Meditations on Temples: Chanting the mantra in Guangzhou!

“They say Karma’s gonna get you…”

Temples hold a great power over me, ever since a few of my trips to Thailand to see the great wats; I’ve meditated in Buddhist centres in the UK: but when the focus is paired down to a deep relationship between the Buddha, the white light and all the offerings…I usually just end up thinking about the delicious salty snacks laid before the enlightened one.

No, for me; it’s truly about the temple atmosphere; legends guarded by guardian lions; mermaid princesses and giant statues; You can’t turn your face away from this kind of imagery; it’s actually kind of an insult within the faith itself to turn your back to it;

9-c.jpg

The first prayer ribbons encountered in Lijiang, Yunnan, China. 

I grew up in Britain; where some religions heavily featured violent or graphic images;  those memories are covered in a literal smell of dust that is hard to summarise on a social media platform…but anyway this was why I was excited to see what Guangzhou had to offer;

 

1. To Chen Clan Academy…

IMG_0678.jpg

My adventure started with Chen Clan Academy; which started life as a short-term accommodation space in 1888.; a sort of frat house for Chen Clan members to sit provincial exams; a wordsmith, a Mr.Guo Moruo obviously brushed up on his poetry a bit on this one; writing the following poem in praise of such an academy;

‘Nature’s engineering can be replaced by human creation, yet human creation cannot be surpassed by natural force.  The human world is created  in a way like this, a visit to this place is better than ten years learning from books’

While not strictly a temple; those ten years as a bookworm are rightly a waste compared to the rooftops of the academy; something I’ve noticed as a sure sign of a temple; a quick google search reveals Chen Clan as an academic temple; which mostly consists of a series of dramatic rooftops depicting everything from flowers, birds to scenes of Cantonese soaps of the time;

IMG_0628.jpg

 

For me; coming from a place where our history is depicted in solemn, almost dowdy or melancholic; even the statues of Chen Clan could be called fruitful; consider my bouche amused and hungry to be led by lions to the various incarnations of Gautama Buddha;

 

2.  Xiaozhou Village;

Which led to me to Xiaozhou village; a short bus ride away from the bustling; “shop, shop and eat” culture which envelops Guangzhou; Xiaozhou village in itself is a chance to see what life in China would have been like nearly 30-40 years ago; a mural of Chairman Mao smoking a fag; confirms your trip back into time;

IMG_0775.jpg

The shrine here is less about the pictures for WeChat or Instagram; it’s a great glimpse into local beliefs and how faith and belief is a personal thing in Buddhism; rather than something you have to spread to the rest of the world;

IMG_0759.jpg

Small and solemn buddhas at Xiaozhou

As a result; it ranks on the rather small scale, but it’s a good starting point and a good excuse to visit Xiaozhou; which has sort of charmingly given up on tourism. I’m a big fan of those postcard pictures; where you sort of superimpose the old and the new; or just the local site; Yes it’s a great place for budding photographers; Check out the Oyster house in Xiyuan!

Some sites in Xiaozhou

3. Renwei Temple

A quick boat ride a week later and I was heading to Liwan Lake Park; to check out Renwei Ancestral Temple; the first full temple I’d stumbled into; In China; temples aren’t the boisterous affairs that you encounter in Thailand; this isn’t a measuring contest; but things are very different in China when it comes to Buddhism; it’s on a smaller scale Temple wise.

IMG_1009.jpg

 

What was wonderful at Renwei is the little statues encased in kind of a rotating case; the closest comparison I can see is the prayer wheels of Nepal; which mainly depict the mantra over any actual depictions of the Buddha; 

IMG_0997 (1).jpg

Renwei enjoys a history of over 900 years; how can you not be impressed, simply by visiting old stuff and being alive to enjoy experience how people used to live; and how the local people have made a community around the history and kept it alive.

