Trip 19: Shanxi
(August 21-September 3, 2012)

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

At last we arrive at my final trip (so far). I flew to Datong on the borders of Inner Mongolia, took some far-flung bus trips, stayed on sacred Wutai Shan (mountain), and after some urban experiences ended up in pretty little Zhengding, one of my favorite Chinese towns.

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.

Tuesday, August 21:
Travel day: I flew from Guangzhou to Datong (1:35-5:50pm) and took a bus from the airport to the city center, which was disrupted by the erection of new "ancient" walls around the city. I took an unscheduled walk through the Datong City Walls (7:00) to get to my hotel.
  • Stayed Da Tong Yun Gang International Hotel

Wednesday, August 22:
The next morning I walked to nearby Shang Huayan Si (10:00-12:55, my #119), my Number One reason for being in faraway Datong. I visited crappy little Yuantong Si (1:00-1:05) across the street, a place that is clearly going to make bank on its proximity to Huayan. Then off by taxi to Yungang Grottoes (1:40-5:40), my second reason for being in Datong, but one of the best places I've been in China. I found a bus back to town.
  • Stayed Da Tong Yun Gang International Hotel

Thursday, August 23:
Up early, I took a highway bus 60 kilometers south to the magnificent "Hanging Temple," Xuankong Si (11:40-12:45), reached by local bus from the highway bus terminal. Getting out of there wasn't as easy: lots of gougers haunting the parking area, so I started to walk the five kilometers back down the mountain pass when a local bus stopped and took me back to the terminal. From there I took another highway bus (actually two, as just outside of Hunyuan Town we switched from a modern, air-conditioned bus to a creaky old thing full of smokers) to Yingxian, where I walked the few hundred meters to the amazing Wooden Pagoda or Yingxian Mu Ta (2:35-3:40), one of the tallest entirely wooden ancient structures in the world. I walked through Yingxian to the bus station When I got off the bus back to Datong, I took an advertant walk around the Datong City Walls (7:10-7:15).
  • Stayed Da Tong Yun Gang International Hotel

Friday, August 24:
Morning and early afternoon (11:45-1:20) were spent on foot inside Datong's city walls, passing the Drum Tower and visiting a fine Nine-Dragon Screen Wall, as well as well-preserved Shanhua Si (12:05-12:55). After lunch I boarded a bus to Wutai Shan (2:10-6:40), witnessing magnificent country along the way, with an English-speaking guide from Wutai pointing out sights for me. Pleased to find an English-speaking concierge at the small hotel, too.
  • Stayed Huibinlou Hotel, Wutaishan

Saturday, August 25:
The next few days involved a mad amount of templing, mostly on foot or by a shuttle service I had paid dearly for, but a couple of times by private car. In fact, in keeping with my policy of seeing the hardest/farthest sites first, I engaged a local driver (after much searching, with the help of two police officers!) to reach distant Jinge Si (10:05-11:05, my #120), fifteen kilometers up a side road (most of Wutai's attractions are near one main street) and one of Wutai's highest temples. Incidentally, the driver dropped his price considerably when I showed him my beads and prayer book, proving I was not a "mere tourist." The same driver brought me back down and dropped me at Guanyin Dong (11:30-2:30, my #121), which entailed quite a climb past numerous halls (in addition to the new-ish temple complex at the bottom). I walked the few minutes out to the main road and caught the shuttle I had paid dearly for to the northernmost temple on my trip, Bishan Si (3:00-4:40, my #122). Then a walk and a shuttle and a walk back down the road to the hotel and a blah dinner in the dining room.
  • Stayed Huibinlou Hotel, Wutaishan

Sunday, August 26:
This being a Sunday, I decided to stay in until after lunchtime and miss the morning crowds--WRONG! They were still there in the afternoon, and it started raining cats and hammers. I ducked into a restaurant for a crappy lunch, and then took the "ropeway" (like a ski lift) up to Dailuo Ding (3:10-6:25 round-trip, my #123), where I pointed out some English errors in the signage and ended up having tea with the Abbot, who gave me a nice set of beads with the temple's name inscribed on them. I then walked the muddy horse-trail back down--shorter, but causing me to miss the Shancai Cave on the foot path--and visited Jinjie Temple, under construction, before walking home to eat the crappy leftovers from lunch.
  • Stayed Huibinlou Hotel, Wutaishan

