An afternoon in the temples

Today we had a free weekend day as the museum is closed on Sundays.  We decided to further explore West Lake, since not all of us took part in our first excursion to that scenic place.  Our day at West Lake started with a diversion through Green Forest Cave, a series of sculpted limestone hills and passageways carpeted with greenery.  If you look up, you might encounter one of the many carvings of Buddhist religious figures, some of which have been reclining into their stony surroundings since 951 AD.  Beyond Green Forest Cave lies Lingyin Temple, a massive Buddhist temple. It was first built in 328 AD, but has since been destroyed and rebuilt 16 times because of periodic war and disaster.  Three main levels of solemn grandeur were visited by our little band, all of whom took care to follow the custom of entering temple buildings left foot-first.  On all levels we encountered many of the faithful kneeling and burning incense or leaving food or money in offering.  The display of faith that most moved me was on the second level, where monks’ voices and drums resonated throughout a building dominated by a 20 meter tall statue of Buddha carved out of camphor wood and painted a deep gold.  The air around me hummed with a palpable reverence.  Though I did not understand any of the details of the ceremony, or the stories and meaning behind most of the carvings I saw today, they certainly earned my respect and awe.  One piece of signage in front of a little garden we saw on our way out may or may not have been intended to leave us with something to ponder:  “The flowers and trees in this garden are sacrifices to Buddha.  Your piety to Buddha shows more than burning incense sticks.”  In stark contrast, a great deal of levity greeted us that evening on one of Hangzhou’s old market streets when Chantell was scooped up and tossed into the air by a group of clown-like performers on stilts leading a parade, which seemed to be a particularly garish form of advertisement.  In its mix of ancient religion and modern commerce, serene gardens and bustling markets, China’s paradoxes are on full display in an identity that is somehow resolved as uniquely Chinese. – Danny Barta

Buddah carvings come in many shapes and sizes.

Buddha carvings in the limestone of the Green Forest Cave.

A view of the Lingyin Temple, from the top of a small mountain.

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One Response to An afternoon in the temples

  1. Llane and Sharon says:

    Very descriptive! Thanks for sharing!

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