Trip 16: Anhui (June 20-30, 2012)

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

This was my second time in Anhui Province, and boy, it was a doozy. From the semi-touristic Jiuhua Shan to the remote fastnesses of Sikong Mountain, with some urban experience in between. Yup, a real doozy.

Regrettably, I did not write this account at the time of my journey. I am reconstructing it from notes and photos over two years later, so there may be some gaps or even inaccuracies. I will improve it as more information (or a better memory) becomes available. Also, there is a Facebook Album of this trip; links will be added once it has been moved to The Temple Guy.

Wednesday, June 20:
Da Zizai Shanzhuang
I flew from Shenzhen to Hefei, capital of Anhui (9:25-11:15). With some difficulty, I found the bus station (half a kilometer northwest of the train station) while carrying my bags. The bus took me to a station in Chizhou (around 150 kilometers), where I was transferred to a private car that took me to Jiuhua Shan's entry area. (The car was apparently included in the ticket price, and used because there were only around 10 of us--in three cars--going all the way to the mountain.) I bought my pricey ticket to the mountain, which included one trip up the windy mountain road. When I got there, I discovered that my hotel--which the booking agency had assured me was at the top of the mountain--was at the bottom. This would not work, as I would have to pay the exorbitant entry and bus fee every day for four more days to see what I came to see. I called the hotel, and they sent someone up who got me settled into a hotel in the mountain village for a good price. (The booking agency later hassled me because the hotel claimed that I had "not cancelled," which made me think that somehow I had been hustled--maybe the people who settled me weren't from my hotel?--but all was well that ended well.) After I checked in (a bit of an ordeal, as they weren't prepared for a foreigner), I strolled around the village and discovered places with veg menus. I was supremely happy after a trying day, and stayed that way the whole time I was there. Paradise!
  • Stayed Da Zizai Shanzhuang (Jiuhuashan)

Thursday, June 21:
Tiantai Temple Trail
I got up early and poked around a bit more, then with the help of some local kids found the bus that took me to the cable car up to Gu Baijing Tai (11:30-12:15). This temple (which I had seen from the valley floor) was gloriously sited. I had a super-cheap and delicious lunch in a veg dining room run by temple volunteers, saw the temple, then toiled my way up to Tiantai Temple. Along the route, a lady devotee from Shenzhen bought me an energy drink (I probably looked like I needed it) and we had as much of a chat as I could muster in Chinese. Reaching Tiantai Si (12:55-2:05; my #91), I discovered lots of work going on. It was a fascinating melding of architecture with landscape: roofs adjoining cliffs, caves serving as basements, etc. Back down to Gu Baijing Tai (where I said the prayers I had forgotten to say at the top) (2:15-2:30), then I began the trail down to the bottom. Along the way I saw Guanyin Feng (2:35) right next to Gu Baijing Tai; Tianqiao ("Heaven Bridge") Si with its arch supporting the trail, and tiny Cuiyun An (3:15) next to it; larger Chaoyang An (3:25) with carved native rock in the main hall, and a strange roofed-over boulder-filled hall astride the trail above it; pretty little Fuxing An (3:50), where I saw a nun using a basket to winnow wheat, and another tending a precarious cliffside garden; Changsheng Gudong (4:00), where an ancient nun sunned herself in the doorway to the "ancient cave"; prosperous-looking (or at least recently painted) Jixiang Si (4:05); and finally, the reason I had taken the trail, Huiju Si (4:10-4:45; my #92) just minutes from the bottom (5:25). I had done all this because I thought Huiju was further up; but it was quite near the cable car station. On the trail down, I encountered several places where workmen were replacing washed-out steps; apparently summer storms had taken their toll. Back to the hotel by "black taxi" (the buses had stopped); a quick noodle dinner in the hotel, and well-earned exhaustion.
  • Stayed Da Zizai Shanzhuang (Jiuhuashan)

Friday, June 22:
Breakfast in the hotel, then a short bus ride to the side steps up to Roushen Dian (11:45-1:00; my #93). The upper hall allegedly contains the "flesh body" of the Korean monk Jin Qiaojue; the lower hall was a kitschy collection of hell-related statues. Leaving there, I walked down to Shangchan Tang (1:10-3:30; my #94) where a memorial ceremony was being conducted, and I watched for nearly two hours. The old monk tending the hall befriended me, and made sure I had a copy of a magazine featuring the modern monk Rende who seems to have helped revive Jiuhua Shan's tourism... I mean, devotional importance. Though the hall was well-watched, I asked permission for a few quick shots after the ceremony. Leaving there, I passed Jingtu An (3:35-3:50) on the way down; on the flats, I peeked into shiny new Zhantan Lin (3:55-4:30), which I would visit the next day; and saw tiny Long An (4:30-4:35). Dinner at the noodle shop across the way.
  • Stayed Da Zizai Shanzhuang (Jiuhuashan)

