Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Chengdu, part 2 + Leshan Buddha

Green Ram Daoist Temple in Chengdu.
1 of 2 Green Ram statues at the Green Ram Temple.
Dharma Initiative.
Sums up most Chinese cities. Ancient sites surrounded by rapid growth.

After a frenetic Sunday at Chengdu's main shopping district (where I foolishly tried to buy pants in a country where even H&M maxes out at size 4) alongside a million other shoppers, we were seeking serenity. We found it at the aptly named Culture park, across the road from Chengdu's provincial hospital, and the university of traditional chinese medicine. Unlike people's park, here the line dancers' music was soothing, their moves graceful. We wandered the paths, then visited the Qing Yang (or Green Ram) Daoist Temple. There were subtle differences compared to the Buddhist temples we have seen. Most remarkable was the general sense of calm. The monks and nuns seemed joyful and the tourists more reverent. Even though it was in the middle of the city there were quiet corners surrounded by nature.

A poetic notice in the bathrooms at the Leshan giant Buddha.
Bree and Buddha.
The cliff walk down to the feet of the Buddha.
The statue's fingernails were larger than Bree's head.

Matt poses in front of the giant Buddha.
We got a bus out to Leshan to see the Giant Buddha Statue. The bus turned out to be a minivan with only 4 other passengers, and we sat in the back seat. As we got outside of Chengdu we noticed the squeaking sound of styrofoam coming from behind us. At first we didn't think anything of it. The sound continued, and started getting more deliberate. We realized that in the space between our seat and the back door was a large styrofoam container with something trying to escape from inside. Though the top was securely taped, the creature within sounded like it was making some headway at clawing, pecking, biting or scraping its way out. The sound continued as we took turns guessing at what animal was contained inside, and was most likely going to be someone's dinner.  Since the Chinese are, shall we say, more adventurous eaters, it could have been anything. Even our local Ren Ren Le grocery store has live frogs, turtles, eels and goldfish, and a cabinet of dried seahorses and some animal's penis. We were rooting for the little guy, while hoping it wasn't something that would jump out and bite the nearest enemy (us). So, what doesn't squeak or whimper or cluck or quack, but can take a good chunk out of styrofoam and push a taped down lid so it creaks? What a great new road trip game!

We got to Leshan, and even though we were ticketed through to the Giant Buddha (and had paid 7Rmb extra. The driver dropped us at a bus station. I pointed to the ticket that clearly stated our destination (in characters) and he uninterestedly waved at the taxis and buses around us. I have noticed a pattern. If there are not enough people, or those people can't complain effectively enough, the buses just might not make it to the final destination.

The Giant Buddha looks out on what was once treacherous water, at the confluence of the Minjiang, Dadu and Qingyi rivers. A monk named Haitong started the construction in 713, hoping that Buddha would calm the waters. Construction was completed in 803 (70 years after Haitong's death) and the river was indeed calmed and provided safe passage for shipping vessels. Pragmatists might argue that it was not Buddha, but all the rocks tossed into the river during the carving of Buddha that altered currents. To each his own I say.

- Matt & Bree