After following the directions given in this article make your way through the southern gate and into the Park.
Basicly, one is now ready to explore left, right or straight onwards into the Ritan Park, a modern day park which (as described on page 1 - introduction) is based upon the original Daoist Temple of the Altar of the Sun.
However, naturally, since the coming of the new China through the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China and the subsequent stages of growth in the following the decades, the Temple Park has been enlarged and several times revised, leading to the being of the current day Ritan Park.
In short, the Sun Altar Temple was officially opened in the year 1530 AD as a result of whims of a rather peculiar Emperor with a preference if not magical interest and infatuation with Daoism, of which the ritual worship of natural elements is a mainstay. Having been maintained by all following Emperors up to the end of the feudal Era in 1911 AD, the Temple subsequently was abandoned. Falling into disrepair and through the following decades of modernization, political turmoil and eventualy war partially forgotten except for by the locals, the Temple overtime gradually became a park, albeit a rather unkept one.
However, in the violence of the Revolution having become the last resting place of an important Revolutionary forebear of the current generations of Communist powerholders, in 1951 after "Liberation" the Temple was not, alike the Altar of the Moon, lost to the people but instead officially turned into a public park.
The Altar of the Sun, originally known as the Altar of the Rising Sun. The altar is located sacrifices to the God of the Sun. The altar is located in Beijing' s diplomatic quarter to the northern of Chaoyangmen (Facing the Sun) Gate. A square marble platform once stood in the garden; its ruins remain. In 1949, the people' s government turned the area into Ritan Park.
In the fall of 1980, construction of a large garden was begun in the southeastern corner of the park. This garden is called "The Curving Pond and the Roses Which Surpass Springtime" (Quchi Shengchun). The garden occupies a full hectare of land with a pond in the center.
Next to the pond are three tall snow pines and to the east, peach and persimmon trees. A landscaped flower garden stands to the west. In addition, at the foot of the little hill to the east is a trio of graceful magnolias.
Looking through the fences of the south gate one can already make out the sun mural in the distance. It is one of the objects and locations of interest within Ritan Park (Photo: November 2007).
At this time, in what may be taken as its 1st and largest renovations the park was not only enlarged but also Ritan Park was made a Revolutionary Park. What else could it have been. In order to emphasize modernity rather than the feudal past, prime importance and place within the newly created enlarged Ritan Park was given to the white tomb of Revolutionary Brother and martyr Ma Jun.
Subsequently, under the patronage of late Prime-Minster Zhou Enlai (and his wife), the park received new elements in the 1970s, when through the presence of the surrounding "South Embassy District" it became the venue for celebrating renewed ties of friendship with other nations.
SINO-JAPANESE FRIENDSHIP MONUMENT IN RITAN PARK:
As one may discover here and while browsing about the park, - following in the wake of the breakthrough visit by American President Nixon in the historic year 1972 - first among the new Nations to be befriended were the Japanese Nation and People.
At the time an upcoming and booming economy which was taken as a model for new progress across the world, not least of all in the Peoples Republic of China, economic ties were incredibly attractive from an economic but also from political and strategic perspective. Hence, although the
As an official Revolutionary Park including Martyrs Tomb and also the location for various Folk Art Festivals relation to Daoism and Sun worship one may find frequent bannering and sloganeering inside Ritan Park. The causeway up to the sun mural is a prime spot for displays of various messages, political and cultural (Photo: November 2007).
Chinese Communist Party had been smearing hatred upon the Japanese since long before "Liberation"deal, nevertheless a deal deemed as necessary and so was brokered by China with Japan regardless of any previous actions and statements, let alone the passions aroused within the Chinese populace.
As one may learn here and as Mao Zedong learned shortly after the death of the earlier mentioned Zhou Enlai, although Institutionalized and Nationwide Democracy is still to be found in the current day Peoples Republic of China, popular politics do exist and the idea that the population has a voice that should be honored in some way is by no means dead or forgotten.
To put it mildly, after having a nearly overnight (albeit strategic) friendship developing with the "American Imperialist" the subsequent announced of a sudden friendship with the Devilish Empire of Japan might be a little bit too much for public consumption, and as one might say, disharmonious responses might result.
