Canadian PM meets locals on trip to Temple of Heaven

Updated: 2012-02-09 08:12

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily)

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Canadian PM meets locals on trip to Temple of Heaven


BEIJING - With blue skies and fresh air, Wednesday morning was a perfect time to find yourself in the Temple of Heaven, especially for the visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who had a tight schedule and longed for a casual walk.

The Temple of Heaven was built in 1420 and used as an imperial sacrificial altar during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Emperors visited the temple to pray for a good harvest in the coming year.

Harper toured one of the city's most prominent historical attractions, which includes the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest, the most prestigious part of Tiantan Park.

Performers at the park simulated an ancient royal heaven worship ceremony at the hall during the first five days of the Chinese Lunar New Year, starting on Jan 23. A performer wearing a costume played the role of a Qing Dynasty emperor during the royal ritual.

What amazed tourists at the site most was Harper's casual walk through a lobby at the east end of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest.

Zhang Yonglai, a 40-year-old visitor from eastern China's Shandong province, told China Daily that he and his family members felt "surprised and lucky" to greet the Canadian prime minister in the lobby.

"It is a pity that Harper's schedule did not catch up with the royal ritual performance," said Zhang, who went to the temple with his wife, daughter and parents-in-law. "I think Mr Harper is also here to pray for a promising year for his country."

Harper worked hard in campaigning for Canada's tourism industry earlier in the day at the official opening of the Canadian Tourism Commission's (CTC) newly outfitted marketing center in Beijing.

The travel industry "generates such goodwill between our two great countries", he said.

Canada greeted around 232,000 visitors from China from January to November last year, a year-on-year increase of 25 percent, according to Steve Allan, chairperson of the CTC Board of Directors.

In Tiantan Park, Harper also stopped to join one of the crowds watching local residents play Chinese chess.

Mark Rowswell, a Canadian entertainer proficient in Mandarin, accompanied Harper's park tour. He is renowned in China by his local moniker "Dashan", and Harper appointed him as Canada-China Goodwill Ambassador on Tuesday.

Rowswell came as a liaison interpreter and asked one of the chess players, surnamed Yang, about the plans behind his moves on the table. "It is a secret, and I can't tell you about the steps that I have planned in my mind," Yang told Rowswell.

"Chinese chess combines the principles of ancient Chinese military strategists, including Sun Zi in the 6th century BC who wrote the Art of War," Yang told China Daily.

China Daily