Day two of my trek through China had me getting to know some lesser-known, but more personable aspects of China’s capital, Beijing.
Having gotten in late the night before, I reserved this day for what I was taught Sundays to be: the Sabbath and/or lazy days for whatever. It was a real walk in the park. I simply got to know Beijing a bit before all the heavy touristy stuff kicked into gear during my week.
First thing I did when I got up? Checked out my digs:
Plus, look what I found:
Okay, enough turtle-play; time to set out. I read about a church nearby and wanted to see what a Christian gathering in this country looked like. Plus, I wanted to check out my neighborhood.
Just outside my hostel was a network of narrow alleyways known as Hu Tong. They’re an attraction themselves as lots of history has passed through their narrow corridors. Plus it’s enjoyable to feel the intimacy with Beijingers—the small shops, the humble, concrete-built homes, and the bicyclers peddling their old contraptions:
Soon I left the maze of alleys:
It was gorgeous outside; just blue skies and summer heat. On the way to the church the scenery changed, offering avenues of museums, hotels, and government buildings. None of the buildings were very tall, leaving access to the wonderful weather.
St. Michael’s Catholic church, was only a handful of big Beijing blocks away. I approached the old steeple with a cross atop around noon. Mass was in its final stretch:
Black-haired heads I assumed to be Chinese filled the pews, but a monitor of text had me question my assumption. (You can always tell Korean characters by the circles.) Asking a nearby nun, I found out that this was, indeed, a Korean congregation.
A few Chinese and myself lined the back to observe as everyone exited:
I stayed to look around. The church had that solemn feel and featured pictures along the side walls of Jesus at different times in his life. This small to mid-sized church wasn’t overdone, but offered a nice environment:
I always appreciate the deeper self that is reached during worship and while being in such a building. People come here to tap into that real, more serene self, and that aura always has me leaving a better person.
Afterward, I meandered and moseyed south towards, fittingly, Temple of Heaven Park. It’s well known for its historic structures (so they get ya with an admission charge). Dad gummit.
I walked in right away feeling the shine not just of the sun but of the energized folks around me. It was great. They were pair-dancing to Chinese tunes with Western pop beats.
I have much praise for both large and small cities. Here though, I felt that energetic presence and freedom from timidity that citizens in the largest cities have. These dancers reminded me of some skaters in New York’s Central Park I saw a few years back: not punk skateboarders or even cosmopolitan roller bladers. No, these were vintage 4-wheel roller skaters, dance-skating to old hip-hop and disco beats. Funky stuff; and fun to absorb. As was this scene in Beijing’s Temple of Heaven Park.
It’s inspiring to see people so free to do what makes them happy. As such, I felt like I arrived someplace special. Better make a note of it:
After this performance, I delved deeper into the expansive park. After getting a little shade and turning down some overpriced ice-cream, I heard some live music.
And I followed it.
A large group of mainly middle-aged singers congregated around a band. It looked like an informal gathering, perhaps just a Sunday afternoon passtime. But I found it noteworthy that the music sounded like a hymn and the folks sang like a choir.
See, I know China as an agnostic country, but the group I saw sounded like they were worshiping something: love, China, etc. I enjoyed seeing these folks–as I did the Koreans in the church–elevate to a place of love and joy. That search for something deeper exists in everyone.
Their elevation rubbed off on me. Maybe through the power of the Internet, you can get a taste of it yourself.
enjoy your awesome weekend, and I look forward to further explorations of Beijing next week!