I woke up this morning because I could hear a military conflict going on outside: gunshots, detonations, laughter…
You might have already guessed it: Someone was throwing a wedding party in the hotel I was staying at. Chinese are the kings of fireworks, no kidding. I got out of bed.
People had been telling me that there was a lot to see in Zhengding. This place apparently used to be one of the most important townships in Northern China for thousands of years. My expectations were up, I was excited.
The first site I came by wasn’t historical at all though:
Journey To The West Palace 西游记宫 is a modern place dedicated to a Chinese Classic: the Journey to the West. This novel is about a monk traveling to India to recover Buddhist scriptures. Among his mates are a pig and a monkey. Or rather, they look like a pig and a monkey.
I went into this “palace” because I thought it was going to be historical, and because I’m also on a journey to the west. I found it uninteresting, not to say boring.
There was a sign outside that I liked though:
Actually, this consists of three signs, two are translated in English, the third one isn’t. Look here, I did the missing translation for you:
(from top to bottom)
“NO ONE PALACE IN THE WORLD”
“MARVOLOUS CITE OF THE JOURNEY TO THE WEST”
“PLEASE DON’T SPIT ON THE FLOOR”
The next site I came along wasn’t as funny, but it sure was historical:
Tianning Temple 天宁寺 is a wooden pagoda that originally dates back to the Tang Dynasty (唐 618-907). It has been restored and renovated several times though, last time in the 1980s, so it has a quite fresh feel to it.
I got a flashlight and squeezed myself into the staircase to make my way up:
The reason I am showing this picture and not one from the top is because the top offered basically nothing to look at. I guess a pagoda isn’t a radio-mast with a platform and a rotating restaurant after all…
Not very far from this place is the biggest historical attraction Zhengding has to offer: Longxing Temple 隆兴寺, a large Buddhist temple that is even older than Tianning Temple, being originally constructed during the Sui dynasty (隋 581-618):
What I found particularly interesting about this temple was the fact that most of the deities looked strangely original to me. Let me explain this: most manifestations of Buddhism in China I have seen so far had been adapted to look Chinese, but not these here. They looked very Indian in a way:
Even more so the main attraction of the temple, the massive statue of the Goddess of Mercy in the main hall:
Two girls standing next to me were trying to count her arms, all the while disrupting each other and starting to count over again. They got to 42 which I guess is right. I was still wondering about the origin of the design.
Maybe I used to know but I forgot? Maybe I should have studied harder? Maybe I should have asked one of these guys:
But then I didn’t.
When I realized that I wouldn’t make it to Shijiazhuang 石家庄 today, I started looking for a hotel in the south part of town, and found one with NO HEATING. You wonder why this always happens to me? Like there are no other hotels in a place full of tourist attractions like this? I really can’t explain, here’s how it happened today:
I go in. A lady shows me the room, which looks okay but not great. I am reluctant.
lady: “How much do you want to pay?”
Chris: “You tell me how much you want!”
Chris: “No, no, no! No shower and you want 50?”
lady: “Well how much would you be willing to pay?”
Chris: “No more than 30!”
lady: “30? No, that’s impossible, 40!!”
Chris: “You don’t even have a heating in here, give me a break!”
lady: “What do you need a heating for? There’s a mantou-bakery downstairs – don’t you feel warm?”
Yeah right, that’s why you’re wrapped in like a ton of clothes and still got your arms crossed in front of you to fight off the cold!
Chris: “No way! I’ll leave now if you don’t make it 30!”
lady: “Oh, come on, 35 and I’ll get you an electric heater!”
Chris: “I don’t need your heater, 30!!”
Three hours later I agree to pay an extra 8 to get the electric heater. I am on my bed with ALL of my clothes on, the heater is humming and looking warm, and I am wondering how this could have happened.
Can you tell me?