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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Tuesday: The Tour Guide!
Waking up this morning, a sense of excitement came
over me as it seemed refreshing to be able to show my
friends around the city. Everyone seemed so happy for
me as I paraded them through the street and into my
favorite restaurants and temples. Feeling that they
should have a proper Chengde breakfast, the
supermarket was my first stop as I stocked up on
Mahwha and Lulu. With food in hand, my legs quickly
carried me to the hotel where they were staying.
However, after arriving, I did not know in which room
they were staying. In broken Chinese, I told the clerk
boy, girl, and American. Somehow, she seemed to
understand and gave me their room number. After
searching for a very long time, there was no sign of
them or the room, so I simply left and caught the bus
home. Not long after arriving, Chris called and we
agreed to meet in the lobby. Strangely enough, they
had given me the right number, but it was hidden way
in the back of the property. After grabbing their
packs, we then headed out to two of the temples on the
outskirts of the city. This was quite thrilling to me
as I had been waiting for the past several months to
see this one temple, and it was well worth the wait.
Apparently, most people do not visit it as it has not
been restored and many of the building were torn down,
but for me, it was simple incredible. In two of the
side temples were these amazing Buddhist priests masks
that looked to be several hundred years old. They were
large and wooden and behind them there were paintings
of the monks wearing the masks and robes while
dancing. It was so awesome as I had never seen this or
read about it anywhere else. It really looked like the
big Hopi Masks of the west except they were a little
more Asian. There were Tigers, Elephants, Demons, and
different Gods. We then headed into the main shrine
and at first it looks a little dilapidated which it
is, but there is a very large and beautiful Buda
inside. However, the highlight of the entire complex
is the frescos on the walls. Wanting to look at them
closer, I took my flashlight out of the pack and
wandered around the area. The bottom parts of many of
the paintings had been destroyed probably in the
cultural revolution. But the tops were still visible
in the light, and as I looked around, my heart just
stopped. Walking around the complex several times, I
was amazed at what I was seeing. Although most of the
paintings were of different Budas and Monks, the
background showed the story of the fire and water
dragon, and the Monk who turned to stone along with
his hat and hammer. It floored me. Surely Unesco would
have to know about this as they are the overseers of
the restoration efforts, but as far as I know, most of
the people of Chengde do not know the story for when I
tell it to me they are always amazed by it. With these
frescos, I think that it makes the temple one of the
most important of the entire eight for it captures a
unique glimpse into the oral culture of the city and
people. If Unesco has not already done so, they really
need to send some archeologist out to the site with
equipment that scans the fading images on tombs and
religious shrines and creates a computer enhancement
of what it used to look like. However, the paint on
the bottom looks chipped off and not faded, so I am
not sure if it would do any good. In any event, they
could pump some more money into the temple to make it
look a little better. After leaving there, we walked
over to Pule Si and explored the stories of Tantric
Buddhism. This is one of my favorite places as the
temple really is splendid and peaceful. Chris and
Holley seemed to enjoy themselves greatly. They took
several pictures of the Dagobas and different colorful
shrines. Afterwards, we then began our climb up the
Hammer Rock. Holly did not want to hike as it was
incredibly hot outside, but I convinced her that it
would be worth it as we could pick up some beautifully
handcrafted grasshopper cages. The treck was a nice
excursion, and they loved the rock. We even picked up
a couple of cages and other souvenirs. However as part
of the bargain, we took the cable cars back down which
was nice and refreshing. By this time, everyone was
hungry, so we came back to my apartment the stepped
across the street for a bite to eat. Filled up on
sweet and sour pork and spicy stir fried chicken. They
were really loving me as they had not had any real
Chinese food until they got here. Afterwards, we took
a taxi to the Daoist temple below the Monks hat. They
paid my way in, and I showed them all around the
complex and told them stories. They convinced me that
I should go back and make etchings of some of the
beautiful granite tablets on the walls, I agreed.
Chris then got his fortune told by a priest who was
very excited. We then headed back, so I dropped them
by the cemetery and headed back to my apartment in
order to get ready for my classes. Both of them went
well, and we talked a lot about religion and politics.
They were actually a lot of fun but very exhausting,
so my body dropped when I got home.