Thus, handling this very delicate and very touchy subject at the time in a typically Chinese way, the relationship was made official and was honored, however at the same time an appropriate and very convenient spot for the celebratory "Forever Friendship Monument" was found inside the Ritan park at a place where it was not in the obvious.
Although no foreign visitor today would know the details and thus make the connections, in the 1970's the Ritan Park was a location well out of sight of the ordinary folks and not by coincidence sats within a restricted and policed zone reserved for Foreign Embassies, offices and the like. Especially in the very earliest moments of "Opening Up Policy", the south Embassy district was only just filling with Embassies newly arriving it was highly policed zone, which, on top of already being secure, was also the residential district designed for people who were known as Foreign Technical Experts
With none of the rowdy Japanese hating regular public allowed anywhere near, yet properly in view of those who mattered - that being any of the Embassy Staff exploring the number one scenic park, it was all in all a rather convenient spot to create and hide an official Monument to Friendship with what still pretty much officially amounted to the most hated former Colonial invader, a a prime enemy in the times but briefly before.
As so explained, the almost shocking monument to Friendship (and Economic Ties) with Japan was easily to be come across by the Foreigners, but as with experimental Silk Alley and also the Panjiayuan Flee Market in Chaoyang, its presence was part of higher politics and more or less kept hush hush and not needlessly rubbed into the face of the underinformed public.
SUN MURAL AT RITAN PARK:
Although visually not that stunning or impressive, in the modern history of the city of Beijing the mural is in fact a small but significant a commemorative monument with an interesting albeit rarely heard of story attached.
That is, the Sun Mural was installed at this location when the Ritan Park was undergoing a 3rd set of renovations, which was during the early 1980's when the opening up policies of the Deng Xiaoping led Party and Government allowed for a look into a brighter, more modern and also more friendly and more international future.
At the time, the inauguration of a mural which clearly recounted the glories of ancient and very traditional cultural aspects was a completely novel move by the vehemently Communist and anti-traditional Communist Party Government.
As local peoples and those attending the unveiling at the time would have understood well, the public placing of this monument signalled a clear end to the (Maoist) policies of the Cultural Revolution (Officially 1966-1976), in which the four olds were to be destroyed not cherished, their memories not revived and perpetuated but best entirely forgotten.
Although today usually merely regarded as a decorative monument which easily functions as the focal point of various cultural activities it is a place to remembered.
Directions given within the park are bilingual Chinese and English, however only very basic. Find your own way around by exploring. (Photo: November 2007).
Exactly as with the economic experiments that originated in the same political athmosphere of the times, arranged in this way, the tokens of political experiment existed, however in a genuine Chinese way they were placed in a lowly location where, if they needed to be removed, they could disappear nearly overnight, with of course their very existence or having been there being deniable into the future. Or more or less.
Since the friendship ties with Japan were never that sincere, certainly not alike those promised to the 5th Dalai Lama of Tibet (See: History of Beijing (2) in the Ming and Qing Dynasties), and more of a politico-strategic nature, the real relations between both nations remain strained and laden with historic sorrows. Whenever there are public protest, the monument in Ritan Park suddenly becomes
important and in the past, a target for vandalism of bannering. However, with the move of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing from nearby Ritan Street to a more spacious location elsewhere, there is far less chance of a recurrence of mass protests. And, people might also forget a little bit about the "forever" part of the friendship vows proclaimed by the prsence of the Friendship Tree.
Although it is known to be located within the park, even today the Sino-Japanese Friendship Monument at the time dubbed the "Mountain Flowering Cherry tree", is not an obvious element of the park and not easy to find. Try the directions given along the various routes and come up with zero.
Looking northward from the south gate, the visitor is confronted by a miniature white marble flag stand of the Peoples Republic beyond of which a wide causeway leads up to the first (or next) landmark of interest.
This is not the actual ancient and holy Sun Altar, but a later created monument known as the Sun Mural.
The full sun mural which stands rather alike one of the so called 9 Dragon Screens, special signs of Imperial Dignity also found elsewhere in Beijing. The gathering space in front of the mural can serve a crowd to celebrate the mural or one of the various public occassions held at the park.