Noilly Prattle: China – Winter 2016 (Chongsheng Temple)

Monday, April 18, 2016

China – Winter 2016 (Chongsheng Temple)

a passenger tuk-tuk
     After about a week in Dali, still not too familiar with public transportation and unable to speak Chinese, we hired a private driver to take us to Chongsheng Temple some 3 kilometers from Dali Old Town. At the same time we also decided to get back to Dali on our own by taking a tuk-tuk (a three wheeled vehicle so called by the sound it makes when under way—tut-tuk-tuk-tuk). 

the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple
       We met our driver on the corner of Fuxing and Yu'er Roads and he dropped us off at the ticket entrance to the temple and introduced us to an English-speaking young woman who showed us through the ticket buying and entrance procedure and where to begin exploring the huge site. We could have taken a small tour bus, but opted to walk instead. The young woman told us it would take about four hours on foot and that it was all paved uphill slopes and steps. Nevertheless, we decided to give it a try. It did take, just as she said, about four hours.

the center and largest pagoda
The Leaning Tower of Chongsheng?
        The most characteristic aspect of Chongsheng Temple is three original 8th Century pagodas made of brick that have been standing for some 1200 years. The center multi-leveled pagoda is square and dominates the other two in both size and height. The other smaller pagodas are octagonal and shorter and seem to lean a bit, reminiscent of the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy. In the afternoon sun the towers are beautifully reflected in a small pond obviously placed there for that purpose.

entrance to the temple precinct
the portal of Chongsheng Temple
        The temple is an enormous complex (5.68 dramatically backdropped by the Cangshan range with a variety of temple buildings dedicated to this and that Buddhist deity. It is said to be the "largest Han Buddhism temple in China". One obvious thing stands out, all the buildings look rather new and have beautiful shiny orange tile roofs. There are some very imposing buildings size-wise and ornamentation-wise. Pictures can tell the story better than words in this case. We soldiered on up tier after tier until we finally reached the topmost temple with a 12-meter (39-foot) high statue of the goddess Guanyin [観音]that I mentioned in the previous post. The view from the temple veranda of the distant Erhai Lake and the valley sloping down to it is marvelous.

Hall of Mahavira
Mahavira Buddha
DaHei - three faces, multiple arms

incense sticks in front of Mahavira Hall
biggest prayer wheel I ever saw

if you're going to Chongsheng Temple -
be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

wouldn't want to meet this guy
in a dark alley

the pond of nine dragons bathing Buddha

12-meter statue of Guanjin
a.k.a. Ecuoye Avalokitesvara

Ecuoye Avalokitesvara Pavillion

breathtaking view from the Ecuoye Avalokitesvara Pavillion
        Most of the complex, with the exception of the three pagodas, was deliberately destroyed during the notorious Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution* from 1966 to 1976, but was rebuilt in the 1990s to its present lustrous appearance. We timed our descent to catch the setting sun on the western face of the three pagodas reflected in their reflecting pool.

        We were pretty dog tired by the time we clambered back down to the parking lot although the descending was much easier than the ascension. When we approached the parking lot there were several tuk-tuks lined up and as we approached the driver of one of them hailed us so we we walked up to him and (like veterans) bargained for his tuk-tuk to take us back to Dali. The driver asked 20¥, I offered 10¥, we settled on 15¥, a little more than $2. We bumped and tuk-tukked along until he dropped us off near West Gate and indicated the way to walk back to the hotel. While holding up traffic we got him to pose with me for a photo op.

        Oh, before I forget again, about the hats. The sun was surprisingly strong in February at Dali's 2000-meter elevation above sea level (over a mile high) and after walking around the first day my face looked like a boiled lobster. So, the hats.

* The effects of the Cultural Revolution directly or indirectly touched essentially all of China's population. During the Cultural Revolution, much economic activity was halted, with "revolution", regardless of interpretation, being the primary objective of the country. Mao Zedong Thought became the central operative guide to all things in China. The authority of the Red Guards surpassed that of the army, local police authorities, and the law in general.

In a few years, countless ancient buildings, artifacts, antiques, books, and paintings were destroyed by Red Guards. The status of traditional Chinese culture and institutions within China was also severely damaged as a result of the Cultural Revolution, and the practice of many traditional customs weakened.

There were however also positive outcomes for some sections of the population, such as those in the rural areas. For example, the radical policies ... provided many in the rural communities with middle school education for the first time, which is thought to have facilitated the rural economic development in the 70s and 80s.[96] Similarly, a large number of health personnel were deployed to the countryside as barefoot doctors during the Cultural Revolution. Some farmers were given informal medical training, and health-care centers were established in rural communities. This process led to a marked improvement in the health and the life expectancy of the general population.[97]

from Wikipedia

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