Visit to the Holy Buddhist Mountain of Wutai
17.03.2011 - 18.03.2011 29 °F
Our rented van came by the hotel this morning at around 0800, so we packed up and headed out to the Mount Wutai area. The weather was cool, almost cold with a few clouds in the sky. The trip took about three hours total which brought us to the normal entrance one expects to see at such a mountain site. Since we had made a packaged deal with the tour agency who provided us with the van, the driver had to make all the arrangements with the state-run cultural area.
Some very Tibetan-looking touts came up to sell us some maps. Of course, I had to buy one, against the wishes of Sunee.
About forty minutes up the mountain we are dropped off at our hotel. The hotel was just OK but later we would find that it had little or no heat and the temperature was going to get really cold at night.
Since it was around noon when we checked into our hotel rooms, we went ahead and had lunch at the hotel restaurant. Not too expensive and not too good but enough to get by.
There is always a system of transportation on all of these famous mountains from Emei to Huang. Usually the entrance ticket will get one a free ride on buses going up and down the mountain. Wutai was no different. We walked out to the front of our hotel and caught the first bus headed up the mountain. We traveled on it all the way to as far as it was going and then worked our way down. Actually we did not have that much time so we only visited three temples.
The temple where the bus stopped was very small and obviously very old. It was active as I saw several monks strolling around or studying in the courtyards.
The wood on the entrance was well-worn but still in good shape. We spent about half an hour in this small temple and the pictures taking opportunities were excellent as you can see from the following samples.
When we came out of this temple I saw this older gentlemen sitting on the steps in a position of prayer or meditation. Very authentic!
We also saw this group of nuns waiting for the bus. One came in about ten minutes and we all climbed aboard headed to the big temple we had seen coming up the road.
On the way down, I snapped this picture of a temple on the left. It appeared to be a temple where the monks were interned after their passing. Reminded me of what we had seen at Shao Lin Temple in Hunan Province and the little temple near Fuhu Temple on Mount Emei.
The Tayuan Temple on Mount Wutai with its Great White Dagoba is supposed to be one of the most important. We spent a couple of hours visiting it and, of course, I took a lot of pictures.
As is evident of the snow, the temperature was right at freezing and with the wind it was downright cold.
When one has to, one has to. One of the worst "has to" places I have had the misfortune of visiting outside the silk road to Western China. Talk about rustic!
One of the most interesting areas of the temple was the prayer wheels that wen all around the base of one of the buildings. I saw several monks and nuns walking around this base and spinning the wheels.
And the spinning continues, continues, continues. . .
This is one of my favorite pictures of the trip. It was taken from the side of Tayuan temple looking out toward the mountains in the distance. Beautiful!
This is the tour guide who eventually helped us get a van the next day for our continuation trip to Datong. She looked to be very Tibetan but was very nice.
One final picture of the temple (HDR with multiple exposure modes). The sky was especially beautiful this day.
Getting back to the hotel was a breeze as we only had to wait a few minutes to catch it. The tour guide made the appropriate phone calls and we had a van to our next destination scheduled at around 1000 the next morning. That night, however, was the coldest I have been since we lived in Alaska in the early 1980s. It was cold!
The next morning we got up really early. Sunee had made arrangements for us to take a couple of taxis up to the Guan Yin Temple about half an hour or so away. She wanted to visit this temple specifically because she had been watching a lot of Chinese movies with this temple as the backdrop. The wind was gusting and the air was very cold when we got into the taxi and went to visit the temple.
Arriving to the temple found it locked up tight. It took a good fifteen or twenty minutes to roust the monks up to open the doors for us. They were friendly but professional as we entered the temple.
I was able to take several pictures outside before we got a monk to open the doors. He was neither unhappy nor happy to see us.
Inside we found Guan Yin as expected but also a beautiful temple.
The temple had at least two courtyards and it was obvious that this temple was very old but well maintained.
Back inside out of the wind (but not the cold) I took several more pictures of the images. We were in a hurry so we got our taxis back down to our hotel where our van to Datong awaited us. Sunee negotiated a shopping stop on the way out of the area, so I had a few more minutes to find some things to photograph.
This temple was across the street from where Sunee and family were shopping. It was about half way up the mountain and very nice.
In front of the store where Sunee was shopping, I saw a bunch of Tibetan women hanging around waiting for something. This was the best I could do from inside the van without bringing any attention to myself. It was just too cold to get out of the car and take pictures!
We left Mount Wutai about 1100 and it took a little over two hours to get to our negotiated next site - The Wood Pagoda.
Bye bye Mount Wutai!
Hello, Yingxian and the wooden pagoda or Shuozhou Pagoda. Sunee and I stopped here on our Courtyard Trip the year before and I loved it.
This pagoda is about 45 miles from our next destination of Datong so we could spend a couple of hours here and have lunch as well. The pagoda is the oldest and highest wooden structure in China. According to the TravelChinaGuide internet site (http://www.travelchinaguide.com)it is regarded as the 'First Pagoda in the World." It was built around 1056 and is
Built during the Liao Dynasty (about 1056), this wooden pagoda has about 900 years of history. It has a height of about 220 feet tall with around 100 foot diameter long. "The Pagoda appears as a five-storey structure, but in fact it has a total of nine stories with four hidden inside." Unfortunately ne can only go up to the second floor. This time all the windows were closed to keep out the wind so there was very little to see. I got some great shots the last time from this second floor. The wood in the structure is in fairly good shape with a lot of wear and tear in some areas. I have always wondered how this structure survived the Cultural Revolution when so many of these old temple buildings were burned to the ground.
As you can see, I still took lots of pictures. The pagoda grounds had been cleaned up and the whole area looked as if it had been revamped for the tourist trade. We actually had visited this place two years previously. A lot of positive changes had been made over the course of those two years. BRAVO!
It took another two hours to get to Datong and find us a hotel. The hotel we found was inexpensive and fairly nice. We did, however, have a hard time finding a place to eat as we were located fairly far from downtown Datong. I was amazed at how friendly the people were who walked by us. Everyone we saw seemed to greet us with a smile. This was not what I had expected from reading the guide sites on the internet. I had a good feeling about this town. Too bad we would only get to stay here overnight.