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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

No. 43: Haibaota Temple, Yinchuan, Ningxia

Haibaota Temple (海宝塔寺) in the Hui (回族) city of Yinchuan, Ningxia (宁夏, 银川市),
is named for the unusually-designed Haibao ("Sea Treasure") Pagoda (海宝塔).
A short hour-and-fifteen minute flight from Xi'an took me to Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia. I only had one night, so I wasted no time: I dropped my bags at my motel and headed north to Haibaota ("Sea Treasure Pagoda") Temple. The crystalline blue sky and dusty roads were sure signs that I was as close as my pilgrimage would take me to the great western deserts of Gansu and beyond.

Along the way I couldn't miss the notable Muslim presence. Ningxia is an autonomous region for the Hui people, one of China's 56 ethnic groups, composed primarily of Chinese-speaking Muslims. I passed many men on the street wearing white caps, and women with characteristic head-coverings.

I left a local bus to walk through a beautiful park along the shores of Beita ("North Pagoda") Lake with spectacular views of the temple's carved brick pagoda reflected in its waters.

Historically, the pagoda and its compound had stood on an island, making it hard to get to, but no more. Nevertheless, the extremely pleasant grounds were not at all crowded on this Tuesday afternoon.

The centerpiece is of course the pagoda itself. This stands on a high platform which--unusually--extends back to a raised courtyard holding several buildings. One of these has a "sleeping Buddha" with an unusually fine set of Ten Great Disciples standing around the Buddha as he enters Nirvana.

The city has other attractions, including remains from the Western Xia Dynasty. Unfortunately my schedule didn't permit me to explore further, and I reluctantly left this ancient oasis and returned home.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily December 3, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • 38.49247, 106.28101



Map:




GALLERY

The "Sea Treasure Pagoda" at Haibaota Temple
A more dramatic view of the pagoda and its porch
This small bridge leads to a raised platform behind the pagoda
Statues of the Ten Great Disciples surround the sleeping Buddha in the rear hall
One of numerous fine halls on the grounds of the temple

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