Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Bamboo Temple

I woke up in Kunming to a perfect sunny day, a bit chilly in the morning but perfect walking weather as it warmed up to about sixty degrees.  I was able to order my bus ticket to Yuanyang tomorrow from the hostel, so I had the day free to explore. 

Kunming has a few sites that people visit in the city, temples, parks, museums and the like, nothing special, really.  There is a zoo, which I might go to if I was in Kunming for several days, but having just one day I decided to go to the West Hills, a high ridge on the edge of town overlooking the city and Dian Chi, the huge (forty kilometer long) lake that borders the city. 

My first destination was the Bamboo Temple. The bus left the city and wound up a switchback road up into the hills. Along the way the views out over the city below and up into wooded ravines got better and better.  Finally we left all sight of the city behind and were surrounded only by woods.  I was the only foreigner on the bus, and the only one to get off at the temple. 

The Lonely Planet guidebook touts the temple as an interesting visit because of the large collection of realistic sculptures by some famous artist that I've never heard of, done over a hundred years ago.  Supposedly some are crazy-monks surfing on the backs of turtles and such.  I never found those, although there was a section closed, so maybe they were up there.  The ones I did see were less formal than usual, but not doing anything particularly noteworthy. 

Even though I didn't find what I was looking for, it wasn't a wasted trip.  The temple was a pretty but fairly typical Chinese Buddhist temple, but it did have some interesting features.  On all of the railings the posts were topped with little animals, each different: cat, dog, dolphin, lion, mouse, monkey, all sorts of birds... Also, I found a small pavilion covering a bronze statue of a reclining Rhino.  On either side of the main gate, too, the window screens were figures of rhinos.  Why in the world, way out here?

The main court of the temple was fairly busy with people, a few people worshiping, a few Chinese tourists, and a couple of women sorting out a large collection of the unnaturally bright fake flowers used for temple offerings, but the further in the fewer people. Up on a hill behind was a long covered walkway, a small pond, size stone stupas with the perfect morning light filtering through the trees onto them, some stone tables and stools, and the aforementioned rhino.  A couple of Chinese tourists came down the stairs as I was going up, but after that I had the place to myself. 

The best part was the quiet and tranquility sitting up there, looking out over the temple and towards the hills across the valley, which were dotted with tombs.  Living in a big city, it's worth the bus ride to be surrounded by trees and no people. 


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