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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trip 6: Xi'an 2 (Outlying Areas) and Ningxia (October 13-20, 2010)

This is a record of my sixth trip to visit the 142 Key Temples of China. Links lead to articles on the temple (or other site) named.



Wednesday, October 13:
Shenzhen-Xi'an flight 08:40-11:10; in room by 1:40. Had expected to stay at Home Inn (The East of Zhonglou Xi'an), but was rejected as a foreigner, so rebooked to City Hotel, just southwest of the Bell Tower. Went to the Tourist Information Center (NW of Bell Tower) to try to get information on reaching outlying temples. Good maps, little bus info. Dinner at Subway.
  • Stayed Xi'an - City Hotel



Thursday, October 14:
Xingjiao Temple
Trying to use only local buses (no taxis or cars) I headed out to find some temples. I reached Xingjiao Si (11:03-1:30; my #39), with Xuanzang's pagoda. On the way back, I wanted to find the ancestral seat of the Huayan Sect. Google Maps was terribly wrong; I got off the bus at the wrong place, walked a while, and was set right by a local policeman and the driver of the bus I reboarded. I finally found it on the Cliffside above a school: Huayan Si (2:20-3:40). Back on the bus and to the city's center.
  • Stayed Xi'an - City Hotel



Friday, October 15:
Caotang Temple
Today's temples were even more remote. After two or three buses, I landed at a fork in the road called Fengyu Kou. The driver who took me up to the gate of the first temple insisted that the temple was right next to the road; WRONG. From the base of the hill at 10:35, it was an hour up a largely washed-out trail to Jingye Si (11:35-1:15; my #40), where upon my arrival at the gate, another visitor gave me fruit. The setting was beautiful, the temple serene. I wanted to continue up to the pagoda dedicated to Daoxuan, but the same storm that washed out the trail below made it impossible to continue very far. I was back at the base of the hill by 2:05, where I walked a bit then caught a cab back to Fengyu Kou, where I boarded an onward bus. I alighted at 2:45 for the 15-minute walk to Caotang Si (3:00-4:25; my #41). Another beautiful place. And then I made a mistake: instead of back-tracking, I tried taking another bus, through Huxian. This led to an extremely packed bus, the last of the day, and a VERY long ride standing up (with some washboard road to boot). After the morning's climb, this was excruciating. Another bus (seated at last) and I was back at the Bell Tower around 8:00.
  • Stayed Xi'an - City Hotel



Saturday, October 16:
Xiangji Temple
By 10:00 I was in the area of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda looking for information on buses to Famen Temple (upshot: have to go to the train station parking lot tomorrow morning). Lunch, then a local bus toward the next temple. Off the bus at 1:50, through a village and past an old pagoda, to Xiangji Si (2:00-4:00; my #42), where the ticket-seller let me in for free. Back out for a closer look at the pagoda, some shots of village kids, and back on the bus by 4:20. Another very long ride home, this time because traffic in the city center was virtually shut down by student protests against Japan over a sovereignty dispute regarding the Diaoyu (Japanese: Senkaku) Islands. Official media reported over 7,000 students participated; I ended up getting off my detoured bus and walking into the city, where I ate at Subway. Then another walk, and having to get permission to cross through the police cordon to get to my hotel. All was quiet at that moment, but things started up again later, and I heard bullhorn-led chanting into the night. (Where do students get bullhorns?)
  • Stayed Xi'an - City Hotel



Sunday, October 17:
Famen Temple
Today I led a little protest of my own. In 1987 an alleged relic of Shakyamuni Buddha was unearthed when a pagoda collapsed. The humble little temple has subsequently been turned into another Disney-esque debacle with a huge 120rmb entry fee. I took a direct highway bus from the train station plaza, debussing at 9:50. Not wanting to enter the "fake" area at all, I worked my way from the massive entry gate around to the less-pretentious gate to the temple itself--almost. There was still a barrier charging the higher fee, and I did everything I could to avoid paying it, for the sake of principle. I explained that I simply wanted to pray in the temple, not visit the relic; I called monks I knew to see if they knew someone inside; I hailed exiting monks and asked for a favor, to no avail. I even stood outside and chanted for a while, took pictures of the security guards, and generally made a nuisance of myself. Finally, defeated, I paid the fine--I mean, fee--and went in. Famen Si (10:45-12:25) was pleasant enough, but not spectacular. It's not even on my list! I just went to see what all the fuss was about. Afterward, I took a quick peek at the museum next door, and walked through the Disneyland plaza, though I never even approached the so-called "pagoda." Back at the bus by 1:00, I waited quite a while for its departure, and headed to my second goal for the day. I had been to Qinglong Si (5:15-6:20) on my first visit to Xi'an, in February of 2007. I barely recognized it this time: a mammoth shopping center is being built out front, in "Tang" style, and the temple gate is tucked away behind it. Still, the evening was pleasant, and I once again felt in touch with Kobo Daishi (Konghai), who had studied there. I took a bus back to the Bell Tower after dark.
  • Stayed Xi'an - City Hotel



Monday, October 18:
Ximing Temple
I awoke early and headed to the airport for an 11:55 flight to Yinchuan--only to discover that my notes were wrong, and the flight was tomorrow! As every hotel booking was based on those wrong notes, I had to get another night at City Hotel in Xi'an, and change my booking in Yinchuan. Back in Xi'an with time on my hands, I decided to seek out a small temple I'd heard of (and, seemingly, no one else had) named Ximing Si. (I have since taken the name of the temple as my Chinese name: 柏="bai" or "bo" for "Baquet," and 西明="Ximing" as my personal name.) So I took a bus back to Huxian, where I had been on Friday (this time, though specifically to a "wide spot in the road" called Pangguang). I then hired a driver to take me to Ximing Si (3:15-3:45) and back to the Pangguang bus depot, from where I traveled smoothly back into town.
  • Stayed Xi'an - City Hotel



Tuesday, October 19:
Haibaota Temple
Looking back and realizing how many wrong turns I made on this trip, I wonder why I enjoyed it so much? Anyway, this morning, before my REAL flight to Yinchuan, I tried to visit the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, or Xiaoyan Ta (7:45-8:05). As it turns out, it's closed for the long-term. Oh, well. Off to the airport and Yinchuan, in Ningxia (flight 11:55-13:10). Checked in to the motel by 2:25, I took a local bus. Off the bus at 3:05, I walked through a gorgeous park with spectacular views of the namesake pagoda at my target, Haibaota Si (3:25-5:20; my #43). On the return I walked a lot; went to a supermarket to buy the fixin's for dinner; and returned to my room to discover that the internet didn't work (though the staff blamed it on my computer, which oddly worked in the hotel the night before, and at home the next night. Hmmm…)
  • Stayed Yinchuan West Motel



Wednesday, October 20:
Though I should have done more templing, I was exhausted, so slept in. Went to airport for Yinchuan-Xi'an flight 13:20-14:15; waited in Xi'an airport for Xian-Shenzhen flight 22:00-00:35, arriving home Thursday morning, beat but happy.

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