Emeishan, Sichuan: A Sanctuary for the Enlightened

Wannian Temple Courtyard, Emeishan, Sichuan

Wannian Temple Courtyard, Emeishan, Sichuan

Mount Emei (Emeishan; 峨嵋山) is one of the four holy mountains in China. It is named for the two peaks that face each other like a “delicate eyebrow,” an embodiment of traditional Chinese beauty. Initially a Taoist retreat, Mount Emei and the surrounding Sichuan province would become the center of the Chinese sect of Buddhism (Chen School) during 3rd century and mid-6th century A.D. Under Song Emperoror Zhao Kuangyin’s authorization, several Buddhist temples were built by Master Jiye and his followers. There are more than 100 temples nestled within the verdant forests of the mountain. The most famous of these temples is the Golden Summit located at the peak and dedicated to Puxian (Samantabhadra) Bodhisattva. During our two days here, we only visited two of the temples: Wannian Temple and Baoguo Temple.

August 6, 2012

Night Market Noodle Stand in Emeishan, Sichuan

Night Market Noodle Stand in Emeishan, Sichuan

Upon our arrival to Mount Emei, we refreshed ourselves at the hotel before heading to dinner at the open market. An open market is where one can order from any food stalls, pay for each, and the waiter will bring the food and drinks to your table.

We ordered mushroom noodles, beef and bamboo shoots; green vegetables, smoked duck, and sweet rice rolls.

Dinner at the Night Market in Emeishan, Sichuan

Dinner at the Night Market in Emeishan, Sichuan

After dinner, we had a hot Chinese-style milk tea and were casually strolling around the park that contained carved murals depicting Buddhist stories and a Chinese-style monument at the center. Just as we were walking back to the hotel, it began to rain, forcing us to run. We were soaked when we entered the hotel. Continue reading

Leshan, Sichuan: A Grand Sight in the Rain

Scriptures dedicated to Grand Leshan Buddha, Leshan, Sichuan

Scriptures dedicated to Grand Leshan Buddha, Leshan, Sichuan

“As rain falls equally on the just and the unjust, do not burden your heart with judgements but rain your kindness equally on all. ” ― Gautama Buddha

Attraction List:

  • Leshan Grand Buddha

August 6, 2012

Lunch in Leshan, Sichuan

Lunch in Leshan, Sichuan

View of Leshan Grand Buddha from the river cruise, Leshan, Sichuan

View of Leshan Grand Buddha from the river cruise, Leshan, Sichuan

A 2-hour drive through heavy traffic and rain brought us to the city of Leshan (乐山, meaning “Happy Mountain”)—modernized town with skyscrapers and buildings that is less than 71 meters out of respect for the Buddha. We had a warm local lunch of chili beef with peppers, potato slices, fried pancakes, deep-fried fish in sweet sauce, algae soup, and ham and chicken in gravy sauce. The meal was quite refreshing, especially during the humid rain. Continue reading

Chengdu, Sichuan: Capital of the Heavenly State

Bronze animal sculpture from the ancient Shu culture at the Sanxingdui Relic Museum, Chengdu, Sichuan

Bronze animal sculpture from the ancient Shu culture at the Sanxingdui Relic Museum, Chengdu, Sichuan

Chengdu (成都) is the capital of Sichuan province (四川省). It is the 11th largest city in China. Known as the “Heavenly State” (Tian Fu Zhi Guo), Sichuan is richly endowed with natural resources and Chengdu is an example of high production. In ancient times, the Shu culture proliferated here and the city was well-known for its Shu embroideries and brocades. The city was also the beginning of the Southern Silk Road and origin of Chinese bronze culture.

Attraction List:

  • Sanxingdui Relic Museum (August 5)
  • Chengdu Panda Research Base (August 6)

August 5, 2012

In the wee hours of an early morning, we were sent on our way to the airport in Beijing with a pre-packaged hotel breakfast of croissants, salami, cold cuts, and a yogurt drink. Despite the well-planned arrangement by our tour group, the flight was delayed by 1 hour but the airline service still served the promised breakfast.

Lunch at the Golden Hawaii in Chengdu

Lunch at the Golden Hawaii in Chengdu

We finally arrived in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, at 11:40 AM and met our lovely tour guide, Cathy, who will guide us during our stay in Sichuan province. We had lunch at the Golden Hawaii, a formerly prestigious restaurant by the décor but now only caters to tour groups. The service was slow but we tried to be accommodating. For our first taste of spicy Sichuan cuisine, we tried fried pork with beansprouts, kungpao chicken, corn nibblets, Chinese long beans with peppers and eggplant. Although spicy (even though we asked for very mild spicy), the sauce used was very flavorful and had a distinct taste of Allspice. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Hangzhou, Zhejiang

Visited June 19-20, 2010.

