mountain temples

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My health is getting better to an extent where I can’t stay in bed doing nothing anymore.

Time to move.

I started walking south on the highway this morning, aiming at Xinzhi in a comfortable distance of about 12km.

When I saw a temple on the mountainside I decided to go up there and check it out:

Master Yan in front of his temple

This is Wusheng Temple 五圣庙, a Taoist site from Ming-dynasty – and old handsome’s name is Master Yan 闫道长.

He’s the head-Taoist in the region and a very nice and charming fellah.

Master Yan

Usually when I have tried to shoot Taoist monks I’ve always had the feeling that they didn’t like being photographed.

Master Yan was really cool about it, though.

He even opened up the doors to all the different halls and let me put up my tripod to shoot:

daoist temple in Shanxi

I felt it was very touching when he gave me a small copy of the Daodejing 道德经, the classical work of Taoism. And tea leaves. And little buttons with the ying and yang 太极图 on them.

He even tried to explain the fundamental thoughts in Taoism to me, but I gotta admit I didn’t quite understand all that much (hopefully a careful study of the Daodejing will help) – but we had a lot of fun anyways, and I promised to come back once I had a wife and some kids!

Then, after another few cups of tea, I had to get back on my way eventually:

countryside near Huozhou

I walked through the mountains:

mountains in Shanxi

It’s much better up here than down on the highway. Better air.

And more temples:

Buddhist temple in Shanxi

This is Wenshu Temple 文殊庙, a Buddhist structure originally from the Song-dynasty.

This place’s boss:

Master Li introduced me to his Buddhist temple

Master Li 李方仗. Very nice guy as well. Unfortunately it was already about to get dark when I got there, so I didn’t have that much time to stay.

We looked around, took some pictures and talked about the 1000 arms and 1000 eyes of the Goddess of Mercy 观音.

Buddhist statues sometimes don’t like to have their pictures taken that much, so I refrained and just shot in the courtyard:

within Master Li's temple

Then, after another twenty minutes of happy countryside walking, I was down on the sinister highway again.

And there it was, another beautiful MML:

limousine in Shanxi

Sometimes the depressing blackness can make for a nice composition:

color

I found an interesting cable-car that hauls black stuff to a coal factory – and other black stuff back up the mountain:

Xinzhi

There’s a hotel under that cable-car. Not a bad place, but their rates just didn’t sound too reasonable.

I tried to haggle with them. They wouldn’t have it.

“Ha,” I told them, “I’m just going to go to one of the other hotels outside!”

“Okay, you do that! We’re the only one around.” they replied and smiled.

Now who was I to believe that?

I looked. And I looked.

Damn. No other hotels.

Go back and embarrass myself?

I kind of just stood around unsure what to do, when a kind soul appeared, listened to my problem and asked her grandparents to give me place to stay for the night:

traditional cave dwelling in Shanxi

A house dug into the mountainside, nice and cozy. Two lovely grandparents and two grandchildren, a little dog and a foreigner.

The kids are staying in a room with Grandma.

Me and Grandpa are getting ready to share a bed in the other room.

The dog is staying outside.

Good night.



  • alex NY

    道德經 is a classic piece that was written by 老子 (Lao Zhi) himself couple thousand yeards ago. it has a huge influance on chinese philosophy. the copy that the Taoist master gave you might have more stuff and knowledge than the normal ones that you can find in a book store since they've been study that for many many years. very valuable gift.

    next time when you come across a taoism tample, see if you can ask for a 易經 (Yi-Jing). i'm not sure if they still study that in the mainland, but our taoists in Taiwan study that like hell. that is one of the most important book ever wrote in the history of China. it is the father of almost all chinese philosophy. a lot of ppl say, if 老子 didn't read that book, he wouldn't become who he is today.

    Reply

  • John

    hey christoph, I love the story today. and great pics as always … i always want to see more. and what a great place to stay too. maybe this will be something you can do more of – staying with friends that you meet along the way? it could enrich an already rewarding experience (if you can still go online and make your posts!)!

    Reply

  • Uli

    hi christoph, deine bilder sind phantastisch! ich würde gern wissen, mit welchem equipment du diese eindrücke festhälst. natürlich ist die erste und entscheidende fähigkeit die, mit den eigenen augen diese impressionen zu erkennen. du hast einen bewundernswerten blick. toll – give us more!
    schön, daß es dir besser geht.

    Reply

  • Marvin

    Sounds like very nice people. Just don't sing in their shower. Or if you do, try an Elvis or Beatles tune.

    Reply

  • Christoph

    alex NY: Hey big guy, thanks for the info, I'll make sure to check it out! The thing is I can't understand the classical verse pattern in these texts. If you read something like the 道德经, you can probably make out the meaning, right?
    John: You're definitely right, staying with real people can be much more rewarding than staying in a hotel. The problem is though: I'm always a bit reluctant to accept and offer like this – or ask for it. Most people over here would go all out of their way to be good hosts, and they would never accept any money.
    Uli: Hey, ich habe ein Weitwinkel und ein Tele an digitalen Spiegelreflexkameras. Tagsüber Polfilter. Die meisten Bilder sind vom WW. Bis bald in BN!
    Marvin: There was no shower to sing in, so I guess they got away this time!

    Reply

  • froggyfrog

    lucky man!

    Reply

  • Austin

    Here's my tip on dealing with classics like the Daodejing…

    The texts don't really make sense to Chinese people either. It's kinda like James Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" in that they were intentionally written to confuse people.

    It's important to understand the meaning of each word very deeply, so footnotes or a good Chinese dictionary are indispensable. But beyond that, using your own logic and thinking hard about the relationships between the words is actually enough. Whatever you find in the text is your own unique and legitimate.

    But the real interesting stuff comes with the secret manuscripts on "nei dan" or "inner alchemy." There were some of the first esoteric texts of Religious Taoism found in Dunhuang's "hidden library" by Marc Aurel Stein, so maybe you should look around Dunhuang!

    Reply

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