Sunday, May 15, 2005

Shanxi Province - Part VI: Wutai Mountain

The three of us woke up quite early and the weather was spectacular. Wutai Mountain was famous for the large number of Buddhist temples located in a beautiful mountain valley, and we were excited to get started. Me, Angela and Shanmu cleaned up and headed out to find some breakfast. As usual, coffee was the order, but there was no coffee to be found, even the canned variety. I settled for a few hard-boiled eggs and a piece of fried bread with tea while Angela and Shanmu had a kind of Chinese porridge.

After eating, Angela and me left Shanmu who wanted to pray at the temples he visited. We had our own touristic intentions and we all decided to reconvene later in the evening and have dinner together. It was crowded almost everywhere we went and some temples were much more popular than others. When Buddhists pray, they light incense and either hold it or set it somewhere to burn. They believe the smoke reaches heaven. You can see a particularly large pile of ashes here in front of one temple which was especially crowded.

We explored three or four temples before looking for a place to eat lunch. Despite obvious similarities in architecture and intention, I was surprised at how different each temple was from another. Many of the temples could only be reached by climbing many stairs and it was quite tiring, especially under the hot sun. Both Angela and me were also quite sore from climbing a mountain the day before and decided to take it easy in the afternoon. We located a legitimate hotel with a shower in the room, and relocated our things. Shanmu agreed to share the room with us for another night and we all ate dinner together and then went to sleep. Shanmu had visited many more temples than we had, but we were going to stay a few more days while he was leaving the next afternoon and couldn't afford to take his time like us.

It rained and stormed quite violently that night and the temperature had dropped significantly the next day. At least, it wasn't raining when we ventured forth from our room, but it had actually snowed on the mountains! None of us had brought warm clothes and we were desperate for a solution as he wind was icy cold. I noticed that many people were walking around in Chinese military overcoats, which looked quite warm, and we soon found a place where we could rent them, too. We knocked off a number of temples after that and by the end of the day, we had visited around fifteen different temples. Shanmu left at about 5:00PM and Angela and me rested for a few hours before going out for dinner. We had one final night here before leaving on the next day to catch a bus back to Beijing at 4PM.

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