Wednesday: Religious Search!
Waking up at 6:00 this morning, I suddenly remembered
that Laura had scheduled me an eight o'clock class
this morning. Scurrying to turn on the water heater, I
read the news while waiting for the shower to heat up.
After bathing and hiking up to the campus, Laura had
not yet arrived to escort me to the new class. She
eventually came about thirty minutes late as she
forgot about planning the discussion. Rushing up the
stares, we were both out of breath as the campus is
very steep and high. Introducing me to the students, I
then gave them a lecture on speaking English and
American culture. They then asked many questions about
what it was like, who was my favorite NBA star, what
did I think of Iraq and Taiwan. Before I knew it, two
hours had passed and we bid each other adieu. Laura
then tried to help me call Chris and Holley, but their
number would not work here. For some reason, there are
many numbers that simply will not go through on the
phones. Unfortunately, United Airlines has been one of
those numbers and my ticket still needs to be
confirmed. Going to the house, I waited in hopes that
they would call, but it was not in the cards for the
day. Giving up on them, shopping was my main goal for
the afternoon. Wandering from souvenir stand and
shops, there were a few things which caught my eyes.
Went down by the Potala Temple and looked around then
walked back towards home. Found some interesting Gourd
statues of Louza that is now on my must have list.
Arriving Back home just in time for my class, the
students were not too excited about sitting in a hot
class, so we all went to the market together and
broadened their English vocabulary on new items. They
were also forced to explain to me a lot of things
about Taoism as I am very interested in learning more.
We bought some "egg burritos" for dinner. They were
delicious kind of like a soft taco shell except for
thicker and better then they cook the egg on top of
the round bread, and the egg gets cooked into it. Very
greasy, but also quite delicious. It was a wonderful
excursion, but it also had to be cut short as the
gnats or tiny fruit flies were swarming the city, and
my white shirt looked black from them. They were
terrible and would get caught in your hair. Could not
take it any longer, so we agreed to call it an
afternoon. They did help me find a lot of wonderful
traditional music. Six C.D.'s worth. After a short
rest, seven o'clock rolled around, and my students
were happily awaiting me. None of them had managed to
complete their home work, so we ended up talking a lot
about Taoism. This led to some Chinese arguments as to
which story was correct since many of them new
different legends. All agreed that Laoza was the
founder of the Taoism. They told me that the Yen and
Yang were the symbols of the male and female, and they
are both within each other. Doing research later
during the evening from a book on a Taoist temple in
Beijing and the internet, the story seemed correct. We
just see the masculine and feminine as the light and
dark within us all as well. They told me a fantastic
story about the main God of Taoism. His name is Fung
or Fu She, and his appearance is of the head of a man
and the body of a snake. As the story goes, there had
been many large animals with long teeth, and they
hunted and killed human, so the Earth was flooded by
breaking the sky in order to get rid of them. Since
there was a hole in the sky, it rained day and night.
Needing to patch up the sky, the God created many
colorful stones and placed them all in the hole. One
stone was left however, and this rock was turned into
a great man. However, they then started arguing about
stories, and I got lost, but there is a novel written
on this man who may have eventually became the big fat
Buda and may have also been one of the Butterfly
lovers, but this was just from my confusion as they
really were having a heated debate. What intreuged me
was that the colorful rocks sounded a lot like a
rainbow which would be similar to the Biblical story
of the Great Flood. This is just my conjecture though.
Rainbows apparently are not very common here. When it
rained the other day, I saw the largest rainbow in my
life. It stretched across the entire city, and it was
almost possible to see it start forming a full circle.
Stopping to stare, many of my students were simply
amazed as it was the first time that they had ever
seen one. This could simply be because of all of the
air pollution. Another story which I managed to hear
clearly was that of Fung's wife, Yun Wha. She was a
beautiful woman, and feeling a little lonely created
humans by molding the Earth into our bodies then
bringing us to life. This also sounded like a clay
story that we all know to well. We talked a little
more about Taoism then another student told me that
Cowboys parents were coming to give me a present and
wanted me to be home at nine. Being eager to leave, my
students told me to go ahead. Coming home, they
eventually showed up and brought two huge boxes of
Tianjin Bread as a Thank You, so I am sure that we
will be getting together this weekend. I thank them
then got on the computer and did some searching on
Daoism. Found a few interesting things, but I knew
most of it. They explained a lot of the different Gods
but failed to talk of how they were related. None of
the sights discussed the seventy-six departments which
different deities rule over. These were amazingly
depicted at one of the Taoist temples in Beijing with
what looked to be millions of different Gods, ghosts,
demons, and spirits. I would liked to have learned
more about this. By the way, for those who believe
this is a philosophy, your wrong. They have priests,
monks, they make offerings to Gods, and pray quite a
bit, and all of them do some form of fortune telling
as they stop me everyday on the street and want to
read my palm. After reading this material, Buddhism
was the next subject, but I will just go ahead and
tell you that they western Buddhist do not know what
they are talking about. Most of them make Buddhism out
to be this religion centered around the male figure of
Sedharta, and it simple is not that. In China, there
are many different Budas of which quite a few are
women. They also do not illustrate the fact that you
one day can become a Buda as well, so in a sense you
will also be a God. For this reason, there are many
Budas, and they come in different shapes and forms.
They also do not tell the stories which I have
discussed before, so from what I have read, some of
the so called Buddhist and new agers need to take a
treck to China and Tibet, and see what it is all
about. They might be amazed. Oh well, enough ranting,
tomorrow is another day.

Christopher

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