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The Temple Of Heaven
On a brief visit to China in 2005, Jo and I went to The Garden of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, where we heard Chinese musicians playing in an old arch with perfect acoustics, and further on saw about 30 or 40 couples dancing in the open air to some strange music from a cd player. We found a rhythm and joined in, but soon the other dancers all moved aside so that we were left in the centre of the circle while they all watched. And clapped.

China is a fascinating and contradictory country, and we couldn't even begin to scratch the surface of it. These are just a few observations and incidents from a truly memorable trip.

The Temple Of Heaven       © Bill Prince 2006
Ten hours on an aeroplane far to the east
We stepped into a world that was ancient and strange
Where beside the young people in fake western fashions
A destitute handless man begging for change.
I saw nine million bicycles jostling for space
While the privileged few rode in vast motorcars
And the drab dusty alleys just yards from the main streets
Ablaze with the neon of restaurants and bars.

But we danced in the Temple of Heaven
They clapped and they cheered as we capered and twirled
Then we rode through the countryside into the mountains
And walked on the wall at the top of the world

We went to the Forbidden City
To gaze at the spoils of a feudal age past
And I wondered with all that I'd seen all around me
Just how much longer this new age could last.
As I walked through the gate, past the sentries on duty
And gazed at the vastness of Tiananmen Square
With Mao looking over my shoulder
I remembered the things that had happened out there

But we danced in the Temple of Heaven
They clapped and they cheered as we capered and twirled
Then we rode through the countryside into the mountains
And walked on the wall at the top of the world

Past the sellers of T-shirts and trinkets
We all took the cable-car up to the wall
There I met a man with one leg called Charlie
He never did say what the other was called
And each time that I felt that I couldn't go on
When my muscles were screaming and begging me "Stop!"
Charlie came right up beside me again
So we climbed on together 'til we reached the top

And we danced in the Temple of Heaven
They clapped and they cheered as we capered and twirled
Then we rode through the countryside into the mountains
And walked on the wall at the top of the world

On my way down I heard children laughing
Two five-year-olds playing as I watched alone
They were playing a game that I knew from my childhood
The game that we call Paper, Scissors and Stone
And I spoke to their mothers and told them
That children at home play the very same game
And we smiled and agreed that wherever we come from
All over the world we are all just the same

And we danced in the Temple of Heaven
They clapped and they cheered as we capered and twirled
Then we rode through the countryside into the mountains
And walked on the wall at the top of the world


Contact me: billprince.co.uk