Saturday, December 5, 2009

Lindsay says this is a novel. I disagree.

Today, Lindsay and I went to a new pagoda. It was hidden away from the beaten path, so it was hard to find, and it is really hard to see from the road. About two months ago, we were on our way to church and saw a random tower jutting into the air. We wanted to go see it really bad, but it was just a random tower in the middle of a hill. We had no idea what its name was, how to get there, or if we would even be allowed to go inside. But, since we had seen practically everything else touristy in Wuhan, we hopped a bus today and went searching for it. Luckily, it wasn't too hard to find. Just follow the 583 bus to a random park and walk south for half an hour.

It was the closest we have been to nature since MoShan (磨山景区). After passing a statue and moving past an obelisk of sorts, we started through the "woods" on our way to see what we could see. First we found an old man and woman sitting and playing songs. The woman was singing, and the man was playing a zither (I think). It might not have been the best music I have ever heard, but it was really fitting for the surroundings. The music definitely made it feel more Chinese, which was nice. We had to follow some trails for a while though. We were walking along with multiple other Chinese folk through the trees. Occasionally we saw the city a little through the trees. We had been climbing up for a while, and we were getting nearer to the top of the hill. This would be the equivalent of going to the top of Main Street over the course of half a mile though. It isn't a hard walk, but in a flat land that difference in height makes a huge difference in the views. At our school we get some classes near the top floors, but those view are always so obstructed by buildings that this view was one of the best we have seen since coming to China.

We were wondering exactly where on earth the pagoda could be. Suddenly, Lindsay turned to the right and it was just there. Magically. There's something to be said for those Buddhists. It literally seemed to have come from nowhere. We couldn't see a thing until it was just standing there in front of us. It was really exciting, but disappointing at the same time. It was older than we had expected, and it hasn't been as kept up as one might have thought. We quickly found out why. It was only 2元 to get in! (about 29 cents). And the pagoda was built in 1280. It's name: Hong Shan Bao ta (洪山宝塔). It was really nice that it was so cheap. However, my critical judgment crept in once we ventured inside. The pagoda was littered with small shrines. Literally, almost everywhere you turned there was another shrine, oftentimes with fruit placed in front of them. But the disappointing part came from the people who had been there before us. It was a pagoda from 1280, but parts of it looked like the bathroom walls at a truck-stop by Thermopolis, Wyoming. There was so much graffiti that the pagoda was a symbol of desecration instead of dedication. I found it sad to see and read the inscriptions as we passed them. Lots of them were from teenagers in love. Since my Chinese isn't that good (yet) I hope that I misunderstood the meanings and people really are supposed to put graffiti there as a way of bringing in the favor of the gods.

There were outlooks on every level. As you might guess, they became more impressive the higher you went, but the amazing part was the size of the openings. As you first walk into the pagoda you needed to duck the entire way-unless you are a shrunken Chinese monk from hundreds of years ago. Then, there were precariously steep stairs leading up to the next level. I bumped my head on the ceiling as we went up. Then you came out into a small room, with more precarious stairs leading up even higher, and some small openings tunneling to the outside. Lindsay and I took one, but the size made it so we were nearly crawling. I hit my head harder on the ceiling this time. When we came to the outside we found that we were covered in dust from the walls and the ceiling as we scraped past them on the way out to the small overlook. It was a good view, and worth the bump and the gnawing claustrophobia. But the views only got better as we continued up the increasingly unnavigable stairs. On each floor we saw another Buddha, and on each floor there were multiple overlooks.

As we went up, it seemed that the stairways and the overlooks opened up even more. I didn't hit my head any more, and I got less dust on my coat. It was hard work, so Lindsay and I were pretty sweaty by the time we reached the top. But here the views were better than any of the lower levels. We had a clear view above the miniature forest on the hill, that stood out in harsh contrast to the development that lay beyond, but this time the buildings were low enough that they didn't block our view. It was the best view we have had in Wuhan. Even better than Yellow Crane Tower. Also, we had a full view of the Buddhist complex that lay at the base of the pagoda. We didn't know it was there, but we had seen the yellow walls of the complex earlier and wondered what lay beyond. Now we saw that we were there. We found out later that there may have been a more proper way to gain access to the Buddhist complex, but this was sufficient.

The architecture continued to get more intricate, more colorful, more beautiful, and more impressive as we went down. Unfortunately, the Buddhists don't like people taking pictures of their shrines, so we tried to comply. Sometimes we found that they were all taking pictures, so we figured we would be allowed to do so as well. The first building was surrounded by cabbage given as an offering. The insides of the building contained 500 painted statues of various figures in Chinese Buddhist folklore. They were encased in filthy glass: so filthy that one couldn't see through to the top levels. But the bottom levels were painted beautifully, and what added to the drama was the fact that these figures were ridding on a practically innumerable host of sea monsters. It was impressive, and luckily not as scary as the depictions of a Buddhist hell we found at other Buddhist sites.
The next buildings were exquisite on their outsides, and their insides were sparkling. They all had majestic tapestries of silk and immense statues. The main building centered on on a massive statue of, in my opinion, the original Buddha. But the walls were equally impressive. Each wall, reaching to the very top of this gargantuan room, had a small figure of the Buddha, about the size of a small laptop. The figure was repeated so that the walls were literally just statues of Buddha. About fourteen inches tall and practically touching the next figure above it, the figures on its sides and the figure below. The ceiling was as ornate as any I have seen in China. It was a stunning display of art and reverence. After walking out of that building we found another building with monks preparing for an offering of some sort. We walked into the square, surrounded on all sides by these beautiful buildings and were taking pictures. The monks came out and began to chant, playing their small chimes and drums. A monk lit a candle in an alter on the opposite side of the square, followed by two women who set a bundle of intricately folded yellow paper into the fire, and began their prostrations. Another monk started banging on a large wooden drum shaped to look like a dragon. It was an unusual sight.

We continued walking through the buildings as we neared the exit. Here we found groups of people taking pictures with the statues. We took this opportunity to jump in and start taking our own. We didn't want to desecrate anything, but we would to whatever we could without offending. We found some interesting statues there. The next building switched forms almost immediately. Instead of plasters and paints, there were wood carvings. The wood carvings were massive and even more intricate than the others we had seen. And we found that the first statue in the complex was the happy Buddha we all know (and love) from tasteful decorations at a good Chinese buffets.We left the complex satisfied, with hundreds of pictures, and with an appetite for some pizza...which we satisfied at Papa John's.

1 comment:

Kayli said...

Haha true, a novel! But I'm always happy for new posts. :)