A visit to The Temple of Heaven perfectly captures what life is like in China – line between legal and illegal isn’t always so clear.
The Temple of Heaven is one of the largest complexes in China. Chinese emperors considered themselves sons of the Heaven. As a sign of respect, the Temple of Heaven was built larger than The Forbidden City.
Many visitors crowd in and around the Circular Altar, where sacrifices were made every Winter Solstice in hopes of bringing good fortune and prosperity for the coming year.
Visitors near the Three Echo Stones, located outside the Imperial Vault of Heaven, shouted at the wall and pressed their ears against it. It was the only time I saw Chinese people line up in a queue.
Apparently, if you speak facing the first stone on the Vault, you can hear an echo. If you speak facing the second stone, you can hear two echos; third stone, three echos and so on.
After my visit, I hopped into a black Benz as the taxi driver snatched the removable ‘taxi’ sign off the roof of his car. His furtive glances back and forth gave it away. He was running an illegal taxi business. It made me feel uneasy, but my travel companion, who is one of those people who’s always curious and full of questions, started a conversation with the driver.
It turns out the taxi driver wasn’t a bad guy. He openly admitted to running an illegal taxi business. He even told us he wasn’t even from Beijing. Like many migrant workers, he came to the city for better job opportunities. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out as easy as he hoped for. He drives a Benz disguised as a taxi and risks paying fines with the money he doesn’t have and serving jail time when his family depends on him. However, this was a stabler way for him to provide for them. By law, it is illegal. By law, this makes him a criminal. But it’s all is relative.
For many tourists, they only see the facade of what life is like in China. That’s the difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. Tourists only sees what’s on the surface. Travelers seek to discover what’s underneath.