First thing in the morning we got up and took the subway over to Xihu park, hoping to find some baozi or something along the way. The crowds were so thick all you could do was try to get to the part of the crowd moving in the direction you want and go with the flow. We made it over to the lakeside, it was a nice sunny day, the first non-travel day of golden week and everyone was out to see the part of the park close to town.
It was another beautiful bike ride enjoying the sun dappled through the trees at the lakeside. Past the lake and through the forest we rode up a slight hill to the base of the Lingyin temple area. There are actually 3 temples in the park which houses them and they charge admission for both entrance to the ‘scenic area’ and to the main temple inside the ‘scenic area’, while the many stone carvings of the Buddha and the other two temples and tea plantation are included in access to the ‘scenic area’.
The main temple was, of course, the one closest to the gate while the others were a bit of a hike. This was fine by us as there were many actual original stone carvings of the Buddha in the cliffs and grottoes we walked past. One temple is actually a series of buildings and gardens usually leading up to places to burn incense and pray to deities.
It seemed to me the usual layout has lesser gods sharing temples closer to the bottom of a hill, with greater gods with their own buildings higher up. Each building will have a gated courtyard with torches to light incense at and a massive black cauldron with sand in it to hold the incense sticks as they burn.
The courtyards also can have large trees, bonsai trees, koi ponds and stone pagodas. There are steps leading from the courtyard up to the temple doors where people kneel on cushions and pray to the deity of the temple after burning incense and bowing three times to the cardinal directions.
There are a few things to note about Buddhism in China. Buddhism has been heavily influenced by Taoism and Chinese folk religion. The lines and links between these blurred during the imperial era as different dynasties favored different orthodoxy of one or the other.
After exploring thoroughly we grabbed some food and bikes and took off back towards Xihu park. We biked around and got a little lost, got a little found and managed to watch the sunset from a bridge on one of the causeways that cross the lake. We biked all around the massive park with dusk falling, towards the historical ‘old street’.
We exited up a side alley and found a Japanese restaurant which graced me with possibly the best ramen I’ve ever had. On the ride over we’d spotted a temple on a nearby hill covered in lights and presumably open. We walked up a dark staircase down an alley off of the previous alley. It grew lighter as we got closer to the temple. The hill area wasn’t residential but we came across the usual joggers and old people dancing in groups as well as some people doing yoga just off the main path. When we reached the base of the temple we had a laugh at a little girl running away from her parents who nearly bumped into us before yelling ‘Aaah waiguoren!’. That translates as ‘Aaah foreigners!’ which we thought was pretty funny.
The view from the temple was amazing, we could see all the way across the lake and to the rolling hills on the other side. We could see the skyline stretching out to the north and east of us, towers of glowing lights in the distance.
Noah is a Canadian teacher at our Hu Qian branch.