Trip 17: Northern Guangdong
(July 22-29, 2012)

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

In many ways, this was one of my best trips. There were no flights, just some fast trains; and I was able to stretch things out a little by seeing not just three temples from my list (spectacular though they were), but also a number of sites that I had come across in my reading. These latter were mostly related to Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan (Zen), whose mummy (maybe) is at the temple I saw on Tuesday.

Regrettably, I did not write this account at the time of my journey. I am reconstructing it from notes 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.

Sunday, July 22:
I boarded a high-speed train from the then-new Shenzhen North Station to Shaoguan. Because I hadn't booked in advance, I ended up buying a first-class ticket. (The primary advantage was being in the back end of the train, where there weren't people passing back-and-forth constantly.) The train station in Shaoguan wasn't the one I was expecting, in the middle of town. On this new line, most of the stations I have been to are located well outside of the cities. So I caught a bus to the old station, and after some searching, found my nearby hotel (in a solid downpour). After checking in (and after the rain had stopped) I walked into the city center and searched around for Dajian ("Great Mirror") Si (4:55-5:10), which I had visited with friends a few years before. After my visit, I returned to the hotel area and had dinner at the KFC next to the station (which became my habit).
  • Stayed Fengyi Fortune Hotel (Shaoguan)

Monday, July 23:
I picked up breakfast sandwiches at the KFC and took a taxi to the West Bus Station to catch the bus for Yunmen ("Cloud Gate") Si (10:10-12:55, my #102). From Ruyuan Station, it was another short local bus ride to the temple. Two-and-a-half hours later, I took the same bus back, but got off a little early to see  Wenchang Pagoda (1:50-2:10) before walking back to the bus station and returning to Shaoguan. There I had one of those strange encounters with a (low-level) English student who wanted to chat. Found the local bus from West Bus Station to the train station, saving taxi fare.
  • Stayed Fengyi Fortune Hotel (Shaoguan)

Tuesday, July 24:
Again the KFC breakfast, then a local bus through Maba to Nanhua Si (10:15-1:15, my #103). After a long visit, I hiked south to to Refuge Rock (started at 1:15; there 2:25-2:50). I took a wrong turn along the way, and ended up asking directions at a farm house. Toiling up the hill in rain, I was unsure I was on the right path--until the enclosure appeared. Just as I settled in, I heard "Uncle!" and the farm girl appeared with her dog to make sure I was okay! They walked me back down the proper trail and pointed me back toward the road to Nanhua, whence I caught the local back into Shaoguan.
  • Stayed Fengyi Fortune Hotel (Shaoguan)

Wednesday, July 25:
Bus to Maba again and the Maba Man site and Zhaoyin Si (10:20-12:25). Afterward I took an exorbitant taxi toYuehua Si (12:55-1:05; closed), but the fare was worth it as I would never have found the place without that driver's help. When we got in the vicinity, he cried out "Zhidao! Zhidao! (I know! I know!)" and took my right to the gate. Too bad it was closed. Kees Kuiken ("The Other Neng") speculates this was the landing place for visitors to Nanhua Temple, and thus may have been a practice place for Huineng. I returned to Maba with the same driver, and then by bus to Nanhua Si again (1:45-4:10) and visited tiny Wujin An inside the complex (3:50-4:05), as well as seeing some of the things I had missed the day before. A nun let me in with my "ordination" papers, and told me I should have used them the day before, too! (I said I wanted to pay--once!)
  • Stayed Fengyi Fortune Hotel (Shaoguan)

Thursday, July 26:
A long bus ride to Lechang from the bus terminal near the train station and then a gouging taxi to Gufo Dongtian (12:40-4:15). As I discovered when leaving, there was in fact a local bus from town (from Lechang Bus Station to Qianxi [前溪]); but I didn't take it on my return, as a deliveryman stopped and offered me a ride back to the bus station, whence I returned by highway bus to Shaoguan.
  • Stayed Fengyi Fortune Hotel (Shaoguan)

Friday, July 27:
Buying my ticket the day before, I took a bus from the station near the train station to Zhaoqing. Local bus to my hotel, then taxi to the outside of Mei An (4:25-4:35), which was closed. Dinner in a mall in central Zhaoqing as I explored the city by bus.
  • Stayed Home Inns (Middle Renmin Road) (Zhaoqing)

Saturday, July 28:
I taxied again to Mei An (8:40-9:00); then walked up to the main road and caught the local bus for Qingyun Si (10:40-2:10, my #104). After busing to the top and walking through the temple and back down the mountain, I returned to town by the same bus, and ate fast food for dinner.
  • Stayed Home Inns (Middle Renmin Road) (Zhaoqing)

Sunday, July 29:
I went to the bus station up by the train station (as directed by the hotel staff), and discovered it was the wrong one for Xinxing. After a long, expensive taxi ride (which really hurt, as I had taken pains to take a local bus to the first station, in order to save money) I learned that in fact, one should leave from one of the stations on Duanzhou Lu (not so far from my hotel). From Xinxing, I took a taxi to Guo'en Si (12:35-2:15) (though there should have been a bus, but I couldn't find it); walked across to Huineng's Birthplace (2:50-3:00); then took that elusive local bus back to Xinxing station and another to Zhaoqing. (Note that there is direct Shenzhen - Xinxing service as well).
  • Stayed Home Inns (Middle Renmin Road) (Zhaoqing)

Monday, July 30:
From one of the stations on Duanzhou Lu, I took a bus back to Shenzhen.

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