Monday, August 27:
What a day! Yesterday I only visited one temple, but today I saw seven (only six from my list, though). From the first, quite near the main road, it's an easy, gradual climb up the mountain past (or through) four more, before visiting two more on the way back down. The Ascent of Five in order are: Shifang Tang (10:30-11:20, my #124); Luohou Si (11:20-12:15, my #125); Yuanzhao Si (12:15-1:00); Guangzong Si (1:00-1:55, my #126); and Pusa Ding (1:55-3:45, my #127), at the peak. Coming back down a slightly different route, I stopped at Xiantong Si (3:45-5:40, my #128) and, near the bottom, Tayuan Si (5:40-6:35, my #129), which--due to my late arrival--I would visit again the next afternoon.
  • Stayed Huibinlou Hotel, Wutaishan

Tuesday, August 28:
My last original temple on Wutaishan, Shuxiang Si (2:25-3:45, my #130), was right across the main road from my hotel. As I finished early, I went back to Tayuan Si (3:55-5:25) for a second visit, as last evening's was somewhat rushed ((and dark). Then my last crappy dinner at my hotel, where I ate most of my meals on Wutaishan.
  • Stayed Huibinlou Hotel, Wutaishan

Wednesday, August 29:
Hauling my bags, I visited the Prajna Spring (9:45) behind a hotel across the road from my hotel (and below yesterday's Shuxiang Si--but I couldn't find it without help from my concierge!) Then down the road to the bus station, whence I traveled to Taiyuan, chatting with a young German tourist.
  • Stayed Jinjiang Inn (Taiyuan Liuxiang), Taiyuan

Thursday, August 30:
I took a 50 kilometer bus to Luliang, Shanxi, and caught a taxi up to Xuanzhong Si (1:00-2:45, my #131). After a delightful visit in this remote mountain fastness, I had no choice but to begin the four-kilometer walk back to the highway (where I hoped to flag a bus), when yet another kind tourist couple picked me up and took me the full eight kilometers to the bus terminal. Back in Taiyuan, I took a local bus to the neighborhood of tomorrow's temples and walked around for an hour or so, including a quick peek at Huang Miao.
  • Stayed Jinjiang Inn (Taiyuan Liuxiang), Taiyuan

Friday, August 31:
I happened to visit urban Chongshan Si (11:55-1:15, my #132) on the Ghost Festival; it was packed. After my visit, I took a local bus to the now-secularized Yongzuo Si (3:00-4:45), also called Shaungta Si or "Twin Pagoda Temple" for its two most prominent features. The halls are fine, though, and like many temples turned over to the government, it has become a repository for items collected from other defunct sites in the region.
  • Stayed Jinjiang Inn (Taiyuan liuxiang), Taiyuan

Saturday, September 1:
Just a travel day, taking the train from Taiyuan to Shijiazhuang.
  • Stayed Huiwen Hotel, Shijiazhuang

Sunday, September 2:
I took a couple of buses out to far-flung Zhaoxian County to see Bailin Si (12:00-1:45) and the nearby Zhaozhou Bridge (2:00-2:30), named for the monk known in Japan as Joshu. (His remains are in the pagoda at Bailin.) I took a taxi to the bridge, which was a disappointment as they've managed to lock it up behind a literal paywall.
  • Stayed Huiwen Hotel, Shijiazhuang

Monday, September 3:
I would be flying out of Shijiazhuang's airport, which is fortuitously located in Zhengding. Though I had been there before to see the Linji Pagoda, I wanted to visit Longxing Si (1:00-3:40), which I did--hauling the bag I had lugged up by bus from central Shijiazhuang. Like Shuangta in Taiyuan, Longxing (also called Dafo) is now a government museum where over a thousand statues from other defunct temples have been collected. Then by taxi with my bags to the hotel across from the airport.
  • Stayed Ou Jing Holiday Hotel, Shijiazhuang

Tuesday, September 4:
Flight back to Shenzhen, ending a full two weeks on the road.

*  *  *

This, by the way, is the end of my pilgrimage (so far). I still have 10 temples to go, which I hope to see in a "Trip 20" in the near future.

No comments:

Post a Comment