Trip 5: Eastern Anhui and Jiangsu (July 20-30, 2010)

This is a record of my fifth trip to visit the 142 Key Temples of China. Links lead to articles on the temple (or other site) named.

For about a year, I worked in Yangzhou but my wife and life were in Shenzhen, so I made the Shenzhen-Nanjing flight often. This time I would see things I had never seen before, working my way over ten days from eastern Anhui Province all the way down the river to a flight out of Shanghai (my second time to do that, after Trip 1).

Tuesday, July 20:
My Shenzhen-Nanjing flight was supposed to be 09:00-11:05; but due to massive delays I arrived in Nanjing too late to go templing. There was also a problem with my hotel. The Motel 168 I had booked near the railway station, as it turned out, did not accept foreigners. So I was rebooked to another hotel, which I had not seen on the map (due to the late rebooking); As luck would have it, it was located on NORTH Zhongyang Road; I was looking for it on MIDDLE Zhongyang Road, where there just happened to be another (and rather rundown) hotel. It took quite a bit of sign language before we figured it out. Anyway, I was in my room by 3:40 (with a beautiful view of the construction going on in the building about 10 feet behind). I went to the supermarket across the street and got provisions for the next few days, then hunted down some "veg" (I hope) food in the local restaurants.
  • Stayed Nanjing Chunchangzai Business Express Hotel

Wednesday, July 21:
Mingjiao Temple
Taxi to the train station fairly early (up at 6), and off to a day in Anhui. First to Guangji Si in Wuhu (10:50-12:10; my #23) by taxi from the station (after buying onward ticket--a habit I established for the trip), where a kind monk offered me a solitary lunch in the dining room. Taxi back to the station and on to Hefei and Mingjiao Si (3:50-5:20; my #24). A funny thing happened on the train: I got into a sort of argument with a Chinese passenger over something trivial, and we ended up friends; he paid for my onward ticket back to Nanjing, and took me to Mingjiao Si by taxi. After seeing this temple-on-a-shopping street, I trained (standing room only) back to Nanjing. Bought tomorrow's tickets, shopped, did laundry.
  • Stayed Nanjing Chunchangzai Business Express Hotel

Thursday, July 22:
Qixia Temple
On a 7:40 train to Chuzhou, Anhui by 8:30. Not sure how long this would take, I bought two tickets to return to Nanjing, one at 10:50, the other at 13:35. (I ended up using the later one.) Taxi to the entry gate for Langya Si (9:10-11:25; my #25); a whopping 95rmb to enter, plus 5 for the shuttle! Perhaps the old monk from the upper temple knew this, because when he saw me later, he invited me to lunch. (I had very good luck with temple meals on this trip.) Then back to Nanjing by 2:45, in taxi (far!) by 3:00 to Qixia Si (3:35-4:50; my #26). After one old monk yelled at me when I asked if Master Hsing Yun had studied there ("He's not here! He went to Taiwan!") I was pleased that a younger monk (Ven. Chuan Xi) and a layman invited me to dinner. We then shared a bus back to Nanjing Railway Station, where it rained buckets.
  • Stayed Nanjing Chunchangzai Business Express Hotel

Friday, July 23:
Jinshan Jiangtian Temple
Wanting an early start, I left the hotel at 8:00, but the woman driving the taxi was uncertain of the route, and didn't get me to the temple until 8:45. After paying another National Park-style fee, I saw the Beamless Hall with its historical display, and other parts of "Linggu Scenic area." Then into Linggu Si (9:15-10:10; my #27). Afterward, prayers just outside the gate, then at 10:25 more of the Scenic Area, including the former "Discipline Hall" (Lv Tang) now "Pine-wind Pavilion," and the Nationalist-built Linggu Pagoda. At 10:35, lunch in an over-priced restaurant near the Pine-wind Pavilion; then at 11:10 onward, downhill to exit around 11:20. A taxi back to the hotel where I picked up my bags, then another to the train station for a fast train to Zhenjiang. Checked into the hotel and taxied to Jinshan Jiangtian Si (3:00-4:15; my #28). Before I left, halls and precincts were closing around me. Apparently they shoo people out around 4:00 so they can pray in peace at 5:00. Next taxi told me it was too late to go to Jiaoshan, so I went back to the hotel.
  • Stayed Zhenjiang Hotel

