I'm a writer of interactive and normal novels including steampunk fantasy app books set mainly in Australia. ifdb.tads.org/search?searchfor=author%3AFelicity Banks
Published December 29th 2012
Astonishing, ancient beauty
Winter in Beijing is a serious thing, but with a good down jacket a day outside is still highly enjoyable - and, if you're lucky enough to be there when snow happens (and have excellent, grippy shoes) then all the best tourist places become even more beautiful - and much less crowded.
A million people live within a mile of where I'm staying, which made it even more startling to walk through the West Gate of the Temple of Heaven area and discover a park-like area of 273 hectares. We spent a lot of time today strolling along stunning avenues (like the one above) lined with snow-covered conifers, birches, and ancient Cyprus (some 900 years old, and all of the old ones heritage listed).
After that we looked at the Imperial Vault of Heaven (effectively, a fancy storeroom; round in shape, and carved and painted absolutely everywhere), which is surrounded by a wall with the fun acoustic property that a whisper from one side can be clearly heard on the other (this of course means that everyone somehow ends up shouting at a wall, which is even more fun to observe). The wall is also covered in ancient graffiti – Chinese characters carved into the stone. That graffiti is also now of historical value.
After that we walked on to the most famous structure, which is the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. The Hall is set on three circular tiers of stairs (marble, again), and is a round building three storeys high (each with its own rim of roof) that is held together by the carvers' skill (rather than nails, glue, or anything else).