Early in the day, we went to the one surviving Tibetan Buddhist Temple not destroyed by the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960’s.
The temple building is huge and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest building built from a single white sandalwood tree. It is 23 meteres high, guarded by those symbolic lions, and mobbed with worshipers.
The roads leading up to Temples are lined with incense stands. Inside, several huge fire pots are available to light the incense.
Buddhists pray with incense and touch their head, mouth and bow for good deeds.
This woman has a small spread of incense but most use the huge bouquets of incense sticks in their ritual.
While many stand, some use the prayer benches.
Only ten percent of China is Buddhist because many Chinese feared retribution from the government. But, the Buddhist tradition is deeply rooted and Chinese people want to do good deeds and enjoy a better life in the hereafter.
Like all organized religion, there is money to be made. First from the incense and donations to the temple managers. Bills in the water, coins in the dish.
We left the Temple and visited the Prince Gong Garden. It was so crowded with humanity, we left very quickly.
Our last grand affair before leaving Beijing, is an old tradition in China, the Peking Opera. The Opera is only performed in Beijing-subsidized by the government. We viewed pictures in the lobby of the costumes. Colorful, embroidered, traditional costumes, both male and female. Predominant colors in China are yellow and red. The costumes alone were worth the price of the tickets. ($30).
The players entertained us as we sat at square tables with no one’s back to the stage. They served dainty little cookies of several types on a decorated square plate to pass around. Then with great flair poured tea into tiny cups from a pot held high above their heads with a three foot long spout. A took a steady aim to pour without splashing and the feat delighted us all.
Like parts in a play, one-act was fast paced, acrobatic ballet. In another act, the men and women performed in slow motion meaning every muscle was tuned. The painted white faces and red lips are not allowed to move or show emotion. We were close enough to see their nostrils flare as they must breathe, but otherwise they were like elegant puppets, disciplined, strictly, choreographed in difficult balancing positions. You caught yourself holding your breath for them. The dancing and story telling drama had more typical movement and much emotion on stage. The words in English show on screens on either side of the stage. One sequence has the government issued degree hated by the people. They conspire to steal the key to a government room where they unlock the papers and change the degree. (Their only form of protest in ancient times.) Another is about a Shogun who has a beautiful concubine that he is in love with. He is ordered away in shame and they cannot accept their fate and commit suicide together. The whole thing was fascinating, enjoyable and a great send off from Beijing.