Trip 18: The Central Area
(August 4-15, 2012)

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

This was another flight-free trip. It took me from city temples to one of China's five sacred Daoist mountains--with plenty of Buddhism on the side.

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.

Friday, August 5:
In the same way that I started my previous trip, I boarded a high-speed train from the then-new Shenzhen North Station to the city of Wuhan, this time with a more reasonably-priced ticket. My hotel was well-chosen, as it was only 150 meters or so from the gate of tomorrow's temple, Guiyuan Si.
  • Stayed Home Inn (Wuhan Guiyuan Temple), Wuhan

Saturday, August 4:
Having slept in a bit, I ambled down to Guiyuan Si (11:15-1:20, my #105), finally seeing the interior after having been outside the gate back in January, 2007. I enjoyed lunch in an overpriced dining hall at the edge of the property, then went out to take a city bus (#401) past the famed Yellow Crane Tower to the not-so-famed Baotong Si (2:20-4:30, my #106). I had had a hard time locating the temple on a map, so debussed several blocks away and triangulated by asking directions. After a pleasant visit that included the pagoda at the back--the best part of the temple--I left just as the gates were closing, and took a bus back to the hotel, stopping for KFC along the way.
  • Stayed Wuhan Home Inn (Wuhan Guiyuan Temple), Wuhan

Sunday, August 5:
Today's trip required strenuous measures. First I took a train from Wuhan to Yichang, a ride of three hours or so. I then had to find the bus for the one-hour-plus trip to a road crossing, from which I jumped in a local car ("black taxi") for the ride up to Yuquan Si (11:30-2:55, my #107). Sadly, I had no time to see the Guan Yu temple up the hill (Dangyang is his birthplace), as I was worried about reversing that travel back to my hotel in Wuhan. I had to wait four hours in Yichang for a seat, though, so I found a Papa John's for dinner.
  • Stayed Home Inn (Wuhan Guiyuan Temple), Wuhan

Monday, August 6:
Not much happened today, just a three-hour bus ride from Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, to Jiujiang, second-largest city in Jiangxi Province.
  • Stayed Home Inn (Jiujiang Xunyang Road), Jiujiang

Tuesday, August 7:
If the trip to Yuquan Temple on Sunday was strenuous, today's travel was downright heroic. I was trying to reach a remote mountain temple Wuzu Si (12:45-2:45, my #108) with zero information on transportation, and ended up with a sort of comedy of errors--even though the trip was less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) by car. (If I had to do it over again, I might just hire one!) I took bus after bus, and negotiated with a rapacious black taxi for the final leg--just a half-hour ride from Wuzu-zhen, but one that took me straight up the mountain! I had a worse time coming back, as there was no "taxi station" and I had to flag a guy down on a mountain road. Buses and buses and back "home."
  • Stayed Home Inn (Jiujiang Xunyang Road), Jiujiang

Wednesday, August 8:
Today was easier--sort of. Nengren Si (11:45-1:05, my #109) was just half a kilometer from my hotel (but farther by scheming taxi, as its location was hard to determine with then-current technology). From there I took local buses about 20 kilometers out of town to Donglin Si (3:05-5:30 including nearby temple, my #110), at the foot of Lushan Mountain. It was a pleasant walk from the bus stop to the temple gate, past a few other small temples. An easy bus ride home, another grocery-store dinner, and girding for another hotel-jump tomorrow.
  • Stayed Home Inn (Jiujiang Xunyang Road), Jiujiang

Thursday, August 9:
I moved to Nanchang, not because any temples on my list were there, but because it was central to two of my next destinations, one in the mountains to the north, the other in a city to the south. As a bonus, I was able to visit Youmin Si (4:55-5:30) just a couple of kilometers from my hotel. It was the seat of Mazu Daoyi, a great "Zen Man."
  • Stayed Home Inn (Nanchang Bayi Square), Nanchang

Friday, August 10:
Another heroic day: A train to Yongxiu Station, a bus to the base of a mountain, and another squeezing by a private driver to get to the top of a mountain and Zhenru Si (12:30-3:05, my #111). The place was gorgeous, but part of the nearly-three-hour-visit included my walking around a kilometer-and-a-half down the mountain to the gateway and "ticket office," where a kindly passerby took me in his car (with his friends, all smoking) not just down to the main road where I could catch the bus, but all the way back to the train station! This made my return both harder (the walk) and easier (no bus ride). They even bought my ticket to Nanchang (perhaps thinking anyone stupid enough to get stranded on a mountain...)
  • Stayed Home Inn (Nanchang Bayi Square), Nanchang

Saturday, August 11:
This one wasn't so difficult as it was long and tedious. As you can see from my arrival time, I nearly missed Jingju Si (4:30-6:00, my #112) altogether, as I had had a late start, the highway bus ride was four-and-a-half hours, and I still had to take a local bus to the temple's parking lot. In fact the temple was closed--it closed at 4--but I talked my way in past an older monk and had a wonderful visit. A young man who showed me around the temple told me how to get to the train station (by local bus again), cutting my return to Nanchang to a mere three hours. But a great Mexican dinner at "Mexico" in Nanchang.
  • Stayed Home Inn (Nanchang Bayi Square), Nanchang

Sunday, August 12:
Next stop: "lovely" Changsha for two temples. I took a train and checked in to my hotel, then got to Kaifu Si (4:00-6:00, my #113) before closing. The next day wasn't so easy.
  • Stayed Home Inns (Changsha Stadium), Changsha

Monday, August 13:
This temple just would not be found! A kind taxi driver took me all over the place, and tried to refuse the fare when he failed. (I must have given him bad information or something, because the place is quite well known.) Anyway, Lushan Si (path up, 11:45-12:15; 12:15-1:20, my #114) turned out to be a semi-tough climb up the hill behind Hunan University. Leaving the temple, I discovered there was a tram right near the gate! Oh, well, next time. Anyway, down the hill, back to the hotel, and a train to my next destination (and last, for this trip), Nanyue, a truly lovely little town at the base of the mountain which was my main target.
  • Stayed Sanxing House, Nanyue

Tuesday, August 14:
Up (fairly) early after a long night of listening to my neighbors playing mahjong, I walked around the corner and up the street to the entrance to the Mt. Hengshan Scenic Spot, where I paid 100RMB for my ticket and another 70RMB for the shuttle up to the top. "Yay!" I thought, "A shuttle!" But I and what seemed like half of China had to get out at a certain point and climb a steep two-and-a-half kilometers to my first site of the day, Shangfeng Si (10:45-1:30, including climb up and down; my #115). I couldn't stay long as I had two more temples to see spread all over a mountain (and besides, Shanfeng had a lot of construction going on). So I walked back down the 2.5 km and queued for the shuttle back down. I changed buses and got off at Nantai Si (2:15-3:15, my #116), then walked one kilometer back down the road to Fuyan Si (3:20-4:45, my #117). Leaving the mountain, I ate at a fancy restaurant at its base, outside of Zhusheng Si (5:55-7:00) near the great Daoist temple.
  • Stayed Sanxing House, Nanyue

Wednesday, August 15:
At last, the 15th and last temple of my 12-day trip, just a short walk from my hotel: Zhusheng Si (12:10-1:05, my #118), next to the big Daoist temple. I took a taxi to Hengshan West Railway Station for high-speed trip to Guangzhou South Station (after a 90 minute wait), where I changed trains for another high-speed train back to Shenzhen and home.

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