 

4. Liurong Temple

But this isn’t enough surely? You can’t just smell the incense and give up as a Temple Runner; I took a rest and found myself the next week in Liurong Temple or more well known by foreigners as Banyan Tree Temple; I’d seen the temple from the famous Canton Tower and vowed to trade the steel building for something a bit more karma centric; So I shuffled in and lit some incense…and what a temple it is:

IMG_2022.jpg

It started to rain, my feet were soaked; shoes ruined etc;  but the Lotus Pagoda as it’s also, also known was a sight to behold as you can see from my random images; it’s named as such due to it’s habit of giving out light; imagine the feeling you’d have had back in old 537 AD. Seeing those 9 layers shining out…awesome!

But even more than that; the three fairly middle weight statues definitely depict some kind of teenage phase of our golden gods;  They are like naughty schoolboys rather than supreme beings dictating the life of us ‘Germs with shoes’ as Bill Hicks used to say.  The rain didn’t dampen my spirits; but it did ruin my shoes!

IMG_2064.jpg

Then on and on; after a delicious meal of Prawn Summer Rolls and Seafood in a coconut with boiled rice at Tiger Prawn; a Vietnamese/Thai restaurant down in Beijing Lu…or Beijing Road to the tourists…

5. Dafo Ancient Temple

…I came across Dafo Ancient Temple; right in the middle of all the chaos of one of Gunagzhou’s main eating/shopping district;  the same imagery of the lions is here; led by some fairly confident herders; again the emphasis here is on the great bounty of the Buddha.

IMG_2299.jpg

The most curious artifact here is the White Buddha; being attended to in a no-go zone for those who haven’t sacrificed their life to live in the temple, instead of randomly shuffle around them; this was like the VIP room of every club you ever went to as a teenager;

IMG_2316.jpg

Still it made you curious what the life of a Buddhist monk must be like; all the orange robes; incense burning; is it the same coveted items that drives some people to become a police officer? or a professional football mascot?  Earlier in the week; I’d come across a female monk in the street; something I found refreshing to what surely must be a little bit of a boys club.;

The construction work that goes on with temples isn’t talked about much, perhaps it’s not particularly of any importance to most people; but does it remove the magic? like a magician with his pants down and a rabbit poking out his arse? No…but it’s important to give a resounding thanks to all the effort that goes into crafting the temples as seen here:

IMG_2321.jpg

 

6. Foshan Temple

So; we are led to Foshan to encounter Zumiao Temple; where the temple lions have gnarled claws and the memory of China’s greatest Kung-Fu master Ip man lingers; a perfect mix of noble character and talent; which is historically described as a Lotus Flower in Chinese culture. Ip man’s most famous student was of course; the Hong Kong born Bruce Lee; who definitely traded dumplings for dumbbells in a quest to become a Kung-Fu master under the Ip man.

IMG_2357.jpg

Relics from the life of Ip man…

 

While here; I managed to get a temple to myself; where my hand was halfway to my camera phone and halfway to my timer; I’m a practicer of Transcendental Meditation and have worked on films on the subject; the mantra comes in strong in this kind of environment; but it makes you wonder; Are we here to simply record everything? What’s that all about?  Why are there statues with fake beards…? What’s it all about…

IMG_2355.jpg

 

12-IMG_4931.JPG

 

Which is why I’ll still visit more temples…Is there anything that makes you question yourself more than a few golden statues and a mantra?

Perhaps I’ll become a temple reviewer…

A templeviewer…? No, that doesn’t quite work…

This started life as a reflection on Buddhism and temples; I’m sure it all looked better while I was writing it…

 

 

 

 

 

Bar of the week: Sun in the Sky; a wine bar for the Warhol generation; go haunt the expensive clothes; I’ll be back for a 500 yuan shirt sometime around November…Featuring Wine Tastings very soon, which I’m getting involved in.

IMG_2227.jpg

Restaurant of the week: Tiger Prawn
If you love Thai/Vietnamese food this is a great place to dine alone or with just one other person as it’s always packed…the prawn summer rolls were a little past their prime; but seafood served in a coconut is sublime…also everything comes with sauce; I think the secret to any good restaurant is a lot of sauce; a good atmosphere and an extensive menu; as long as it’s not ‘all over the place’

IMG_2081.jpg

Snack of the week: Random Jelly Lollipops…Every wandered around and fancied something a bit like eating a breast implant? Me neither…but then; it’s sticky; it’s chewy and I’m hooked…

 

IMG_0806.jpg

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s