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

 

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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.

 

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

 

 

 

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.

Cheimei Museum, Taijiang, Tainan, Taiwan

Chimei Museum
Chimei Museum
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One of the interesting places to visit in Tainan is Chimei Museum.  It is a private museum established in 1992 by Chimei Corporation.  The museum is the first museum build in western style and exhibits mainly western arts, sculptures, and other artifacts.  This is a good way to introduce western arts and cultures to the locals without having to go abroad.  Besides artworks and sculptures, there is a collection of musical instruments,  armors, and weapons of different period in time.  It also has a collection of real fossils and specimens of various animals on permanent exhibition which is a good way to bring the animals to the people.  As well as, a good way to show that there are not just other people sharing the earth with us but also various other animals sharing the earth with us.  Picture taking is off limits inside the museum and reservation for entrance tickets must be made ahead of time.

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Near by about 20 minutes drive is the Les Hotel Tainan.  It is compact but well designed, that every space is well utilized and design for comfort.  It has 5-star amenities plus a Jacuzzi bath in every room.  Apparently, it is preferred for business conference and wedding parties. We saw a lot of couples having their wedding pictures taken there.

People's Temple
People’s Temple

People’s Temple (大眾廟) is our next stop.  This temple had been rebuilt many times since the occupation of the Dutch.  But it had always been a holy site since the original aborigines, the Ping-pu tribe (平埔族西拉雅人) and it remained a holy site of all those years after the Chinese immigrated here and through the occupation of Dutch and Japanese til now.  This temple was first built by the Chinese to commemorate the first Taiwanese Admiral of the Chinese Qing Dynasty and had been reconstructed in its original style many times later.

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Next to the People’s Temple is the Sihcao Green Water Tunnel of Taijiang National Recreational National Park.  Bamboo raft ride takes you into to the water tunnel of this wetland ecological system of rare plants, habitat for various fish, oysters, crabs, water fouls, birds, and insects as well as migratory

birds.  Life jackets and bamboo hats were provided for the ride.

these tubes are air tubes for the roots of the mangroves
These are air tubes for the roots of the mangroves
tree branches hang over very low.
tree branches hang over very low.
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The green water tunnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taijiang National Park is protected natural wetland lagoon ecological resources.  It is an inland sea with ever changing sand beaches.  The Chiku Lagoon ecological tours take you out to the various waterways and to the mouths where it meets the ocean.

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see people Fishing
see people Fishing
crabbing
crabbing
Inland sea ends at the bridge
Inland sea ends at the bridge
oyster farm
oyster farm
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Fishing, crabbing, are controlled by licensing only.  It is to ensure the ecosystem is maintained. A lot of bird watching goes on in the early morning and late afternoon.  But during mid-day.   We were lucky to see this crane.  There are many species of Cranes on this major migratory route.

We came to the 3D village on our return trip.

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And a stopover at the Crystal Slipper Chapel Park.

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