Siem Reap and Angkor of Cambodia (I)(吴哥城-柬埔寨)

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Greeting dance,  Apsara Dancer
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Greeting dance -Apsara dancer
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Royal Residence

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An ornate Buddhist temple.

Siem Reap is a resort city of Cambodia, a gateway to Angkor, an important and largest UNESCO archeological site.  Angkor used to be the capital of the Khmer Kingdom during the 9th to 14th century.  The 400 sq. kilometers of Angkor area consists of monuments, temples,  residence, with features of different ancient urban plans, such as water reservoirs, hydraulic structures as basins, dykes, canals, and communication routes,  as well as its architectural and artistic significance, that can attest to an ancient civilization for several centuries unique to Southeast Asia.

Angkor Thom was the last capital of Khmer Kingdom built by King Jayavarman VII in the 12th century.

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Enter Angkor Thom via the causeway across the Siem Reap River and under the South Gate(Victory Gate)
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One may also take an elephant ride to Angkor Thom. Aligned on both side of the causeway is a seven-headed Naga which is a celestial being with a snakelike body and human head. Riding on it are Devas along the left side of the causeway and Asuras along the right side of the causeway.

Bayon, the state temple of Angkor Thom, situated in the center of Angkor Thom.  It was first built by King  Jayavarman VII the first Mahayana Buddhism King, in the 12th century and late 13th century.  Bayon was first built as a Mahayana Buddhism Temple but later it was modified to accommodate Hinduism and Theravada Buddhism.  Most notable are the serene faces on top of all the pointed towers.

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The temple does not seem to have its own walls or moats to define its area. It is only surrounded by enclosures of three layer of galleries. Center tower rises 43 meters above ground.
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All towers have these faces carved on top, up to approximately 400. It has been said that these faces are of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara or Lokesvara or even King Jayavarman VII himself. People also noted that the most sincere smile is the picture of the lower right.
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decorative carvings on the towers
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Carvings on the columns and walls of the galleries are dancers and stories of life during the Khmer Kingdom.
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Within Angkor Thom is a Terrace of Elephants. The structures on it had all been degraded by nature except the platform which was used for the King to greet the returning victorious army.
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Another terrace used to have statues of animals and the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac animals. Unfortunately, they have been looted.
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Ta Prohm was a monastery in Angkor Thom. It is the only place that was better preserved. In 1992 it was included in the UNESCO world heritage list.
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Ta Prohm is much left to how it was found. The only work is to prop it up at certain places. It is also the best-preserved structure of this area due to the nature of the forest trees that had grown around it. There are 2 types of trees that cause the coverage. The large ones are of silk-cotton tree (Ceiba pentandra) or thitpok Tetrameles nudiflora and the smaller ones are of strangler fig (Ficus gibbosa).[12] or gold apple (Diospyros decandra).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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Docks for boats going up the Rhine River.

Amsterdam was a small fishing village in the 12th century that turned into a major port city in the 17th century during the Dutch Golden Age.  Amsterdam has many water canals, not just for easy transport but also because Amsterdam is mostly under sea level.  The canals are the result of the dams and dikes that was built to hold off the flood water from the sea. The well-known windmills were energy source used to pump water back into the sea to keep the land dry.  Having to constantly balance the level of waters, the Dutch has created the modern water management system of today which is continuously updating as the rising sea level of global warming.

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canal scenes

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Amsterdam city scenes

 

Rijksmuseum is the national museum dedicated to the arts and history of Amsterdam.

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Front of Rijksmuseum

Other scenes within the museum.

Some interesting paintings on display at the museum.  We can see the progression of paintings from still portraits on the simple life and still objects to intricate brushwork, using white to bring out the lace and fabric; and later paintings showing actions and motions.