Saturday, June 23:
Walked to giant new Zhantan Lin (11:50-12:45; my #95), a reconstruction of an older temple. Then passed Tonghui Temple (Chan Lin) and Tianchi Nunnery (An) on my way to another cable car. At the cable car's top, saw Feilai Guanyin Feng (1:20) on my way to Baisui Gong (1:25-3:00; my #96), a lovely old place where I had a scary encounter with a BIG monkey. Back at the bottom, I passed Tianchi Si and peeked into the Big Dizang Office (3:40) where funds were being raised to build a giant statue at the base of the mountain, as promised by Rende before his death in 2001. Then visited Huacheng Si (3:45-4:30; my #97), the oldest temple on the mountain. Walked through the neighborhood and back to the hotel (4:30-5:50). Dinner at a shop up the street.
  • Stayed Da Zizai Shanzhuang (Jiuhuashan)

Sunday, June 24:
I walked down to Zhiyuan Si (11:10-12:10; my #98) and poked around the nearby park gate area (12:10-12:15). I had to check-out with the gate guard before going down the mountain, so I could get back in for free. Bus down to Ganlu Si (12:30-2:35; my #99) (the bus was apparently included in my ticket), where a young monk who taught himself English was a tremendous help. I went back to the gate area and took a few shots of Zhiyuan Si again (2:45-2:55), then went back to the hotel to start packing. Dinner at the shop up the street, and a walk around the village to take my leave.
  • Stayed Da Zizai Shanzhuang (Jiuhuashan)

Monday, June 25:
Travel to Anqing: Down the hill by official bus; taxi back to Chizhou bus station; highway bus to Anqing. I had chosen my hotel for its proximity to both my target temple and the bus station, as I would be taking day trips out of there. Alas, there was a new terminal, far from my hotel and the temple. Taxi to the hotel (later mastered the local buses); checked in, then walked to Yingjiang Si (4:40-6:10; my #100) where I had dinner in the temple restaurant, then walked around the fascinating old riverfront.
  • Stayed Gelasi Hotel (Anqing)

Tuesday, June 26:
I took a bus to Qianshan (around 50 kilometers), then a taxi (for shame!) another roughly 10 kilometers to the Tianzhu ("Pillar of Heaven") Scenic Area and Sanzu ("Third Patriarch's") Temple, also called Qingyuan Si (11:45-2:30; my #101). I scaled the hill behind in the rain to see the Third Patriarch's pagoda. There's lots more to see in the area, but rain, and concern for my return connections, prevented me from going far. A funny little nun in the main hall started copying my temple list by hand, so I had a nice long sit there. She finally realized there was a photocopier in the office, and I was soon free to go my way. Local bus back to the bus station, and highway bus back to Anqing and my hotel.
  • Stayed Gelasi Hotel (Anqing)

Wednesday, June 27:
Stayed in due to heavy rain and did some writing.
  • Stayed Gelasi Hotel (Anqing)

Thursday, June 28:
Today I learned that "concern for my return connections" is not misplaced, as I got stranded! I took a highway bus to Yuexi County, and in a second station across the street found the not-so-highway bus to Dianqianzhen, which drove me all the way up to the gates of nearby Erzu Si (Second Patriarch's Temple 3:30-4:30), for which I had paid an extra five yuan. This is a modest temple in a stunning setting, the Sikong Mountain Scenic Area. After an all-too-brief visit, I started the trek down, and walked the entire four kilometers or so into town to the bus station--which was closed. It was after 5pm and all transportation had ceased. A group of high school kids on bikes tried to get me to stay and do an impromptu "English corner" at their school; refusing ("my stuff is in Anqing"), I tried to search out options. One bright girl said her friend's dad drove the route regularly in his mini-mini-van; she called him, and he quoted 300 renminbi ($43US). "Too much," said I. Then I walked into the only hotel in town, where the clerk/owner--sensing an opportunity--offered me a room for a mere 700rmb ($100US), a price I have never paid in all my time in China! So I walked back out, only to discover that all the kids were gone. Thankfully, here came my little savior pedaling toward me on her bike. We got her friend's dad down to 250 (about $35US, not bad for a 150-kilometer round trip on mountain roads, mostly in the dark, and way after his work hours). And then, in Yuexi? No more buses to Anqing. So I found a room for 118rmb (around $16US) and spent the night--without my stuff.
  • Stayed Gelasi Hotel (Anqing)

Friday, June 29:
Up early and on a bus back to Anqing--and made it just in time to get my breakfast before the 9:00 cutoff (it was included in the price of the room). I packed, and took a bus from Anqing to Hefei. A long walk before dinner into a shopping area, where I ended up eating the usual KFC, then back to the hotel for a long night's sleep.
  • Stayed Hefei NUBC Business Hotel (Hefei)

Saturday, June 30:
In the morning I slept in, then took a leisurely trip to the airport by bus, whence I flew back to Shenzhen (15:55-18:00) and home.

No comments:

Post a Comment