Laura's World Tour
14th Jul 2012 - 17th Jul 2012
Wudang Shan - A magical mountain
After the long haul journey to the mountains, all I could hope for was that they would live up to the expectations that the french couple had planted... And in actual fact, it was way more impressive.
These mountains sour thousands of metres above sea level, covered with a dense carpet of glorious trees that keep secret the streams and life in the valleys below. And scattered throughout the peaks and ridges, proudly stand chinese taoist temples and meditation caves all over 600 years old. The wonder of China is that all of the main temple attractions are connected with a bus system which is included in your entrance ticket. I didn't have nearly enough time in the 3 days that I was there to see all.
So where did I stay, Daniel came to collect me from in front of one of the temples after the hour 45minute bus trip up into the mountains. We walked back down the street a bit and as the trees cleared that obstructed the view down the valley, Daniel pointed and said "that's where we stay". It was a shear drop down to the old houses he was showing but I was in. We dropped my big bag at the house of his Tai Chi teacher (Sherfu) whose place was on the street level and made the descent. I was not looking forward to climbing back up later once we got down and walked through the subsistence farmlands of his peasant neighbour's (aptly nicknamed the Bliss Monster and his wife) and found ourselves at the wooden doors of another old peasant dwelling with mud floors and wooden walls, wooden framed beds with straw mattress and many insect friends that also called it home. The main living room was home to mats for seating, a couple low chairs, a table on which the Apple computer sat (ironic) and, of course the tea table where all the tea brewing was executed. It was a wonderful home especially with the neighbours presence ever close and the quietness of no other tourists (and there are plenty plenty on the mountain).
That afternoon I wondered around the immediate vicinity of my temporary home and chatted to Daniel and Seth (his cousin) who was both living there for a couple months while learning Tai Chi and Mandarin. And then it was time for the dreaded walk up the mountain for dinner - a good 20mintues if immense uphill! Of course I nailed it but there was a fair amount of panting that the boys were not contributing to due to their fitness.
Dinner was shared with Sherfu's family, wife and his toddler daughter and kid son. Such a lovely family unit which has so much love. Tamtam took a bath (on the outside stoep) in a barren which was a good half hours entertainment which ended in tears off course when his little sister hit him on the head with a shoe. Sherfu quickly came to the rescue as Tamtam picked up a shoe and aimed it at his sisters head. A very funny interaction!
After dinner we headed back down the mountain to drink tea before bed. On my bathroom outing (in the outhouse) I discovered an insect shredding its exoskeleton during my intensive inspection of the building before entering. I called the boys and we spent a good hour photographing this phenomenon (the most photographed insect in the world) with different lighting from different headlamps slash flash and angles. Ironically, the insect held on until we retired before fully emerging so when we returned minutes later - just to check - and there he was in all his glory, flexing his wings in preparation for his imminent departure.
Needless to say, I didn't sleep well that night as I continually thought that there was another such insect hanging out above me. Anyways.
Both Daniel and Seth recommended the Carefree Valley (don't you love that name) to me as one of their favourite places on the mountain so as morning broke, I decided that this would be my activity. The valley is the same as the one that we live on and run down hill along a stream for a 4 hour walk. I decided that I would walk up it and be back in time for lunch but as I got down to the bottom, via a bus, a ended up following a monk man who knew exactly where he was going and I liked his certainty. He led me to a stage next to a river with wooden boardwalks creating a path to 2 wooden houses built over the water. Just so picturesque with swans thrown in.
It turned out that there was a Tai Chi performance in the next couple of minutes which I helped myself to. It was spectacular: a combination of slow meditated dance with fight scenes thrown in including props of knives, swords and red fans, accompanied by music fitting to that of Avatar. It was thrilling and relaxing at the same time and when I walked away half an hour later, I was in such a wonderful head space.
I wondered over the ancient, delicate bridge to a small intimate temple which I shared with nobody else. Before continuing my wonderings up the valley to determine the route - for another day though.
Aside: Parts slash all (ill have to rewatch it to clarify) of the mountains scenes in the new Karate Kid were shot in Wudang Shan.
The bottom of the valley is named after the monkeys that call it home which is great however, really disconcerting is that some of them have been captured and leashed to trees so that tourists can feed them. Their family and friends still come and hang out with them but their freedom has been taken away. And then, the audacity is that there are signs that outline that tourists should not pet the monkeys as they may become aggressive - no kidding, they have seen what happened to others of their kind!
I spent my time driving from temple to temple, and walking the ancient stairs and paths of monks and nuns from centuries ago. Each has the same intricate attention to detail, exquisite statues and carvings, wall murals and quiet peace despite the hordes of tourists (all Chinese). My favourite attribute of these temples is the roof structures which are an intricate puzzles of carved detail and pride which slot into each other to create a sound structure but also a beautiful treat for the eyes. The unnecessary detail which speaks today of the pride and care which was put into these places as a dedication to their faith. I must have looked a bit weird as most people stared at the main statues and I stood, head tilted back staring at the ceiling.
This detail also extended to the detail in the walls and the tiles of the roof which has little statues perched on the corners (still don't know why they are there)., the intricacy of the incense burners (massive metal cylinders), the stone balistrades with carved imagery or pattern which can also be said of the wooden doors that led onto the courtyards. You name it, they made an effort to make it, just beautiful.
My favorite temple was a part of the monastery complex called the Southern Cliff Temple (I think) which was a purely wooden affair with immaculate detail which is wedged in a large cave near the top of a shear cliff face. The colours were rich and even those faded by time showed the attention to having the monks surrounded by continual beauty (extending to the ceiling boards each individually painted with a pattern - that's me looking up again). It also has a hall which was filled with 20cm statues and 500 of them - I am open to correction but the name of the hall resembled something of this but I didn't count).
I also walked down the Carefree Valley which was just that. A 4 hour meander down the valley with the constant sound of water running. There was a beautiful (however a little delapidated) temple up a serious flight of stairs half way down the valley which had views so special of the valley I was sharing with noone else.
I think however, that the highlight of my time in Wudang Shan was the evening that we spent sitting outside with the Bliss Monster, his wife and grandchildren where we discussed little other than that translated by Daniel but enjoyed the shared company and laughter which speaks no language.
And then it was suddenly time to be off and head south once more to meet up with Elni - this time on a 24 hour bus followed by another of 5 hours. So much for not doing that again...
|15th Jul 2012 Wudang Shan|
|Tai Chi performance|
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