Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Pilgrimage at Five Sacred Peaks in Shanxi Province (Wu Tai Shan)

I don’t know about you but I consider myself half Buddhist although there is not a clear, logical reason for that. One place that almost got me convinced I should escape from the daily routine for a longer period in a monastery is Wu Tai Shan (shan-mountain). Located in the Shanxi province, it is considered, by the religious Chinese, one of the four sacred Buddhist Mountains. 

Transport and Accommodation

If you are planning to make a visit leave yourself at least 2 or 3 days (more than 40 temples) and make up your mind for a long trip by bus (from Tai Yuan it takes 5 hours). There is a fee of about 180 Yuan to enter this national park.
As for accommodation, we stayed in rented rooms away from the centre and the price was quite alright (those days about 25 Yuan). Bear in mind it was during the high season. Whenever I travelled in China, I preferred eating a snack outside and in Wu Tai Shan I didn’t break the rule.


The White Pagoda, located in Taiyuan Temple, Wu Tai Shan
White Pagoda in Taiyuan Temple
Courtesy of: http://paulstravelpics.blogspot.com  
The ancient temples were bustling with life: relaxing music, incense smell, many tourists bending on their knees in front of the golden statues of Buddha. If you catch the evening ceremony you will be rewarded with the magical chanting of the monks. What is peculiar about the architectural design of the monasteries is that it is quite varied. You may see typical Tibetan, Chinese, as well as Nepalese features. Make sure you don’t miss the Xiantong Bronze Hall Temple, whose roof is covered with golden leaves, shining like a diamond. And, of course, Dailuo Ding,  nestled on the central peak just above the village Taihuai. In case you are short of calories you can buy some nuts on your way uphill from the street merchants.  My personal favourite is the white pagoda at Tayuan Temple which is present on almost every website about this sacred place.

Golden Roof in Xiantong temple, Wu Tai Shan
Golden Roof in Xiantong Temple
Courtesy of: http://paulstravelpics.blogspot.com 

Buddhist Monks

In Wu Tai Shan I observed for the first time a Tibetan devotee who prostrated himself on the ground at every STEP. Some people say they travel over a thousand miles repeating the same pattern on their pilgrimage. While I was staring at the holy person he, suddenly, turned around and asked me for cash. No comment.
 I remember that one of the nuns approached me and gave me a small present – a mala (prayer bead). She insisted that I should take it and told me there had to be peace among the nations.

Since my time was limited, my travel was concentrated on the temples and I did not have the opportunity to climb the peaks. My loss! Even if you are not a religious person you would feel the vibe in this holy mountain. Namaste.

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