Our outside class activity today was to visit the Lingyin Temple. We give Wang laoshi our tickets and are reimbursed for the trip which is really nice. The ticket offices for the temple had height measurements like theme parks
! If your kid was short enough they got in for free, if they were a little taller it was half price so instead of pretending to be uneducated laowais and sneaking Maya in we got to bring her in for free! It is about a 30 minute bus ride past a few of the tea plantations. We always laugh when we pass one of the plantations because blocking the view of the actual plantation is a picture of the plantation. I guess the picture looks good year round and the plantation doesn't. Lingyin Temple, like a lot of temples, is more than just a temple. It is a full compound and since it is a functioning Buddhist temple it is always busy and full of things to do. In front of the entrance there are a few stores and restaurants, including a KFC. I don't think Buddhist monks can eat at KFC. To get to the main temple and surrounding buildings you walk through a beautiful area. On the side of the hills Buddhas and bodhissatvas are carved into the stone. There are all different buddhas all over the side of the hill. If you want you can walk up the side of the hill to see even more (this portion is called "Flying Peaks from Afar.) It runs along a pretty stream with the cleanest water I've seen in all of China. There is even a small cave with a statue carved in a niche inside. The cave was pretty neat, the entrance was narrow but the inside was pretty wide although the exit was low hanging and we all had to duck to get out. Lining the way to the temple are a bunch of different little shops. They sell the usual water bottles, tofu on a stick and parasols as well as sandalwood beads with Buddhist sayings carved into them, xiang dai (the fragrant embroidered bags filled with sandalwood,) and incense to burn while praying
. We went into 3 different temples. Unfortunately you are not supposed to take pictures inside so I have no shots of the inside but you can find most of the temples online! Along the walls of all of the temples are different Buddhas in different forms. They have all shapes, colors and sizes of Buddhas, something I think is pretty neat about Buddhism! The main statue in the center always has a gold body and is painted beautifully. Inside the temple people bow to the statues at kneelers with pads while outside they burn incense as an offering and bow to the north, south, east and west separately. The first temple had the jolly fat buddha (he is supposed to help with fertility) and paintings of phoenixes on the ceiling. Even the ceilings are beautifully painted! My favorite statue was in the first temple building we entered. It is a dark skinned buddha with a sword and a long beard making a face just like my friend Mike (马猛）makes. The outsides of the temples are beautiful as well. The windows have ornate carvings of dragons on them and there are dragons all over the roof. Some are painted and others are just stone. The giant incense burners are neat as well. After people pray they put their still burning incense into big stone pots with covers. They all have dragons carved into them and one even has some kind of man/best animal holding up the incense holder. The 3rd building we went into had the main Buddha statue. He is pictured sitting with his thumb and middle finger touching in a semi circle with blue hair
. (I'm never sure why his hair is blue.) This building also had different buddhas along the walls but it also had a bas relief that was phenomenal. It had a bunch of different buddhas and things associated with them carved into one block of stone or wood (I couldn't tell which, I think wood) and painted. It must have taken forever! We also walked through the hall of the Arhats. This hall had hundreds of different arhats (Buddhists who have reached a certain level of enlightenment but are not necessarily buddhas.) The building is built in the shape of a swastika but on its side. It is a symbol used for festivals and buddhas and symbolizes universal harmony and balance. This building is full of gold statues of the different arhats holding things they were associated with. There were hundreds of these statues! In the middle was another shrine to make obeisances at. We were lucky enough to hear some of the monks chanting and see them leaving the temple. On the way out we walked back by the statues carved into the hills. We walked along the creek and even got to put our feet in by a little waterfall. The water felt great! We got a close up view of some of the carved niches and saw schools of carp and even a few red eared turtles! We stopped at one of the stores to see if they had the smelly bags for Julie's mom. When we asked they said yes but we found out they were scented. When we asked they told us they would keep evil spirits away and told us we didn't understand what they were saying. We were a bit indignant as we did, so we told them that we wanted the smelly ones and walked away
! Our next goal for the evening was to find a vegetarian restaurant nearby as Russ is a vegetarian and Buddhist temples usually have good vegetarian food. We ate at a fancy looking restaurant that had pretty good food. My favorite was a mixed veggie dish with broccoli, lotus and peppers and a noodle dish with sliced red peppers and lotus. This restaurant even had a clean bathroom with a real toilet, toilet paper, soap and paper towels! Instead of waiting for the bus Julie bargained with a van taxi and got us home much quicker than the bus! Now we have lots of studying to do for our test tomorrow. Afterwards we are going to the Pizza Hut that opened nearby with the Chinese ladies.
Yesterday was relatively uneventful, we had class and took a great nap. We had our literature class at night, we only have 1 left! It has gotten more interesting, mainly because I understand this professor better than the first. We had street food for dinner and worked on homework. I had my favorite rou jia mo and tried some Chinese street food Chicken fingers. They weren't bad, they put garlic, cilantro and some chili pepper in with the chicken. We even got to watch an episode of The Mask in English (with Chinese subtitles.) Our quiz for tomorrow was cancelled in class and we got out of class early! Julie's daughter and mom surprised her by coming to see her after class and going to lunch with us.