Luya Mountain(蘆芽山), Shanxi(山西省)

Scenic Area of the Luya Mountain

Luya Mountain, named due to its highest peak which look like an asparagus shoot, located at the northern part of Shanxi Province of China, contains the source of Fen River (汾河) and Shanggan River(桑幹河) the two major tributaries of the Yellow River of China.     Its intact ecosystem along with its complex geography and biodiversity placed it on the tentative UNESCO list .  Besides the Million Years Ice Cave on this mountain,  there are many other tourist area such as the Fen River Source Park.

Along the way The Stone Pot formed at the 4th ice age. It’s height of 3 meters and width of 2 meters at an incline is still quite rigid. There is a legend that one time when the Fen River overflowed. The master curtailed the flood by placing the large pot filled with the waters of Fenhe River and boiled down the water.
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Temple of Thunder (雷鸣寺) seated at the Fen River Source Park. Below the right side of the temple is the Pavilion of Fen River source.

 

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The Pavilion of Fen River Source. Under the structure is where water comes up-ground into this dome covered well and flow into the FenYuang Lake before it joins the Fen River

 

Also the Shimen Hanging Coffin(石门悬棺) which were discovered 1,000 years ago.  Nothing is known for sure about these coffins.  It could have been the custom burial of the Bo people but no one knows for sure.  There are a total of 11 coffins found here.

And then there is the cliff trails of 42 kilometers which only a portion of it has been restored and open for the adventurous.

The cliff paths connect between the mountains which was believed to be built around 785-780 during the Tang Dynasty the same time as this small hanging temple (小悬空寺) about 100 meters above ground.

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Luyashan (芦芽山) Mountain Ningwu ice cave of Shanxi

Million Years Ice Cave

Entrance to the ice cave. The trees were green

This ice cave is on Lu-ya Mountain. It’s entrance is located at an altitude of 2300 above sea level.  This ice cave is naturally maintained at a temperature of -4 degree centigrade.  The temperature is not affected by the temperature outside.  In fact the ice cave is open to the public only from May to October.  The cave estimated to be formed 3 million years ago and because of it’s bowling pin shape kept the outside air out.  The cave is 278 ft. deep and the width is between 32 ft. to 65 ft.  This wondrous ice cave believe it or not actually has an inactive volcano not far behind it.  Inside the cave is a sight to behold.

 

GuanYin Tang in JianJie, Shanxi

GuanYin Tang of JianJie

There is a little temple rarely known in rural JianJie, Shanxi Province of China.  This little temple is only 350 square meters but contains a huge amount of statuettes, carvings of the Ming Dynasty.  Presently, the temple is under the protection of Shanxi Province Arts and Culture Heritage.  Therefore, cameras were prohibited inside.  The temple is locked up majority of the time.  If you knock, the doorman would open for you to visit.

The entrance to the temple grounds which is approximately 7500 sq. meters

The main temple, GuanYin Tang was build from 1581 to 1583 during the Ming Dynasty.

The name plaque is a work of Gao Qin, Assistant minster of Ministry of War in Ming Dynasty
The right cypress

The two, thousand year-old cypress guarding the GuanYin Temple.  Inside the temple contains carving and statuettes hanging from the ceilings.  The three main Statues facing the door is Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, Manjshri Bodhisattva and Samanabhadra Bodhisattva.  Covering the walls from top to bottom are carvings including 18 Arhats, 24 levels of heavens, 12 Prayekabuddha.  One can also find statuette of immortals of Taoism and 72 virtuous individuals.  Above the entrance, one can see three statues of Laozi, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Confucius.

Confucious, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Laozi

There are a total of 500 statuette ranging from 2 meters to 2 millimeters plus intricate carvings are truly a treasure trove.

This village temple, although small but still made room for different religions, shown that even during Ming Dynasty, people respect different religious beliefs and teachings.

 

Huang Cheng Xiang Fu of Shangxi

The House of Huangcheng Chancellor

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This arch stands forefront as we enter the gate. It is decorated with carvings of phoenixes and other auspicious symbols. It is a list of all the members of the family who were in government with their titles.
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The fortress wall surrounding the city. It was build in the latter years of Ming Dynasty when bandits and robbers were everywhere.

 

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Steps going up to the watch tower
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The fortified city wall and the highest point

This large complex was started in the Ming Dynasty and finished in the Qing Dynasty (1368-1911) and was the resident of  Chen Tingjing , Premier of Qing Dynasty which Emperor Kangxi referred as the “perfect man”.  He served as head in different departments of the government except the department of defense.  He served as the teacher of Kangxi for a time and later Kangxi sought his counsel frequently.  Emperor Kangxi stayed in his home for a period of time when he was visiting this area.  In his later days, he was asked to stayed on service in helping to compile and proofread for the Kangxi Dictionary of the Chinese Characters which is still being referred to today.  He died at age 74 before this dictionary was published.  He served 50 some years in office away from home.

