23 February 2012

Xiamen City, Orientation Week (2)

(continued from the preceding blog entry)
On a somewhat clear day, you can see the hills that dot the Xiamen skyline. All, it seems, have a monastery atop them:

Tianzhuyan Temple

I walked to this monastery a few miles from the hotel. At the entrance and attractive temples I found locals also out for a pleasant weekend stroll:

 Some also offer prayers at the various shrines, some benevolent looking and some quite fierce:

The bonsai dotting the courtyard walls were lovely, though surprisingly the crowds stuck to the temples and largely ignored the landscaping:

I was more interested in the "backcountry"-- trails leading from behind the temples and monks housing quarters to the hilltop. The monks went about their work and prayers, doing their best to ignore the Laowai intruder:

Many happy well-fed cats (that's probably redundant?) hung out near the monks' quarters, including CatBuddha:

And CatPeekaboo:

An entrance to the many paths of the Buddha began as a smooth, wide, well-developed walkway:

And soon narrowed to several forking paths:

Some leading through low, dark spaces:

And grottos full of little shrine figures:

Everywhere there were reminders of harmony with nature and the propensity for time to wear away all things:

This looked very much like a body bag, cached away off an obscure side trail in among some rocks. I did not investigate further:

Gulang Yu

Gulang Yu is "Walking Island," a smaller nearby island where cars were traditionally banned. Even today, only small electric tourist wagons operate. White dolphins are the totem animal, deriving from a legend that they once saved a child from drowning. The dolphins are now practically extinct though there are efforts to save them:

Gulang Yu was long controlled by colonial powers including Japan, England, and Germany. [Given the history of colonial efforts to subjugate China over the past 200 years, China's defensive posture in foreign policy is understandable!] This foreign occupation led to a strange mix of architecture, from very European (classical):

To European-Asian hybrid forms:

I'll suspend judgment about the Japanese compound and say that they did create a lovely Zen garden and walkway. Embedded in the walkway are contemplative geometric forms:

As a centerpiece, the garden has a naturally-sculpted limestone "dragon:"

Despite the ever-present new construction and sense of change, much of Chinese tradition remains, as I was reminded by this fishing boat we passed on our short trip back to the main island:


troutbirder said...

Interesting indeed. I hope you have lots of opportunities to go out and about.....

Janie said...

The temples and gardens are lovely, but I'm not surprised that you were most attracted to the "backcountry."