Spirituality, Architecture, and the People

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Hunan,
Friday, July 23, 2010

    ~Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.~
Since I saw so many places of worship, interesting architecture and parks during my 2 weeks in China rather than dividing them up by city I will just cover them by name. Just to name a few: Shamian Island, Yellow Cranes Tower, Zhentai Tower, White Cloud Mountain, Liurong Temple, Yuexiu Park, Guangxiao Temple, Mount Yuelu, Hunan Provincial Museum, Guiyuan Temple(one of my favorites), Yangtze River.
    Shamian Island is a sandbank island in the Liwan District of Guangzhou. It's name literally means "sandy surface" in Chinese. The island serves as a tranquil reminder of the colonial European period, with quiet pedestrian avenues flanked by trees and floral displays and lined by historical buildings in various states of upkeep.The history of Shamian Island states that it was important port for Guangzhou's foreign trade during the Qing dynasty as know as the Manchu Dynasty. It was the last ruling dynasty of China from 1644 - 1912. Trading companies from Britain, the United States, France, Holland, Italy, Germany, Portugal, and Japan built stone mansions along the waterfront. A French Catholic church, Our Lady of Lourdes sits on the main road. Bronze statues are scattered around the island which depict life as it was during
earlier periods on the island, as well as from more recent times.One of these depicts the changing appearances and stature of Chinese women, with a woman from colonial times in traditional clothing, a slightly taller woman from the early or mid 20th century wearing a cheongsam(a body hugging one piece Chinese dress), and a relatively tall and slender young Chinese woman wearing shorts and talking on a mobile phone.

*A miscellaneous piece of information I learned while I was visiting this island is that it had become well known for many Western couples to reside there seeking to adopt Chinese babies and young children, most of whom are orphaned and female. Because the
United States consulate was located there which made it convenient to file paperwork and
handle bureaucratic matters.It has recently moved to the other end of the city and in 2007 the Chinese government slowed down the adoption rate. I found this all out from one woman who asked if I was there to adopt a baby. This question had been asked of me in every shop I went into here. So I asked the only English speaking person I located on the island and this was the info she imparted to me.

   Liurong temple(built in 537) has a long history of about 1,400 years, the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees is one of the best Buddhist temples in Guangzhou.  It was given its name by a great Chinese writer Su Dongpo in the Song Dynasty. The story goes that he visited the temple while returning to the north. During the visit, he found six banyan trees there particularly striking. The vitality of the trees put him in a good mood and cheered him up. When the abbot of the temple invited him to suggest a name, Su Dongpo wrote down its present name.
   People like to call it the Flowery Pagoda because the temple's roofs curve upwards and look like dark red flower petals. The tip of the pagoda is like stamens, while the whole construction looks like a huge stigma high in the air. I thought it was quite amazing as it stood there in seemingly an unlikely place.

    Guangxiao Temple is Guangzhou's oldest. Many famous Buddhists have visited the Temple in the past including the Indian founder of Zen Buddhism, Bodhidharma. It is a popular pilgrimage site for Zen Buddhists. Guangxiao Temple, also known as the Bright Filial Piety Temple, is built on the site of one of the oldest Buddhist Temples in China, extending back as far as the 2nd century A.D. I read somewhere while researching my destinations that the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism, Hui Neng, trained at this temple in the 7th Century. I really enjoyed photographing here although I had my memory card fail while here, thank god I am the father of Plan B always carrying a spare with me. The grounds here had so many interesting and somewhat whimsical things to photograph, especially what I referred to as the "baby Buddha's". These "baby Buddha's were everywhere - statues and in framed drawings on tile hanging on the walls. So many things about this place made me smile and I walked around with a constant smile on my face. I am fairly certain that the Chinese also exploring and praying here thought I was "shenjingbing" (Chinese word for crazy).

Yuexiu Park  is the largest urban park in all of of China(212.5 acres). This was a beautiful place to take a walk and although it is a popular spot, the crowds were bearable thanks
to the sheer size of the place.The Park  has numerous amusement and recreational facilities including restaurants, tea houses, a sports stadium and a roller coaster. 
The park was first built in 1952 and consists of numerous lakes, pagodas and pavilions and three major and interesting sites. The first of these is the Sculpture of Five Rams. Legend has it that Guangzhou was a dry and barren land where farmers could not grow anything and five celestial beings flew into the city on five rams bearing gifts for Guangzhou to make it a rich and prosperous place. I only have a photo of the model in the museum because I couldn't find it. I think I walked by the path a few times in my search to find it.
Another one of the three sites is the Zhenhai Tower (91.9feet high and  52.5 feet wide) also referred to as the Five-Story Tower and it houses a museum with relics and documents showing Guangzhou's history over 2, 000 years. I  climbed up the tower for a great view over the city.  The third site is of the Ming Dynasty City Wall and Square Cannons.

All this talk has gotten me sweaty maybe a short stop at the Yangtze River is in order at this time. I had the opportunity to see and dip my toes into the very high due to upriver flooding, Yangtze River. So now I have touched three of the top five longest rivers in the world -in order of occurrence, at number 4 the Mississippi (3,870 miles), number 1 the Nile(4,135 miles) and now the 3rd longest, the Yangtze (3,917 miles). The water looked very murky but it didn't stop people from swimming in it. Most people were like myself just people watching and for them talking to family.
The word Yangtze translates into 'long river' in Chinese. One of the dams on the river, The Three Gorges Dam, is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. And now for my favorite thing 'Miscellaneous info' - it's hard to believe that 3rd longest river in the world could have this happen to it but it's all true or so I'm told by my expert source, a Canadian/Chinese guy sitting in a bar in a seat near me  -  in 1342 the Yangtze River in Jiangsu Province was reported to have run dry. Water completely disappeared for a day and the riverbed became visible. This event occurred again in 1954. Now you know the facts and you can befuddle your friends with all this useless info.

This entry is getting a bit long so I will stop here and pick up the other places I visited in the next entry.

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rosemeyer on

Don't you think it's significant that the river dried up the year you were born??

Teresa B on

Looks like you had yet another wonderful trip. :)

Anne S. on

Great pics Mark... I enjoy hearing about these interesting experiences, and continue to be very happy for you on this journey.

: )

the great foley on

As a meditative practice when I read your entries, Marky Mark. Good stuff! I loved the golden Buddhas, and in particular, I loved the statue of the child Buddha's face. Very sweet. Bro, this is wonderful stuff indeed.

kwai_chang on

"So many things about this place made me smile and I walked around with a constant smile on my face. I am fairly certain that the Chinese also exploring and praying here thought I was "shenjingbing" (Chinese word for crazy)."....Yes, the Chinese people are very smart and quick studies. It took them only moments to discern what it took me years to finally realize. Oh, and the next time someone asks if you are there to adopt a baby, just say "No, I'm just here for the baby cookies."

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