Trip 10: Dongbei, Hebei, and Qingdao (August 24-31, 2011)

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

This was the farthest north I would get on my journeys, with the old "Summer Capital" at Chengde as a real highlight. The four pagodas in Zhengding were a close second.

For the first time (heaven knows why I hadn't doen it sooner), I posted a Facebook album during this trip, and did so for every trip hereafter. As these get moved to The Temple Guy, I'll add links.

Wednesday, August 24:
At the airport on my way out of town, I saw a couple of my students still "volunteering" after the University Games that had finished the day before. My 09:00-14:40 Shenzhen-to-Haerbin flight connected through Hefei, where I had been last year to visit Mingjiao Si (via train from Nanjing). Landing in Haerbin at 3:00, by 3:30 I was texting that I was on my way from the airport to the city through the "Flattest place I ever saw! Not a mountain or hill in any direction." Excellent weather, in room by 5:00. Out again for a walk up Dong Dazhi and Yimen Streets to the front of Jile Temple, tomorrow's first goal (5:50-6:40). Dinner in a veg restaurant next door (and which I later found was attached to the temple). Then by buses to see the exterior of St. Sophia Cathedral (8:10-8:25). Bused and walked back to hotel.
  • Stayed Haerbin - Motel 168 (Dongdazhi Street Branch)

Thursday, August 25:
Jile Temple
Checked out, took bags to Jile Si (7:45-9:40; my #56). Couldn't buy a ticket before 8, and guest office wouldn't take my bag, so the morning was a little more trying than anticipated. Temple was nice, but not spectacular; skipped another nearby in the interest of time. 11:50 train to Changchun, where after checking in to hotel I managed to find the little-known (and little!) Dizang Si, (3:30-4:00; my #57), which was actually closed for massive remodeling, but I was kindly let in. Southward on the same street as Dizang and hotel I looked at the exterior of Banruo (or Bore) Si (4:20), tomorrow's goal. Temples close early up here!
  • Stayed Changchun - Motel 168 (Changchun Avenue)

Friday, August 26:
Guanyin Gucha
Up and out early to see Banruo (or Bore) Si, Changchun (7:55-8:45; my #58). Afterward I was able to buy onward tickets in the hotel's ticket office. Couldn't get a sleeper for the Shenyang-to-Chengde, so would have to sit. More later. But the 11:02 from Changchun to Jilin was a comfortable fast train. Taxi to small, friendly Guanyin Gucha in Jilin (1:10-2:10; my #59), then a slooow train from historic Jilin West Railway Station (closed for repairs) to Shenyang, 4:15-11:30.
  • Stayed Shenyang - Daban 168 Business Hotel (Wuai Branch)

Saturday, August 27:
Dafo Temple
Messed around quite a while in the morning trying to find an alternative to tonight's 13-hour non-sleeper ride; no luck. To Banruo (or Bore) Si, Shenyang (11:20-12:05; my #60). Nothing special. Around the corner the very nice Ci'en Si (12:15-1:25; my #61), then the small and under-repair Dafo Si (1:25-1:35). Walked the streets for quite a while; found KFC; walked to hotel and picked up bags for taxi to the train station. Train 5:18 to Chengde. Train was miserable, but at least I saved on a room!

Sunday, August 28:
Puning Temple
Arrived Chengde around 6:00 a.m., was surprised when hotel let me into room for a morning's sleep. Up at 12:40; lunch in the hotel restaurant (NOT all veg, as advertised); shot the magnificent lobby of this temple-hotel, then out to the temple proper at 1:30pm. Puning Si (1:35-3:35; my #62) and the attached Puyou Si (3:35-4:05) are even bigger than Yonghegong, and are now the biggest Tibetan-style temples I've seen. I walked to the abandoned Guangyuan Si (4:05-4:15) nearby, then back to the hotel to eat voluminous leftovers from lunch.
  • Stayed Chengde - Puning Hotel

Monday, August 29:
Putuozongcheng Temple
"A Walk in Chengde." Breakfast was again leftovers; checked out and left my bags as I took a taxi to find Luohan Tang to the west of Puning (10:30, nothing there but walls). Walked past a restricted military area to Shuxiang (10:45-11:05) a closed-but-active temple in front of which I said my prayers. Pleasant walk through fields to the front of Putuozongcheng Temple (11:15-11:30), where I dawdled a bit, and on to Xumifushou Temple and bridge (11:35-11:45). On a bus to town, I jumped off to see the Yongyou Si Pagoda over the walls of the grounds of the Qing emperors' summer resort (part of what Lonely Planet calls a "vanished temple") (11:50). On into town, then back to the hotel for my bags by 1:20. Taxi to East Bus Station (where I bought a ticket yesterday). Six-hour ride started on a sleeper bus (at 2:30, in broad daylight) with a medallion of the Virgin of Guadalupe in front; after an hour we changed to a more conventional one. Lots of delays, so we arrived in Shijiazhuang after 10:30pm. Along the way, saw signs advertising the Simatai section of the Great Wall.
  • Stayed Shijiazhuang - Motel 168 (Shijiazhuang Xinbai Plaza)

Tuesday, August 30:
Guanghui Temple
I spent the morning trying to find a bus or train ticket to Qingdao, but could only get one as far as Beijing. Taxi to Zhengding where I made a beeline to my target: Chengling Pagoda at Linji Temple (9:00-9:55; my #63). Noted a large mosque and Muslim homes in the nearby alleyways as I walked to nearby Guanghui Temple and its Hua Pagoda (10:05-10:20); then walked down to ancient wall relics (10:25-10:35). Taxi up to Lingxiao Pagoda at Tianning Temple (10:40-11:15), where I was serenaded by a six-year-old, then walked to Xumi Pagoda at Kaiyuan Monastery (11:30-12:00), a place filled with stone relics. Taxi back to hotel, picked up bags, and took same taxi to Shijiazhuang North Station for the 1:40 fast train to Beijing. Unfortunately, they had no tickets to Qingdao either, so instead of staying in the room I had already paid for in Qingdao (Motel 168, Qingdao Railway Station), I ended up taking a motorcycle cab to another near Beijing South Railway Station, where I would take off early in the morning.
  • Stayed Beijing - Golden Oasis Hotel

Wednesday, August 31:
Zhanshan Temple
A taxi to Beijing South Station and a 7:10 fast train to Qingdao, arriving 12:20, and a taxi directly to Zhanshan Si (12:50-1:50; my #64), with a view of the beautiful Qingdao coast on the way. Then a frantic taxi ride to the airport, where I made it in time to pick up my ticket for my 16:00-19:00 return flight to Shenzhen.

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