Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nanputuo Temple

Today seemed the perfect day to visit Nanputuo Buddhist Temple – it was a Saturday that did not coincide with the first or fifteenth day of the Lunar month (a traditional day for visiting Buddhist temples), and, therefore, was not quite as crowded.

To enter the gates of Nanputuo, you first have to pass a gauntlet of beggars, many with physical handicaps. They can be quite persistent, which frightens Maya a bit. Zoe is fascinated, and can’t seem to keep her eyes off the physical deformities – it’s a good thing staring isn’t considered rude in China!

The gate of Nanputuo is guarded by two lions, as many gates in China are. We know how to tell the difference between the girl lions and the boy lions – do you? Girl lions have their front paws on a baby lion while boy lions have their front paws on a ball (I first wrote that boy lions had balls, but thought that was subject to misinterpretation!). Well, the girls were tickled because this girl lion had TWO baby lions! It’s the first we’ve seen with two.

Inside the gate is a huge fish pond, filled with lily pads and all manner of water life.

Buddhists are vegetarians, and are opposed to taking life, including animal life. So, in order to get the blessings of saving life, pilgrims will buy fish and other water life from fishermen and release them into the pond! We saw quite a few fish and turtles swimming among the lily pads, and this enormous fellow as well:
The girls loved watching the turtles and frogs pushing the lily pads away as they swam through the water. There were ladies selling fish food – crumbled up dry ramen noodles! Next time we’ll have to bring our own.
I thought I’d never get the girls to leave the pond! But finally we headed toward what I thought was the temple, but turned out to be the Buddhist monastery, where several hundred monks live and study, including those studying to become monks.

I should have realized that this was not the temple – it is far too new and clean. The original structures at Nanputuo are over 1,000 years old. It was interesting, though, to see where the monks lived. Here are the shoes of one monk, set out to air on a stone balustrade:

Nanputuo is a bustling place, and I found my favorite place here in the monastery complex – this serene garden, an oasis of green among the gray rocks. It must be pleasant to come here after a hectic day at the temple.

The girls were delighted to find a mother hen with her clutch of chicks near the garden. It was especially funny when the mother stood up and revealed that she had been sitting on . . . one of her chicks! I guess the little thing got used to it when he was in the egg!

The temple complex sprawls up the side of the Five-Old-Men Mountains (the same mountains that form the view from our apartment windows), so to visit the many temples and pavilions and gardens we climbed stone stairs carved into the side of the mountain.

Maya & Zoe thought the furnace was interesting – people burn things to send them to their ancestors in the afterlife. But apparently people in the afterlife aren’t that discriminating, so people burn FAKE things – fake money called “hell money,” paper houses, paper furniture, paper cars . . . you get the picture. Well, actually, the hope is that those in the afterlife will get the picture!

Between the “hell money” and the incense, there were clouds of smoke on the mountain all day.

In addition to statues and altars to Buddha, other Chinese gods and goddesses are represented here, too, including the goddess of mercy. I found the one holding the baby interesting – remind you of anyone?

Offerings of fruit, other food (like the bowl of tea in front of this goddess), and flowers are placed on the many altars. I like the fact that the flowers in front of the statues below are in a Coke bottle! There was a whole row of gold statues, and between each was a Coke bottle vase of flowers!

As you can tell already, we found lots of interesting things to see. The girls liked the Chinese characters carved on rocks, and the fountains and pools.

And I LOVED this Do Not Litter sign – so poetic!
We made a friend of one of the Buddhist monks, who spoke enough English to say hello and ask us where we were from, and that’s about it.

We see lots of Buddhist monks in the traditional saffron garb, but we also see a goodly number in gray, like this fellow. I’m not sure what the distinction is – maybe the gray ones are students?
My favorite things were the embellished rooflines of the temples and pavilions – quite exotic. (I've always loved the curlicues and sweeping lines of Chinese rooftops -- after three trips here, I've got TONS of photos of roofs! I can't seem to resist!)

The best of all were the elaborate dragons on each corner of one of the pavilions.

We stayed at the temple for several hours, and then heartlessly enjoyed a lunch with pork and shrimp! Maya and Zoe say their favorite part of all was the talking bird. Yes, there was a talking bird in a cage outside a teahouse high up the mountain. I’m not sure what kind, it was black and had an orange beak (if I had realized they’d still be talking about it hours later, and naming it their favorite thing, I would have taken a picture!). Anyway, it actually said “Ni Hao” and “How are you?” How about that, a bilingual bird!

As we were walking toward the gate to leave Nanputuo, Zoe noticed that you can see our apartment building from the grounds! As I’ve mentioned before, we can hear the monks making a racket in the mornings to scare away the evil spirits, but I hadn’t realized just how close the temple was. When you have a Buddhist monastery and temple right outside your front door, you know you're not in Texas any more!


mimifrancoise said...

Wonderful post and pictures. I know you had a great time. Thank you. Hug the girls for Mimi and Grandpa.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE reading your posts and admire you for taking such an adventure with your girls! I "know" your mother from our yahoo group of "grannies". Thanks so much for sharing all your wonderful experiences and thoughts. We're all thrilled that your mom will soon join you for a month!
When I was in China in 2003, we visited the Temple of The Six Banyons. I was so surprised that the monk allowed his picture to be taken with your delightful girls. I got a strong reprimand when I started to take a picture of a group of monks filing out of prayer!