It was Saturday. We were going on a field trip to the Temple of Heaven, a stunning collection of halls and altars to which emperors went to pray, that is surrounded by a lovely park. We were very happy that Julian and Eric were joining us. Our driver was Liang, who brought along a friend and the friend’s son.
Our first stop was breakfast. We went to a cafeteria that was filled with cases of food. We simply pointed to what we wanted. Of course, Liang thought we needed to try several more foods in addition to the ones we had chosen. Our plates contained a pork bun, a very large pastry filled with red bean paste or dried fruit, and a cookie shaped like a clock, with dried fruit at each of the hours. Also there was a special food for the holiday that was approaching, the Dragon Boat Festival. It consisted of a large leaf filled with sticky rice and dried fruit. Any one of these things would have satisfied us at home, but Liang didn’t want us to go hungry.
The park was beautiful, reminding us of Central Park, and it was a delightful day for walking, even with light rain. It is well known that people practice tai chi there in the mornings. We enjoyed seeing them, and it was also great to see so many locals enjoying this magnificent park. The buildings are hundreds of years old, yet their glorious colors jump out at viewers. Its main buildings are the Round Altar, the Imperial Vault of Heaven. and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests.
Then Liang asked (by way of Eric) if we liked dumplings. When we all answered in the affirmative, he took us to a dumpling restaurant. We knew we were in for a treat, because the restaurant had photos of Colin Powell and Laura Bush enjoying their meals there. Liang ordered a veggie combination (corn, beans and celery), a salad topped by flaked shrimp, and lotus root. Then we had dumplings made with rice flour. Some of the varieties were mixed seafood dumplings, pickled vegetable dumplings, lamb dumplings, and veggie dumplings. After that, Liang ordered chicken and walnuts, and a spleen (I don’t know from which animal). Every plate was devoured except the spleen. Nick was complimented by Liang via Eric for his robust appetite.
We were brought back to our residence, where we napped for several hours. We felt no need for dinner. Nick said we hadn’t overeaten, because there were seven of us and thirteen plates of food. I pointed out that at home, there would be six dumplings per order, but here there were at least thirteen.