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The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer (1631-1675)
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Woman with a Child a the Pantry by Peter de Hooch (1629-1683)
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Still Life with a Turkey Pie by Peiter Claesz (1597-1660)
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Portrait of a Man by Frans Hals (1582-1666)
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History Scene with a Self Portrait by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) earlier work of Rembrandt and his head is to the right of the painting behind scepter.
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The Jewish Bride by Rembrandt in 1667
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Fishing for Souls by Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne (1589-1662) Catholics on the right and Protestants on the left of the painting.
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The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn in 1642 famous for its lighting and as in motion.
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Syndics of the Drapers’ Guild by Rembrandt in 1662 a great collective portrait

 

Cologne, Germany

Cologne is the 4th largest city in Germany and the most populated city of the Rhine River.  Cologne had been a major trading route between east and west Europe.  The city was built by the Romans, occupied by the Holy Roman Empire, by the French during Napoleonic Era, and by the British briefly, after World War I.  During World War II, about 61% of the city was destroyed.  The cities pre-war Jewish population were either deported or killed.  The city’s six synagogues were destroyed.

Today’s Cologne was the result of the 1945 Cologne urban planning and 1947 reconstruction of the city.  The constructions of streets and thoroughfares to the city center help to modernize the city.  Some old landmarks were chosen to be rebuilt.  Cologne is a modern city with reflections of the old.

The Kolner Dom (The Cathedral Church of St Peter) is the tallest building second to the Telecommunication tower of 1981.  It is the landmark of Cologne which can be seen all around town.  It can hold more than 20,000 people.  Because it holds the shrine of the Three Wise Men and has impressive stain-glass windows, it was included in the UNESCO world heritage site.

Cologne Cathedral (Kolner Dom) most loved Gothic church build between 1248 and 1880.

Inside the cathedral and the stain-glass windows.

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Great St. Martin Church a Romanesque Catholic church built on the foundation of a Roman chapel. Was rebuilt in 1985.
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Cologne City Hall
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The Famous Farina House Cologne Shop founded in 1709. Made the first Cologne Fragrance known worldwide.

The bridges of Cologne:

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The interesting town center of Cologne:

Lastly a refreshing beer.  Salute!20171103_153040

The Rhine Gorge

The Rhine Gorge, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, is on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites due to its unique historical, cultural, geographical, and industrial combination.  This 65 kilometers of the waterway between Koblenz and Bingen had been a very important trading route for a long time before the railroads.  Because it was a major trading route and the center of Holy Roman Empire small towns and castles built along its banks.  Due to wars, the castles fell into ruins, however, the small towns pretty much stayed the same.

The Rhine Gorge waterway
Stolzenfels Castle
The Marksburg Castle
Electorial Castle (or Alte Burg, meaning Old Castle) is a 13th-century relic
The 13th century Saint Severus’s Church in Boppard
Feindliche Bruder (Enemy Brothers) Sterrenberg and Liebenstein
Burg Maus
Burg Katz above St. Goarshausen
Lorelei Rock (lore means murmuring in Rhine dialect and ley means rock in Roman.) is a slate rock protruding around the bend on Rhine River.  This type of rock is typical of Rhine Gorge which contains sediments and fossils.

Because the area water currents and the sound of a small waterfall in this area at the time caused an echoing effect, people named it the murmuring rock.  Plus the position of Lorelei protruding around the bank caused many boating accidents.  Stories were spin around these odd phenomena, such as elves living in the rock.   In 1801, Clemens Brentano composed a ballad about a beautiful maiden betrayed by her love, was accused of bewitching men and causing their death.  On her way to the nunnery to serve her sentence, from the top of Lorelei Rock she thought she saw her lover and plunge to death.  The story inspired many poems, songs, folklore, and even in the works of symphonies.

Near Lorelei sits this statue of the pretty maiden combing her hair and singing song to distract the sailors to crash into the Lorelei rock. Taking her revenge on sailorman.
Oberwesel, Martinsberg (Saint Martin’s Parish Church)
Town of Oberwesel. The Schonburg on top of the hill. Underneath is the Liebfrauenstraße (Church of Our Lady) and in the middle with black rooftop doom is, Wernerstraße: “Saint” Werner’s Chapel
Burg Gutenfels (Gutenfels Castle) of 1220 in the town of Kaub. Used to be a toll castle. along with Pfalzgrafenstein Castle
Pfalzgrafenstein Castle on an island behind up on the hill is Burg Gutenfels
Burg Stahleck) (Stahleck Castle)

The towns along the Gore stayed the same due to its livelihood which did not change much from ancient times.  Its special gorge climate and geographic condition especially the slopes facing south are a very good condition for a kind of terraced vineyards.  The wines from these vineyards are very special.

