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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Trip 12: Fujian North (Fuzhou, Ningde, Fuqing, Putian) (October 22-29, 2011)

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

There is also a FaceBook album of this trip, referenced in each article. You can see the whole album here.



Regrettably, I did not write this account at the time of my journey. I am reconstructing it from notes and photos over two years later, so there may be some gaps or even inaccuracies. I will improve it as more information (or a better memory) becomes available.



Saturday, October 22:
Dizang Temple
My flight to Fuzhou left and arrived astonishingly on time (12:20-1:40) and I was on a bus and in central Fuzhou by 3:00. When I got off the bus, I took a taxi straight to Dizang Si (3:30-4:10; my #70), located in alleyways a couple of hundred meters from the base of Jinji Shan ("Gold Chicken Mountain"). Nothing very special in this temple, except that it's said to be one of the oldest in Fujian, supposedly founded in 572. There was a ceremony while I was there; as soon as it was over the main hall was locked and I was politely told the gates were about to be closed, so I walked from there to my hotel (about 1.2 km, carrying my bags) and checked in. Dinner in a steak buffet (without the steak) and home.
  • Stayed Fuzhou - Home Inn Dongda Road Wenquan



Sunday, October 23:
Xuefeng Chongsheng Temple
With the help of a particularly kind and persistent desk clerk at my Home Inn (several phone calls per destination to get information), I was able to find transportation for the two furthest-out temples of the trip. (As is my wont, I tried for them first.) So I left the hotel by local bus, heading for Fuzhou's West Bus Station. From there, I took a two-hour ride on a mini-bus--over half of it on a windy mountain road--and arrived in front of Xuefeng Chongsheng Si (12:30-3:30; my #71). Pailou, huge "free-life" pond, Mountain Gate. Despite its remoteness, it seems to be a large, recently-upgraded facility. Vegetable fields to one side, and a cozy compound up the hillside. Out the pailou and across the road, a Guanyin pond a small hermitage (Kumu An). Waited for the same bus, did a reverse commute back to the hotel. Dinner in the dining room. (Buffet breakfast there almost every day.)
  • Stayed Fuzhou -Home Inn Dongda Road Wenquan



Monday, October 24:
Linyang Temple
After brunch at Subway (one for here, one to go) with info in hand from my "savior," I took a local bus to a crossroads--not even  station--and had to flag a passing bus that would stop at my temple. En route I met a teacher with a few girl students, returning from an event in Fuzhou. She said her school was in Shoushan, a place famous for its stone. She and the girls got off at a crossroads before we reached the temple. The temple was, in fact , the terminal, and the bus wouldn't go back down the mountain until 5 pm (I arrived at 11:15), so I had to improvise, as I wanted to see another temple later that day. The first of the day, Linyang Si (11:15-2:15; my #72) was as beautiful and spacious as the one yesterday, and its "free-life pond" was even bigger. Behind the temple, two new halls held lots of new statuary; there was also a new memorial hall outside the gate for a recently-deceased abbot. When I finished, I hung around the gate for about an hour, hoping something would happen. It did! A car full of temple visitors kindly took me down and dropped me near a bus stop. This was the first time I hitch-hiked as a pilgrim. I reached Xichan Si (3:45-6:00; my #73) in time to see the main halls, and the grounds remained open until 7:30 pm. Though a city temple, this one was much larger than Saturday's Dizang Temple. Lots of large halls with large statuary, and the most spacious and elaborate 500 Arhats' Hall I have ever seen--six stories high. Out to a bus, back to the hotel, dinner in.
  • Stayed Fuzhou -Home Inn Dongda Road Wenquan



Tuesday, October 25:
Zhiti Huayan Temple
This was a most unusual day. In 2006, I had been fortunate enough to be asked to teach some kids at a remote mountain temple in Ningde, Fujian. One the assistants there was a young monk named Venerable Deru. We lost touch after the week of training, and I was lucky enough to run into him again--in far-away Kunming--in June of 2011, four months or so before this trip. So when I knew I would be coming back to his neighborhood (his temple was in nearby Fu'an), I gave him a call. This morning, he met me at Ningde Station on the new high-speed train line, driving a large SUV that belonged to a devotee--and drove me up to the temple where we had first met, Zhiti Huayan Si (12:30-1:35; my #74). It's fortunate he did: the temple is 19km from the highway, with sketchy bus service. After lunch with my old friend, the temple administrator Venerable Hui Jing, Deru took me on a tour to visit other temples in Ningde and Fu'an--and his monastic friends. We stopped at the base of the mountain where Huayan Si is located, at tiny Shuiyun (Cloud Water) Si (2:15); then into Fu'an to see Zhongde Chan Si 种德禅寺 "the largest temple in Fu'an" (3:05-3:15); Qiyun 栖云寺 (Settle Cloud) Temple, Ven. Deru's home temple (4:10); Tiantang (Heaven Hall) Si (4:50-5:00), one of the most unusual and stylish temples I have ever seen; the top of Tianma Shan ("Heavenly Horse Mountain") (5:10); and finally Xiangshan (Incense Mountain) Si (5:20-6:30), where we had dinner, and afterward tea, with his friend the abbess (and a terrific vegetarian cook) Venerable Ven. Yixiang. A 35km or so drive from Fu'an City to Fu'an Station, a very late train back to Fuzhou, and an expensive taxi to the hotel. (The stations for the high-speed train are usually quite far out of town.)
  • Stayed Fuzhou -Home Inn Dongda Road Wenquan



