Saturday 19 August 2006
Highlights: Longmen Grottos, White Horse Temple, the Smiling Buddha
Another incredible day this time in Luoyang. China just keeps on coming with memorable moments worth cherishing, today I got to see both the Longmen Grottos and the White Horse Temple which are both UNESCO protect sites. The Longmen Grottos was a 400 year project of cravings of the different versions of Buddha and are over 1,500 years old. Watching the “smiling” 17 metre Buddha from across a river with people ascending up the stairs to visit was the perfect metaphor of people trying to achieve enlightenment. The scale of the creations of the Chinese is almost overwhelming, everything is just so big.
After this I went to the White Horse Temple, the birth place of Buddhism in China. It is the place that two Indian Monks came to China to translate scriptures into Chinese and the temple is just under 2,000 years old. There are now over 21,000 Buddha temples in China but this is the first one. Luoyang was the site of both these places as it was once the capital of China for over 600 years (recently it was for a brief period during World War II). The city is currently building a new centre, and again the scale is incredible, they build everything at the same time, government buildings, schools, parks, everything and it looks great. China, in certain places, is starting to show its new wealth. Opposite my hotel right now families have gathered in a park (it’s 9.20 pm) and are dancing and playing together. I witnessed this in Xian as well. The sense of family in China is everywhere as is community. It seems to be a nicer and safer place during the day once everyone was stopped trying to earn money.
I sometimes wish we had this sense of community in western society. I now have to wait for my 1 am train to Yichang, the train ride will go for about 9 hours followed by a 2 hour bus trip after which point a shower will be in order 🙂
I’ll then start the Yangtze River Cruise which goes for 3 days and get to see the first massive world project of this century the Three Gorges Dam (it will provide 10% of China’s power and will be visible from space). The first half of the China tour has been very intense and tough (with heat and humidity), the second half promises to be more peaceful and about nature.