Other scenes of the Rhine Gorge.  Artists are attracted to this region and often drew inspiration from here for their creations.

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Koblenz, Germany

Koblenz came from the Latin words which mean the convergence of two rivers, the Rhine and the Moselle.   Because of its strategic position on a major waterway, it was in a prime location to collect tolls and levy taxes on goods that were on the merchant ships passing by.  For this reason only, Koblenz had different occupants throughout its history.  With this, of course, came the largest fortress built between 1817 and 1828 and it is the best-preserved fortress in Europe on the Unesco World Heritage List of 2002. Ehrenbreitstein Fortress located on the hilltop east of the Rhine across from Koblenz.  It overlooks the old town of Koblenz and at the same time monitor the waterways of Rhine and Moselle.

The Fortress Ehrenbreitstein on the hilltop. and The Dikasterialgebaude at the foot of the hill, built in the mid 18th century in baroque castle style. Now it is used for offices.

The grounds of the fortress now houses several museums, exhibition halls, pubs, and a youth hostel.

View from the fort Ehrenbreitstein and the cable car ride.

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The German Corner (Deutsche Eck) at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle

This Statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I is a reconstruction of the old one which was destroyed during World War II.  This is his memorial in honor of his Unification of Germany after three years of war. The original one was erected in 1897 and this replacement was erected in 1993.  This has been a part of UNESCO world heritage “Upper Middle Rhine Valley” site since 2002

The Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) built-in the 5th century on the highest point in the town of Koblenz on a Roman foundation.  Since that time it had been rebuilt and expanded on its original foundation.  For a time from late middle age to the French Revolution, it served as the church of Koblenz.

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A walk around in the old town.

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Some other interesting tidbits about Koblenz.

Schangel a symbol of Koblenz. on a manhole cover. It is a child born in the period when Koblenz was in allegiance with France or the German-France child. Designed in 1940 dedicated to the poet, Josef Cornelius who wrote the lyrics to the anthem of Koblenz
The Schangelbrunn fountain stands in Willi-HorterPlatz. It will pit out water at odd intervals to spray at the passer-bys.
Old Kauf und Danzhaus stands in St. Florin’s Market. It housed the Middle Rhine Museum until 2012. The head below the clock will roll its eyes to the beat of the pendulum and sticks out its tongue every 1/2 hour. It is a reminder of robber baron Lutter von Kobern”s execution in 1536
The New Koblenzer beer brewery. Koblenzer was first brewed in 1689 in the Historic center of Koblenz. But it has become a part of a brewery conglomerate.

 

Hanging Monastery(懸空寺)

Hanging Monastery

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The Hanging Monastery was built in the later years of Northern Wei Dynasty around 1500 years ago.  It had been repaired many times since but the foundation and structure had never been altered.  It is located about 65 kilometers away from the city Datong, Shanxi, facing Mount Heng and back along the precipice of Mount Cuiping (翠屏山).  Above it hangs dangerous stratum of rock layers and below is a 75 meters deep valley.  It is an architectural wonder.  The straight pillars that you see are not the support of  the temple.  The actual supports are the cross beams that was inserted into the side of the mountain.  It has survived with minimum erosion for so many years is due to its positioned in a natural crevice which gets minimal exposure to sunlight, wind, and rain.  It is said that it conforms to the Taoist theory of no noises.  It is shield from all noises by nature.

Legend has it that the reason for building a hanging monastery was because this mountain was mainly a Taoist cultivation ground.  But monk  Liao Ran (了然), who also had been cultivating here wanted to build a Buddhist monastery.  Fearing that the Taoist would oppose his Buddhist temple, he built it single handily off the cliff and also included the monastery a temple dedicate to Sakyamuni Buddha,  Laozi, and Confucius.

