Tuesday, April 15, 2008
One of the highlights of the weekend trip was our first stop after our giant lunch, to the Tianzhe Temple.
Our guide claimed the Buddhist temple was over 1,700 years old, older than Beijing, which is about 900 years old.
However, the grounds looked like it had gone through a few renovations over the centuries and the odd new paint job here and there.
We were given small guidebooks which were sadly in Chinese, but basically talked about the history of the place and the various buildings on the property.
It's a huge temple and took us almost two hours to go through. There are many giant trees, huge cypresses and gorgeous magnolias, both of which are about 700 or 800 years old.
Many emperors visited the temple and it was their little retreat. They played a drinking game using an interesting maze that if you look at it from one side appears to be a tiger, and directly opposite it looks like a dragon. You have to use a bit of imagination to see the two creatures.
There were also various rooms housing a number of Buddha statues, his disciples, and guards.
We were even shown the kitchen where the monks boiled a giant vat of rice porridge for their main meal of the day and for the destitute villagers. Nothing is left except for a giant hole where the vat would have been. The guide claims it was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
Incense was burned everywhere, people not even bothering to take the sticks out the package and instead burning them in a clump. I thought this was a bit strange, as I was taught to separate them and put them in groups of three.
Or if incense wasn't your thing, you could buy gaudy candles shaped like lotus flowers in a bright pink and burn those.
For people looking for a bit of luck, for a small fee they could write their names on a strip of red ribbon and tie it to a tree or on the fence, which was covered in ribbons.
There was also a persimmon tree and a cypress growing together and it looked like they were hugging each other. We were told to rub each trunk for bai(3) shi(4) ru(2) yi(4), or for our wishes to come true for 100 years.
The best part of the temple was the beautiful scenery and the magnolia trees in full bloom. The air was so fresh, the sky deep blue, it was pretty neat to think this area was part of Beijing.