heaven in English. The Temple of Heaven was built in 1404 during the Ming Dynasty, which spanned from 1369-1643. The gardens are even bigger than the Forbidden City. The temple has a circular shape because the Chinese believed that heaven was circular. Out of all of the temples in China, the Temple of Heaven is considered to be the most important. The emperor would visit it twice per year, once on December 22nd and the other for Chinese New Year in February. The emperor would wake up at 5 a.m. to begin his journey from the Forbidden City to the Temple of Heaven, alongside a cow, sheep and pig. This trip would consist of 8 kilometers one way, which translates to about 5 miles. When he would arrive, there would be a banquet for breakfast in his honor.  Afterward, they would bathe the animals and sacrifice them to the heavens. The emperor would then pray to heaven, since he was the son of God, for good fortune and harvest for China within the year to come.

The Temple of Heaven was absolutely gorgeous. It is amazing to see the impeccable amount of work and detailing that was put within the structure’s architecture and design. Aside from just taking in the beauty of the temple and its gardens, we were greeted by many locals that would go to exercise and enjoy the landscaping. The Chinese love to spend their time outside and in public. It is a cultural belief that the air quality is actually better in the great outdoors, rather than in their homes.

We found ourselves surrounded by many locals, many of whom were shockingly older. Chinese people are much more health conscious than Americans. The majority of the food served is very fresh and very healthy, alongside the amount of exercise that they do daily. Armed with that knowledge, it shouldn’t have been as much of a shock to see an 80-something-year-old man playing on the monkey bars. It was crazy though to see so many older people stretching, dancing and working out, when often times in the U.S. that isn’t the case.

What was even crazier was that they were doing things that I know I can’t even do. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is. Tomorrow we leave at 7 a.m. to make our way to Shanghai. Until next time, zijian!

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