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See to crossbeam underneath.  It is the real support of the monastery

It is small but concise including everything that a large monastery would have.  If you are venturous enough to go up to have a closer look, be sure to watch your head while going up and down the stairs.  It feels like on a boat without the waves.

 

Nine Dragon Screen of Datong

Nine Dragon Screen

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This glazed screen is the largest and oldest of its kind in China.  It was built 600 years ago by the thirteenth son of the first Ming Emperor (1368-1644).  It is made of 426 glazed tiles.  Its length is 45.5 meters and height is 8 meters and 2.02 meters thick .  The strong agility of the Dragons are dynamic.  It shows that it can move waves,  command wind and control rain.  This is a display of power through art.

Datong Huayan Monastery (大同華嚴寺)

Huayan Monastery

In the ancient city of Datong, Shanxi is the Huayan Monastery.  It was built during  the Liao Dynasty (1038) covering an area of 66,000 square meters.  Due to partial destruction during the later years of Liao Dynasty, it was rebuilt during the Jin and Yuan Dynasties.  Further repairs were made in the Ming Dynasty and also at the same time separated to an upper section and lower section according to their respective ground level.  It is during the repairs done in Qing Dynasty that the Monastery  was scaled down.

According to records the Huayan Sect of Buddhism was exceptionally popular during the Liao Dynasty.  The emperor Daozong wrote 10 volumes on Buddhism and carved the Khitan  scriptures into 579 sets. They were placed in the Bhagavad (referring to Sakyamuni Buddha) Hall.

 

Bhagavad Sutra Hall is a typical architect of Liao Dynasty stylish cubicles for holding scriptures built in 1038.  It also houses 31 sculptures of Liao Dynasty.  The three main statues represents the past, present and future Buddhas.

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Sakyamuni Buddha, represent the present Buddha. Notice the bright colors shining through the dusts of all those years.  Statues were more relaxed and lifelike.
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Future Buddha represented by Maitreya Buddha.  All statues are covered with thick dust which had become part of the statue.  No right way has been found to remove the dust without damaging the original paints that covered the statues.
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Dipamkara Buddha represent the past Buddha.  Notice all statues were placed on Lotus pedestals.

Rarely, statues were made with smiles exposing teeth.  Here is one of smiling Bodhisattva, “Venus of the East”.  Notice the carving of the flow of the clothes and body curves are quite exquisite.

Arhat Hall

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depicting different characters of individuality which is still not perfect yet.
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A great way to represent  the artistic value of these statues

The Main Hall shows a typical Liao architectural building.  It was first build in 1062 and later rebuilt in 1142 by Jin Dynasty.

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This is the Main Hall.  Typical Liao Roof top.
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Notice the one of the right.  It was buid during Jin Dynasty.  It depicted one of the Dragon’s nine sons who loves to swallow fire.  It was believed that placing him on the roof top could prevent fire. 

Inside the Main Hall is the Buddhas of the five directions.  They are 3.1 meters tall and pedestals are 2.9 meters.  They were built during 1426 to 1435 during the Ming Dynasty

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Buddhas of the Five Directions.  The ceiling has 1012 tiles. Every one is of different designs of symbols of auspiciousness.  Tiles were of Ming Dynasty but coloring and the gold inlays were finished in the Qing Dynasty.
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Amoghasiddhi Buddha of the North
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Amitabha of the Western Paradise
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Vairocana Buddha of the center
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Akshobhya Buddha of the East
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Ratnasambhava Buddha of the South

Lined against the wall on both sides are statues of 20 celestial beings of heaven.

The Huayan Pagoda is also made of only wood. No metal nails nor any cement.  It stood 43 meters high only second tallest to the Wooden Pagoda of Yingxian County.

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The square wooden pagoda 

Under the Huayan Pagoda is a bronze hall constructed with 100 tons of bronze.  It contains the consecrated remnants of the eminent monk Hui Ming, of Huayan during the Yuan Dynasty.  Buddhas of four directions and many small carvings of Buddhas on the walls is the other reason for naming it the Underground Bronze Hall of Thousands of Buddhas.

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the Underground Bronze Hall

 

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.