Pilgrim's Tale V

This is a continuation of my account of my pilgrimage. For Part IV please click here.

After staying in Nepal for a few weeks I departed for China. It was a short flight past the Himalayas to Hong Kong. The Himalayas are quite tall even when seen from the plane.

I spent a few days in Hong Kong again to get my visa to enter mainland China. I had coffee with Venerable Huifeng again, wandered around for awhile and then repacked my bag for Guangzhou. Guangzhou is only a few hours north of Hong Kong by train. It is a clean and well organized city with a rather long history of commerce and trade, but unfortunately few ancient things remain.

Fortunately I know a local named Jennifer who was happy to take me to a few of the notable temples in the city. The first was Guangxiao Temple 光孝寺. Chan Patriarch Huineng 慧能 is said to have trained here in the 7th century CE.

The main shrine houses an exquisite statue:

The grounds are tidy with plenty of greenery and curious items to inspect.

Inside the art gallery of the temple one finds this stone tablet which says, "May the Emperor live one-hundred million years!" This is clearly a relic from a time long ago in China.

I also found this jade incense cauldron quite nice.

In walking distance one can get to Liurong Temple 六榕寺, otherwise known as the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. This temple was built in 537 CE. The defining feature of the temple is the Thousand Buddha Stupa 千佛塔.

After visiting these two temples Jennifer took me to her favourite vegetarian restaurant in Guangzhou. The flavour was certainly different from Taiwanese-style Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, but was tasty nonetheless.

The dish on the left is a kind of fake meat dish made from ground vegetable roots complete with strips of fake bacon. On the right is rice gruel with boiled vegetables. I think anyone unaccustomed to actual Chinese tastes might not find this so appetizing, but I found it quite delicious.

Just near the restaurant in the jade market district is another temple whose name I fail to remember. On the wall outside in big letters reads, "Be mindful of the Buddha, become the Buddha."

The temple also has a hall of Arhats which is a common feature in most Chinese temples. Some have a garden of Arhats, others a hall.

Guangzhou has a good museum called The Museum of the Nanyue King Mausoleum 西汉南越王博物馆. It houses the actual tomb of the Nanyue King Zhao Mo (reigned 137-122 BCE). The Nanyue Kingdom was in conflict with the Western Han dynasty and was destroyed by 111 BCE. Besides the actual tomb itself, the museum includes a collection of artefacts from various time periods. It also has a collection of earthenware pillows.

Traditionally in China people slept with firm headrests which are nevertheless still pillows.

There are also a number of Buddhist items from the Silk Road.

Visitors can enter the main tomb and then go into the main gallery to see the contents. Judging from the height of the ceiling I will suspect that the ancient Nanyue peoples were generally much shorter than me.

One characteristic item of royal Han Dynasty burials was the jade suit. In this time period it was fashionable to wrap dead royalty in a suit of jade. Incidentally, they also sacrificed concubines and servants before placing them in the tomb. The seals and remains of the king's concubines were also found inside.

After Guangzhou I boarded a train for Shanghai and eighteen hours later I was on the east coast of China.

The Shanghai museum has a number of absolutely beautiful classical pieces of art both Buddhist and other.

One temple of note in Shanghai is Jing'an-si 靜安寺 which dates back to 274 CE, but was relocated where it is now in 1216. However, much of the temple is entirely rebuilt and new. On the outer wall facing the street there are also shops selling bags and other merchandise.

I did not spend as much time in China as I would have liked. Fortunately I had several friends I could meet with who showed me around both Guangzhou and Shanghai. I really only got a taste of China. I think in the future I would like to travel around China extensively.

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