Six Harmonies Pagoda garden

Six Harmonies Pagoda garden

Attractions Checklist:

  • Six Harmonies Pagoda (June 19)
  • Tea Museum at Meijiawu Village (June 19)
  • West Lake (June 20)
  • Lingyin (Heart of the Soul’s Retreat) Temple (June 20)
  • Romance of Song Dynasty Show (June 20)

Our visit to Hangzhou was delayed, because our ride was not at the airport when we arrived in Shanghai from Huangshan; as a result, we hurriedly called a taxi to go to our hotel in Shanghai at 1 AM and emailed our tour organizer of the incident. The following morning a guide and driver picked us up and took us to the Hongqiao train station, where we took the train to Hangzhou. The train ride from Shanghai to Hangzhou is approximately 45 minutes to one hour. The cost is ¥64 (~ $10 USD) for a one-way trip. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Suzhou, Jiangsu

Visited June 13 2010.

Looking Out at the Humble Administrator's Garden

Looking Out at the Humble Administrator’s Garden

Attractions Checklist:

  • The Humble Administrator’s Garden
  • Suzhou Museum
  • Tiger Hill

During our visit to China we had the opportunity of taking a day trip to Suzhou from Shanghai. The China Railway High-Speed (CRH) system is very convenient—the overall trip took approximately 1 hour for an 80-km distance and cost 31 Yuan ($5.20 in American dollars) one-way. From the train station, we entered Suzhou by bus and witnessed the unfolding scene of a city upon the water. The city is divided north to south by the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal and covered by ponds and lakes.

Suzhou is located within the wealthy Jiangsu province—a region located south of the Yangtze River. Throughout history, this region was the hub of commercial development ranging from crop cultivation to silk embroidery production. Today, Suzhou is a major port for electronics. As a result of the commercial growth, literati families had more opportunities to become educated in the arts and literature. The fruits of their knowledge survive today not only in the forms of published literature but in majestic gardens built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). These gardens were considered a form of art: the dual effect of Chinese painting and poetry. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Xi’an, Shaanxi

Visited June 21-22, 2010.

Terracotta Warriors from Qin Shi Huang's Tomb

Terracotta Warriors from Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb

Attractions Checklist:

  • Big Wild Goose Pagoda (June 21)
  • Ancient City Wall (June 21)
  • Tang Dynasty show (June 21)
  • Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors – Horses Museum (June 22)
  • Grand Mosque (June 22)
Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang's Tomb

Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb

Of the four ancient capitals of China, Xi’an, formerly known as Chang’an, is the oldest. The Qin dynasty (221 B.C.E.-206 B.C.E.) was founded within the Shaanxi province, the region that includes Xi’an. After unifying the empire, the First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, (259 BC-210 BC) sent thousands of laborers to work on his tomb in 231 B.C.E. Discovered in 1974 by the farmers east of Xi’an, the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi is now a well-known world attraction famous for its life-size army of terra cotta warriors and horses.

Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors-Horses Museum

Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Warriors-Horses Museum

Today, a museum is built around the discovery sites and preservation work is still ongoing. However, one may ask the question: why did Qin Shi Huangdi want replica soldiers buried with him? One answer is that Chinese burial practices involved burying representations of real objects. A terra cotta soldier is just as good as the real one. Another answer concerns the emperor’s fears of assassination and desire for immortality. In either case, the fact that these burial replicas have been well-preserved since the Qin is remarkable. Continue reading

TRAVEL: Huangshan, Anhui (Part I)

Visited June 16-18, 2010. Go to Part II: June 18.

Misty River in Huangshan

Misty River in Huangshan

Attractions Checklist:

  • Tunxi (Old Town) Ancient Road (June 16)
  • Chorus of the Anhui show (June 16)
  • Huangshan Mountain hike (June 17)

Huangshan (meaning Yellow Mountain) is one of the many must-see sights in China. Its landscape is the most famous for its unique rocky formations. In fact, the landscapes of the Hallelujah Mountains in James Cameron’s blockbuster hit, Avatar, were said to be inspired by the mountainous scenery of Huangshan, Anhui province and Zhangjiajie, Hunan province (via Avatar Movie Blog). Traditionally, the literati regarded rocks and mountains as containing spiritual properties (i.e. balance of the universe), representing famous peaks, and representing the grandeur of nature (via The Art of Asia).

Continue reading