The Temple of Heaven is one of my favorite places in Beijing. In addition to being a major tourist destination, it’s also a favorite park where locals hang out. There’s an area near the east gate where you can find people doing everything from playing cards to dancing, to singing old revolutionary songs. One day I spotted this fellow all dressed up like a Qing Dynasty official practicing his stringed instrument.
Back in the day (late 1990’s) I used to ride my bike downtown a lot. From where I live out on the west side of Beijing ‘downtown’ meant the area around Tiananmen Squre and the Forbidden City — the center of the center of the universe, so to speak.
At that time there was still a community of houses tucked between the Forbidden City walls and the moat, and the wall outside the Meridian Gate was a favorite gathering place for retired musicians to practice their instruments and their singing).
I used to love riding down there, hopping off my bike and listening to them play and sing.
The homes between the wall and the moat are gone now and the area along the Meridian Gate wall has been covered over with grass and made inaccessible by a fence.
I don’t know where the musicians ended up, but I’m glad I have this photo of an erhu player practicing in the shadow of the Forbidden City.