Saturday, July 24:
Jiaoshan Dinghui Temple
My biggest adventure of the trip: I had no idea how I would get to this morning's temple, located on a mountain. As it turned out, the mountain was the easy part; the hard part we getting to (and from) the gate of the national park where it was located. (As it turned out, there was a direct city bus from Qixia Si, where I had been on Thursday. Oh, well.) So: long-distance bus to Baohuazhen, mini-cab back to gate (could have called a stop to the bus driver as we passed it: oh, well, two). Park ticket (at 9:45) and a shuttle up the hill. Longchang Si (10:04-12:20; my #29) is gorgeous, and a young monk, Ven. Guang Yao, showed me around, and invited me to lunch, which was served according to monastic ritual. I headed back down the hill (rushed, as I had another temple to see in Zhenjiang), arriving at the bottom at 12:30. By 12:45 I had flagged down a highway bus (my first time!) back to Zhenjiang. Lunch at KFC at bus station, then taxi to park surrounding Jiaoshan. Arrived gate at 2:10, and took a ferry across to Jiaoshan Dinghui Si (2:20-4:25; my #30). Storm arriving as I landed on mainland (4:35), local bus back to hotel
  • Stayed Zhenjiang Hotel

Sunday, July 25:
Gaomin Temple
Up and out to highway bus to Yangzhou; arrived, checked in by 11:45, lunch at KFC where I ate many times when I lived in Yangzhou. Took local bus from in front of hotel to Gaoming Si (2:25-5:10; my #31). Met a young monk, Ven. Sheng Xing, who was born and raised in Canada. He got permission to take me up the pagoda. (I had had a thorough tour of the temple grounds with Fo Guang Shan monastics in May of 2007; today was just a tag-up and time to do my prayers as an "official" visit.) After, I took local buses to Jiangdu, where I tried to find the birthplace of Master Hsing Yun. I was in the neighborhood by 7:00pm; a kindly local man, his wife (on a scooter) and son, helped me. After much walking and questioning, we found it (I think). It was way after dark; my SMS post about kneeling at the family shrine in the house was posted at 8:18. My new friend directed me to the local bus back to my hotel in Yangzhou.
  • Stayed Yangzhou - Tianxiangge Hotel

Monday, July 26:
Daming Temple
As with yesterday, my visit to Daming Si (my #32) was just a "tag up." I talked my way in for free as a former resident (thanks to the timely arrival of my old friend, the cook, at the ticket booth). There is one new hall inside, converted from a gift shop; otherwise all was as it had been two-plus years before when I left. Lots of friendly faces. Another new thing was the completed library at the back of the property. Though I couldn't get inside (closed Mondays) a friendly lady showed me around the compound. After returning to the hotel to fetch my bags, I taxied to the long-distance bus station, and bused to Changzhou. I bought my onward ticket in the train station next door, and took a taxi to Tianning Si (2:35-4:05; my #33), carrying my bags with me. I was chased out by a rainstorm (and my train's departure), and taxied back to the station. From there to Suzhou, where I taxied to the hotel.
  • Stayed Suzhou - Shantang Home-Stry Business Hotel

Tuesday, July 27:
Nantong seen from Langshan
Taxi to bus station to Nantong's Langshan; I didn't realize I could have walked to the cable car, so I took a cab (the driver smirked); up the mountain by cable car to Guangjiao Si (12:20-4:50; my #34). A delightful walk down the hill, where I had tofu from a kiosk at the mountain's base. Lunch was noodles in a fly-specked place served by a high-school girl studying English, and then I walked back to the bus station for the return to Suzhou. Dinner in town at 6:30 (Indian at the Cross) and back to the hotel.
  • Stayed Suzhou - Shantang Home-Stry Business Hotel

Wednesday, July 28:
Yushan Xingfu Temple
Bus to Xiyuan (10:10-11:35; my #35), then taxi to bus station to Changshu and Yushan Xingfu Si (3:00-4:15; my #36). Like many places I've been, this temple is in an area with several temples; I could have used more time. Bus back to Suzhou, supermarket dinner.
  • Stayed Suzhou - Shantang Home-Stry Business Hotel

Thursday, July 29:
The path up Lingyanshan
Two temples in town today, each challenging in its own way. Lo-o-o-ong bus ride to Lingyanshan Si (12:35-2:05; my #37). At the base of the mountain at 11:45; climbing, passed Guanyin Cave 12:15. Temple was beautiful, and cheap (1rmb); add 10 more for a fine bowl of noodles in the "Vegetarian Noodle Office." Back down (exhausted) by 2:35 (kind monks I met gave me a juice box), then a taxi to the unpleasantly super-crowded Hanshan Si (3:05-4:15; my #38 and last for this trip). I visited the Bell Tower across the street, a little quieter (4:20-4:35) and ate in an overpriced noodle shop (4:40-5:05). I hung around the gate area hoping for SOMEthing until 5:15, then walked to a bus stop and headed back to the hotel.
  • Stayed Suzhou - Shantang Home-Stry Business Hotel

Friday, July 30:
A leisurely day: checked out, taxi to train station, fast train to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport; flight to Shenzhen 15:30-17:50.

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