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The first issue of Kangxi Dictionary  in 1716 consist of 47,035 Chinese Characters including characters of different dialects. It still serves as the foundation for Chinese dictionaries of today.

The Chen clan were farmers and then move on to coal mining.  They amassed their wealth and emphasized on educating their young.  It proved that through education can achieve a higher goal in life.  From 1501 to 1700 , the family had 66 members  who passed imperial exams.

Below are pictures of the family courtyard of his living quarters which he hardly lived in during his lifetime in office.

 

 

 

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Qinglian Temple of Jincheng City

Jincheng City, in Shanxi, is the cradle of Chinese civilization and home of one-third of the ancient architectures built before 1234 AD in China.  Shanxi, China has an abundance of coal but Jincheng is most notable for a special blue coal with gives off a fragrance when burned.  No wonder the British Royals prefer them in their fireplace.

Qinglin Temple or the Blue Lotus Temple, about 17 kilometer southwest of Jincheng City, is one of the oldest temples in Maitreya’s Pureland in China.  Buddhist Monk   Huiyuan (慧遠)  built the temple in Northern Qi Dynasty (550-559 AD) named Xiashi but later changed to Qinglian in Tang Dynasty (867AD).  Huiyuan established this temple known as the literarery center of Buddhism just like the Shaolin Temple, known as the martial arts center.

20170901_162932 In its heydays, it stored more than 7,000 scrolls of Buddhist scriptures. Besides served as the library of Buddhism, it was the translation center of the different doctrine of Buddhism.

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Over the years from which it was first built in 500 AD, many restorations, constructions, and expansions had been made.  To date,  it mainly has Song style architecture, murals of Ming and Qing Dynasty, and six painted sculptures of Tang Dynasty.   This temple is now protected as cultural relics by the Chinese government.  Therefore, all picture taking is forbidden indoors.  However, the scenes surrounding the temple is quite serene.

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View below the temple
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Cypress off-spring embrace the maternal cypress which has died but still standing with the support of the off-spring Cypress.
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Dan bridge over the Dan River below the temple

 

 

 

Han Yang Ling(漢陽陵)

Han Yang Ling(漢陽陵)

An underground Mausoleum of Western Han Dynasty, the tomb of the fourth  Han Emperor Jing and Empress Wang located in Xianyang City of Shaanxi Province, China.  The tomb was built around 153AD.  Each pit was arranged according to the different departments in the palace so that life would be able to continue after death as usual.  There is a pit of the kitchen with kitchen utensils and terra-cotta figurines of cooks and workers.   All the figurines found were without arms or clothes because the arms were made of wood so they along with the clothes had decayed.  There were approximately 50,000 terra cotta figurines found so far along with different artifacts.   The burial ground covers an area of 20 square kilometers but only a portion has been excavated and open to the public.  The rest will still be preserved underground til a later date.  There are figurines of sheep, goats, cows, pigs, chickens, and dogs kept in the pit for food storage.  Another contained actual grains and vegetables had all turned to black powder like coal.    Picture taking was not allowed so these are only pictures found on the internet to give my reader a visual impression.  Below is the pit of the concubine figurines

Below are samples of the different artifacts found

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Taroka Gorge and Hualien City of Eastern Taiwan

Hualien City is on the eastern coast of Taiwan along the Pacific Ocean and is the transition point to the eastern part of Taiwan.  The city has the most population of Taiwan aborigines, consisting of many tribes.  In the night market of Hualien City is a strip of all aborigines vendor selling their styles of cuisines and the most noted is their barbecues.

Hualien Night Market
Hualien Night Market
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Entrance to the Aborigines strip
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In the center of Hualien’s  shopping center is a pedestrian only area that was originally the old railroad track.  An Excellent place for people to relax during their shopping spree.

At one of the old railroad stop is an old police station and a jailhouse.

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Next to it is an old World War II bomb shelter concealed by an old tree and a pond of fishes for water and fresh food.

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In the outskirt of Hualien City is the most noted for its Taroka Gorge National Park, the world’s deepest marble canyon. Taroka means magnificent and splendid in Truku, the aborigines tribe that lived here.  They are known by their facial and body tattoos and weaving of clothing and utensils.  These days only a few of them still live in this area.  As always, the National Park is to protect the scenic sight, historic relics, and wild life of the area.  The park not only conserve natural resources, provide environmental education, and promote scientific research.  Aside from activities of hiking, biking, camping, the most popular marathon was held here annually.  Its popularity is renown world wide due to its beautiful trail.