One of the most inspiring places in Beijing is the 270ha Park housing the temple of Heaven or Tiantan in the south eastern part of Beijing. These temple buildings date from the period of third Ming Emperor, Yongle (1360-1424). The main buildings found there are the Altar of Heaven (Hianquitan), the Palace of Fasting (Zhai Gong), the Heavenly Vault (Hiangqiugyu), the Temple of the Prayer for a Good Harvest (Qinian Dian) and the Temple of the Heaven (Huangqiannian).
The buildings are aligned north-south in the walled park which has a square and a hemispherical area representing the Earth and Heaven respectively
Aerial view of the Tiantan Park
The Temple of the Prayer for a Good Harvest
The Blue tablet of the God of Heaven as stored in the Imperial Hall of Heaven and used for the Spring Solstice rites in the Temple of the Prayer for a Good Harvest
The buildings are all surrounded by many over 500 years old age thuja and juniper trees planted in a strict geometrical order.
A poster in the park indicates that these trees have been planted to represent a circular Bi in blue jade which is used by the Emperor to render homage to Heaven according to the teaching of the Zhou-Li.
The poster in the park explaining the function of the Cypress wood in the Tiantan
The Emperor traveled to the Tiantan temples on the Winter Solstice to render homage to Heaven and the Ancestors and on the Spring Equinox so the pray for a good harvest.
The juniper and thuja of the park planted to give the impression of ….. with the round tablet Bi of bluish color, he does homage to Heaven
Monster faces peeking at you from the juniper tree trunks
Taking this poster as a cue, I could not resist showing you some jade Bi’s in my collection and the assortment of fantasy Bi’s you can find in the Panjiayuan Antiquity market in Beijing.
Clouds before the full moon - a 21cm diameter Bi in white Nephrite jade from the Siberian Kavokte mine in Buratia/Russia
Moss with late spring snow - a 21cm diameter Bi in emerald green and white nephrite jade from the Polar jade mine in British Columbia/Canada
Homage to Heaven – a 25cm diameter Bi in a bluish jade rock from the Liangzhu Culture area near Hangzhou in Zhejiang/China
A magic triangle? - Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City, the TianTan Park and the Panjiayuan Antiquity Market
Not far from the Tiantan Park we find the famous Panjiayuan Antiquity Market. This market covers an area of 48,000m2 with a permanent section of many back-to-back stalls under roofing, permanent buildings with shops selling antiquities and furniture and, on Saturday and Sunday, sees also, from early morning to early afternoon, a horde of flying antiquity sellers.
The shops and permanent stalls are grouped togheter so that comparison shopping is facilitated.
If there is a trinket - however tacky - found anywhere in China, rest assured you will also find it here. From Ming and Qing pottery to Yinxing teapots, silk paintings, ancient prints and books, Chinese calligraphy, jades, seals and bangles, Panjiayuan has everything, including Tibetan trunks, bronze door knobs, antique locks, wooden puppets or large man-sized Buddha statues and other large decorative items for you Chinese Garden.
Panjiayuan Market (Pan Jia Yuan Jiu Huo Shichang) is open every through the week, but on Saturday and Sunday it its the most bustling time, from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. in the southeast corner of the Third Ring Road, just east of Longtan Park. Mornings are the best time to see the market in full activity, but many believe prices drop towards the end of the day.
Welcome to Pianjiayuan or the dirt cheap flea market for antiquities of Beijing
The 48,000m2 of the Panjiayuan market with nearly 3000 stalls under the blue roof and the antique furniture shops under the red roof. In the open area, at 8 o’clock you, can find garden sculptures and, at 3 o’clock on the weekend, the flying antiquity sellers
The traffic at the stalls under the blue roof
The flying sellers present only on Saturday and Sunday in the open spaces.
Some views of the wares available on the market, courtesy of the Beijing Guide.
What particularly amazed me is the wide variety of Bi’s of any size and style offered on the market. They are of course galaxies away from the shapes, colors and material composition of actual and documented antiquities but one has to ask himself how many of these have already found their way as antiquities into living rooms and exposition cabinets of tourists and how many more will be following them with the rush of visitors to the Olympic Games held in 2008 in Beijing. If the material used is durable enough to survive the next 300 years, maybe that in the year 2307 the books on Chinese Art describing Jade items will have many glossy pictures of them speculating for which purpose they were made and used.
The stalls with the Bi’s of any size and any (weird) style
The Panjiayuan selection of round and square Bi’s, triangular Cong’s and assorted carvings waiting for undiscerning buyers
We jade lovers will, of course, not be fooled and tempted by these offers but visit the market anyway with the secret hope that in one of the stalls or at a flying seller we will find a piece in jade which we were looking for since long time!