The round roof of Temple of Heaven behind the high wall - with centuries old cypresses in the Tiantan Park surrounding it.
While in Beijing about a week ago, I finally got first hand experience of how desperately the country needs to do something about its pollution situation. While leisurely strolling through the sights, our eyes and noses were itching and after a while, without doing anything even remotely strenuous, we all felt quite short of breadth. And this while the PM2.5 values were "only" at a "hazardous" 225 - I can't even imagine how it feels like when they hower up at over 700, as happens several times a year. I'm not sure how the many retirees playing tai chi ball, kicking a feather ball and dancing in the Tiantan Park around the Temple of Heaven can keep exercising there - it felt like the polluted air must have erased all the health-giving effects of their efforts.
Without fresh air, you have nothing - no luxuries, no power, no success is worth anything if you can't fulfill the basic need of breathing fresh, unpolluted air. This thought came to mind several times during our brief visit, and I just cannot understand why those in power in China seem to ignore this. Of course the problem of pollution in China is huge and complex, but it is not news anymore - of all the riches created during the last couple of decades, why haven't more been channeled into making the lives of the Chinese more bearable?
Some of the cypresses are said to be over 800 years old - even if the temple itself was built in the early 15th century.
Retirees and other residents of Beijing dancing to loud, popular music.
The Tiantan Park is home to some four thousand cypresses, many of which are several centuries old. As their branches stay verdant and green even in winter, cypresses have become to symbolize endurance and longevity in the Chinese culture. While walking though the park, the trees were covered in a greyish layer of polluted dust. Endurance will definitely be needed, both from the cypresses and the sporty old retirees, to reach any levels of longevity.