afraid of heights

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There is an aeroplane on a square in a public park in Yongji:

back of the airplane

Obviously, this is a nice place to play with friends when you’re about 10 years old:

dead airplane

I’m 26, so I didn’t play.

Instead I was going to climb yet another pagoda, one that seemed to be leaning slightly to the right:

Wangu Temple

The afternoon air was mild, not cold, and people were hanging out in front of their doors:

festive door

Others were taking walks:

bonhomme

So was I, just taking a walk, aiming at the pagoda I could see in the distance, working my way up through tiny villages where people would say: “Hello!” and then smile, and sometimes laugh.

I passed through my first bamboo grove on this trip:

bamboo

And then there was the pagoda – it’s called Wangu Temple 万固寺:

pagoda

I ran into a group of young people at the foot of the pagoda, and we decided to climb up together.

Now I wasn’t expecting much from my previous experiences with pagoda-climbing (history lessons, oversized intruder), but then we arrived at the top:

top of the pagoda

Amazing.

I was so scared though…

on top of Wangu Temple

It was like school again – all the other kids were much cooler than me:

girl in Wangu Temple

I asked the monk downstairs if anybody had ever fallen down from there.

He answered: “Of course not, this pagoda is protected by Buddha.” and smiled.

Well, some parts of this place don’t seem to be protected that well though:

monk with dragon

This masterpiece is slowly withering away:

dragon

Scientists have tried to conserve it by shielding it off behind glass, but that only led to mold – and thus made things even worse.

Besides all this, there was a building without beams:

beamless roof

Whatever that means: “without beams” – I didn’t understand the architectonic concept behind it.

But it was nice anyways.

On the rest of the way, I noticed some people were desperately trying to clean up the massive remainders of the Spring Festival fireworks:

dead firecrackers

An orgy of pyromaniacs it must have been.

Later that night when I got into bed and closed my eyes, I got a feeling of panic and realized that actually, today on top of that pagoda, I had been even more afraid than I thought.

I think I’m afraid of heights.



  • Daniel

    Hey Chris,

    I’m wasting work hours browsing through your old blog entries (and having a good time).

    I can’t resist commenting on the “beamless building” – this is something quite extraordinary in traditional chinese architecture, because most structures would be build with or around strong supporting beams, i.e. thick wooden rods.

    The one on your picture, however, is made only from bricks, and that used to be something very special. See also the Beamless Hall in the Summer Palace in Beijing.

    Greetings from Oslo,
    Daniel

    Reply

  • Rohmer

    Hi Chris – I’m interested in the Wangu temple beamless hall, too. Daniel from Oslo is right, these halls are really rare, there are only 12 known in the whole of China. Probably the most famous is at Xiantong temple on Mount Wutai, and it was designed by the same architect, the monk Miaofeng (1540-1613). Chris’s photo is the only one I know showing the beam less hall of Wangu temple.

    Cheers to you both,

    Rohmer from Sydney.

    Reply

  • Wei

    To piggyback on Daniel’s and Rohmer’s comments… I found bucket arch structure (斗拱-dougong-结构) is a fascinating structure in architecture. Even as a Chinese myself, having seen lots of modern replicas of dougong structures domestic and overseas, I still get mesmerised every time when coming across one. They are beautiful inside out. The photo you took of 飞云楼 in a previous post (29 Jan, 2008, if I remember correctly) from the inside showed a really amazing perspective of the structure.

    I studied a bit of architecture back at uni. Dougong is a typical and critical structure in ancient Chinese buildings. Its flexibility allows a building to be built to a large size in all dimensions. Particularly back in those days without heavy lifting machineries, Chinese people could build tall pagodas without filling the inside with dirt like how dome structures were built in Europe. Dougong structures also allow big heavy roofs to be held on thin columns since in ancient Chinese buildings, most walls are not load-bearing walls….

    Anyway, both this picture and the previous one shot from the inside of the buildings were excellent photographs that really manifests the true beauty of the structure. I do wish to get my hands on one of the prints if available. Let me know.

    Great stuff, Chris. 谢谢

    Reply

  • Wei

    Sorry don’t know how to delete my previous comment.

    Reply

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