Wednesday, October 26:
Yongquan Temple
Venerable Deru had arranged to have his brother, Chen Hui, take me to my next destination. And by "take" I mean I met him in his shop, and we took a bus together, and then I figured out the transportation up the hill to the temple. He co-ordinated with Deru by phone to get a monk friend to walk us in (avoiding the 50rmb admission fee) and translated for me once or twice--sort of reluctantly, I think, because English is a struggle for him. Yongquan Si (11:10-2:00; my #75) is beautifully situated on Gu Shan ("Drum Mountain"), said to be named thus because of the sound it makes when heavy rain beats down on it. My "highlight" was the enthusiastic monk, about my age, who kept the library. He wanted to show me everything, with Chen Hui translating. A bus back to the hotel, and packing and preparing for the next day's departure.
  • Stayed Fuzhou -Home Inn Dongda Road Wenquan



Thursday, October 27:
Huangpo Shan Wanfu Temple
The next temple was between Fuzhou and Putian, where I would stay the night. I took a highway bus as far as Fuqing, the nearest town. Expecting a bus station, I was surprised when it was just a yard, with no services. Another kind young woman--my bus conductor--asked around and got the low-down. She put me on a bus, telling the driver what I needed. He stopped at my transfer point, got out, and told the next driver what I needed. That guy told me where to get off. So great! Until I realized I was at a crossroads, about 5 or 6 km from my destination, and fresh out of buses. There were some dodgy-looking motorcycle drivers, but I decided--luggage and all--to walk it. After trudging 2 or 3 km, I heard a honking behind me, and a wealthy family--mother, father, married son and daughter-in-law--stopped to pick me up. Huangpo Shan Wanfu Si (1:30-3:20; my #76) is the mother temple of Obakusan Mampuku Ji in Uji, Japan (which I have visited); most of the current temple here was built on donations from Japanese devotees. It's the seat of the Obaku sub-sect of Chan (Zen). After my tour, as I sat in the courtyard talking to a monk who had been singing, the family came through and offered to drop me out at the highway. I accepted, flagged a bus into Putian, and caught a taxi to my hotel.
  • Stayed Putian -Fengda Hotel



Friday, October 28:
Guanghua Temple
This would be a big day--if I pulled it off. First, despite the fact that it was a ways out of town (about 20km), time pressure caused me to take a taxi to Nangshan Cishou Si (9:25-11:50; my #77). The temple was undergoing heavy refurbishment, but between the fine old halls and the shiny new ones, it was a satisfying visit. After walking out of the village to the main road, I waited over an hour for a taxi that then whisked me to my next destination, Guanghua Si (1:25-2:50; my #78). A beautiful old pagoda and staid main compound, with--behind and to the side--several shiny new halls with BIG statues. On my way in, I had noticed a street of statuary-makers, so I walked out that way and had an interesting look around 'til 3:00. Out to the highway and another cab, and I made my trifecta--all three Key Temples in Putian in one day. I reached Guangxiao Si with time to spare (3:20-4:25; my #79). This was a downtown temple, with a very active "social scene"--lots of old men sitting around. The best part of the temple was the two halls at the top with dozens of statues. Out of the temple, found a KFC, then back to the hotel. I had been planning to go to the Mazu Temple in Putian, on the small island where that Daoist sea goddess had been born. Instead, Deru called and coerced me to let a devotee he knew take me to a decidedly uninspiring temple the next day, before catching my bus back to Fuzhou Airport.
  • Stayed Putian -Fengda Hotel



Saturday, October 29:
Nan Shaolin Temple
And so, I visited tiny, shiny Nan Shaolin Si (12:00-12:40), supposedly as important as the real Shaolin Temple up in Henan (but I think not). We went back to Guangxiao Temple for a veg lunch, and I took a bus to Fuzhou Airport for my 7:20-8:45pm flight to Shenzhen and home.

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