Saturday, June 02, 2007

Heaven above Heaven

I just ate a whole Honey Dew melon. It was delicous and cheap. I might do the same tomorrow even.


Last weekend, I found what I think may safely be called 'the only good reason to come within a 2 hour driving radius of Liaoyang'. That thing is Qianshan ('a thousand mountains' a slight exaggeration).

Any description I could offer would pale in comparison with that composed by Eternal Spring Tours. So here you go:

Qian-Shan Mountain
Mount Qianshan is the most famous tourist site in north China. It lies in the east, about 20 kilometers away from Anshan City, and boasts 999 mountains altogether, covering 152 square kilometers. So, it is also called thousand-lotus-flower mountain.

Mount Qianshan features many beautiful peaks, precipitious cliffs, secluded valleys, high-situated Taoism and Buddhism temples, grotesque pine trees in strange shape, exuberant flowers of various kinds, etc. So, for a very long history it has been given the name of Treasure Pearl of North China.

Ever from Shui Dynasty, it has been the religion center, and many Buddhists and Taoists came here to construct many temples, pagodas half way or at the top of the mountains. It is seldom for both Buddhism and Taoism temples stationing in one mountain area and left with present people so much cultural contents to read, understand ans explore.

For Taoism the most imposing temple is Infinity Temple who was built half way up the steep mountains and has very strange layout. Visitors coming here will sigh at the fine scenery and have the feeling of walking casually into a fairy land. Many poets left with us much poem praising the sights and so many poem inscription tablets stand fully or partly in deep shrub. Emperor-Visited Scenery Zone, Western Ocean Zone, Great Buddha Zone, Bird-Tweedling Zone and Immortal's Platform are present spot sites very deserving visting and at least 4 days are necessary to tour them all.

Well, we had one day. Actually around four hours. But I think we managed to get the requisite amount of walking casually into a fairyland.

Now, with so many mountains, and so little time, we chose to make a bee-line for this guy:


I think it was the "Mountain of Freaking Huge Buddha in some big-ass temple" or some such. The other peaks held such delights as "One Step Heaven", "A Line Heaven", "Heaven above Heaven", "Heaven slightly to the right of Heaven*" and the alluringly named "Strip Heaven".

After discarding my serfs and chicken entrails as dictated by point number seven on this sign:


We started the walk up the wide, lightly inclined avenue, keeping an eye out for marauding uber-golfcarts carrying the lazier tourists, till we got to this guy:


You'll notice how he's laughing, and looking very relaxed. This is because he knows that you are about to climb a bunch of stairs, whereas he is not.


Though again, for the Chinese tourist who insists on showing up either in impractically high heels or a full shirt/tie/jacket ensemble, there is the soft option:


We took the stairs.

Getting closer:


Seeing what must be several hundred tons of marble at the top of a very tall hill, accessible only by a narrow winding path (and a cable car) conjures images of Buddhist super monks effortlessly hefting huge slabs of stone on their backs, leaping from peak to peak to build their sequestered house of prayer. This sense of awe is somewhat dampened when you see plaques indicating that it was constructed in the ancient year of 2004.

Eventually, we found ourselves at this door, (flanked by two rather ridiculously muscled monk type fellows) What mysteries would it hold for the determined supplicant who had completed their hour long penance of stair climbing? (or 3 minutes of cable car riding?)




Which is, as they say, something that you do not see everyday. Now I'm not one of those people that comes to the mysterious Orient and goes all gaga over the 'sublime beauty of Eastern Religion over Western Dogma' or whatever, but if the new testament involved more Jesus riding giant anthropomorphic giant eagles, I wouldn't complain.

Anyway, all of this aside, the reason why I think this is the best place I've seen in Liaoning Province so far is this:


You can look out over the landscape for about 270 degrees, and see no signs of human civilisation whatsoever. Just trees and mountains and more trees. Authentic wilderness. The thing about China, is that it has been continuously inhabited pretty much forever, certainly for the last 6000 years. Almost every inhabitable inch of soil has been farmed, flooded, burnt, built on, dug up, filled in, slept, shat and died on, by thousands of people for thousands of years. And it shows. There are really places in this country where you have an overwhelming sense that the very earth is worn. So to be able to stand not 20 minutes from a city of several million people, and stare out at pure untrammeled nature, bonafide wilderness, is, I think, something special.

* Okay I made that one up. You can quit looking for it in your guidebook.

No comments: