Tag Archives: Buddhism

Hong Kong Trip 4: The Big Buddha & Monk on Holiday

16 Apr

On my second day in Hong Kong I made it over to Lantau Island, the largest island in Hong Kong. It’s famous for the Big Buddha, which apparently even Buddhist monks get excited about. (I guess it makes sense, since not every monk gets to be a Big Buddha monk, it just seems like Buddhist monuments would stop being exciting if it’s your profession? Whatevs dude that guy is putting his pics on facebook.)

The prayer line to the right was very ritualized–people would pray a bit, then take a step up. I’m not sure if they were aiming for a specific number of steps (a holy number?) or what. The Buddha is 112 feet tall, made of bronze, and was finished in 1993. That’s right, ’93! He’s a spring chicken of a monument.

Nearby is the Po Lin Monastery.

The above is a view from the monastery. You could see the monument from all sides, but this was a particularly nice angle. The monastery itself wasn’t a particularly remarkable temple complex, but they served fantastic vegetarian dim sum. I put it in my mouth and it was delicious.

By this point in the trip, I was already fairly tired, as you can see below…

Tired, but happy.

Next time: I visit a fishing village (Tai O) and watch a dude make STREET WAFFLES.

Hangzhou Trip Part 4: The Smiling Buddha in the “Paris of the East”

25 Mar

Lingyin Temple

Lingyin Temple, originally founded in 328 AD, is the most famous Buddhist Temple in Hangzhou. It makes an easy day-trip from where I was staying on the south bank of West Lake.

On the way from the bus stop to the temple, you have to go past some truly epic carvings–IMHO, even better than the temple. Buddhist monks carved scenes into limestone cliffs over a period of hundreds and hundreds of years. The whole area is called Feilai Feng, or “The Peak that Flew from Afar.” It gives me the mental image of a winged mountain, flying a great distance to land next to Lingyin Temple.

From which “afar” did it fly? Stories vary–some say it flew all the way from India, the origin of Buddhism. The Laughing Buddha, pictured below, I think dates from the Song Dynasty–the golden age of Hangzhou.

Supposedly, if you rub his belly your wishes will come true. But I think you have to climb the cliff first…

The Laughing Buddha

Hangzhou is sometimes called the “Paris of the East.” I think the two towns have more similarities than you’d think–both are a consistently aesthetically pleasing experience (assuming you spend lots of time walking past the Seine, anyway), and both can be SUPER touristy (just try the north bank of West Lake). But both draw tourists for a reason. Sure, the Eiffel Tower is all rusty up close, and the lines to go up are awful. But you can get lost in Pere Lachaise cemetery for hours, wandering between the graves of 19th century artists, and stuff like that makes Paris epic.

West Lake, with its utterly inauthentic, Disney-ified good looks, makes Hangzhou pretty. But stuff like epic, centuries-old carvings of Buddha (and the twelve apostles?! or something) on the side of a cliff is what makes Hangzhou really cool. The rolling tea-covered hills just outside the city don’t hurt, either. I can’t wait to go back in spring sometime, when the villagers fry tea on the street and everything is blooming.

Verdict: Hangzhou is definitely worth a visit, even if you find Dragonwell tea yoǔ diaň cù (a little bitter).

Next time: Shenzhen (I swear I had good reason to spend a week there, because miracles do happen!)

Hangzhou Trip Part 2: Three Dudes, Two Monuments, One Fascist on Holiday, No Eye Contact

20 Mar

In Hangzhou I stayed at a hostel right next to Jingci Temple (pronounced Jing-tsuh), where this gentleman was paying his respects. It was pretty wild to be staying within walking distance of a Buddhist temple that dates from the 10th century, even if it had been “embellished” since then–you see, Chinese culture doesn’t value authentic, untouched ruins the same way Western culture does. Or maybe modern mainland businesspeople just value tacky touristy paint jobs and overdevelopment more. At this particular temple, I actually ran into the construction crew building an entire hall from scratch…that was embarrassing. Then again, maybe it’s an adaptation to 1) the Cultural Revolution and/or 2) a historical tradition of building mostly in wood.

At the southern edge of West Lake, the temple crowd was apparently not noisy enough to keep the monks from drifting off.

No offense meant to any Buddhists in the crowd–I just couldn’t stop myself from photographing monks-acting-like-normal-people. Doing normal-people things, like napping with their shoes off. On that note…

Later I made it over to Leifeng Pagoda (mentioned previously here) and ran into a bunch of PRC soldiers. Or, as I liked to think of them, Fascists on Holiday. I got a shot of one of these gentlemen admiring the view of West Lake.

I was totally afraid I’d be deported for taking this photo, so you best appreciate it.

Next time: The Silk Museum, The Tea Museum, and Buddhist Cliff Carvings on Peak Flying From Afar (what?)