ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Buddhism

DAY 3 – SERA MONASTERY ( སེ་ར་དགོན་པ 色拉寺), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet (西藏)

After a simple noodle lunch, we hopped on a taxi for Sera Monastery ( སེ་ར་དགོན་པ 色拉寺).   At the northern suburb of Lhasa, Sera is a popular destination among foreign tourists where its famous debate sessions usually take place in the afternoon.  Unlike Drepung where reaching the monastery required ascending the Mount Gephel, accessing Sera Monastery from the main road was just a few minutes’ walk.  There weren’t too many tourists around.  As one of the three main Gelug university monasteries in Tibet, Sera is consisted of a series of colleges, residences, and assembly halls on its 28 acres of land.  Once with a monastic population of about 5000, the current monastery is a shadow of its past.  Founded in 1419 by Sakya Yeshe, Sera Monastery has gone through ups and downs in history.  Fortunately, the monastery was left relatively undamaged during the Cultural Revolution in 1960s.

Beyond the main entrance, we passed by the large stupa Tsangba Kangtsang and a row of prayer wheels circled by several devoted pilgrims.  We turned left into a small alleyway between several small buildings and continued to the courtyard of Sera Me College.  We entered the main hall and visited the upper deck of the building.  There were hardly any tourists around, except a few prostrating pilgrims at the front veranda.  We then headed over to Sera Je College, the largest college in Sera, and Tsogchen, the Main Assemble Hall, before finding our way to the famous debate courtyard.  Many visitors had already gathered at the perimeter of the courtyard.  In the middle of the courtyard sat a large group of monks all dressed in red robes.  Full of anticipation, we sat down on the pavement curb behind the monks, hoping to witness their unique exchange despite we knew we couldn’t understand the Tibetan language.  We soon realized that the particular day of our visit was an exam day for the young learners instead of a regular debate session.  Instead of forming small debate groups, each young monk were given a brief time to perform his speeches and gestures in front of a panel of two teachers.  It was interesting to watch how the young monks perform their hand clapping and speeches in attempt to win over the crowds and the teachers.  We stayed for about half an hour before heading back to the monastery entrance and quickly hopped on a taxi returning to the Barkhor Old City of Lhasa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were more lamas than tourists at the entrance when we arrived at Sera Monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first thing in Sera Monastery we encountered was a large stupa and a row of prayer wheels.

03We walked into a lane left of the entrance attempting to find Sera Me College.

04The colourful monastery buildings were quite eye catching.  We wandered into different empty courtyards before reaching Sera Me College.

06The Sera Me College dates back to the earliest years of the monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many other monasteries, the stair at Sera Me College was really steep.

08The front veranda of Sera Me College were occupied by prostrating pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had seen this checker pattern several times at different Tibetan monasteries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext we walked over to the largest college at Sera Monastery: the Sera Je College.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had a peaceful moment at the upper level of Sera Je College.

12The flat roof of Sera Je College was also accessible, but we couldn’t stay for long because of the strong afternoon sun.

13It was fortunate that most buildings at Sera Monastery escaped damages from the Cultural Revolution.

14We then returned to the maze of alleyways and headed towards the Main Assembly Hall.

15Dated back to 1710, the Tsogchen (Main Assembly Hall) is the largest buildings in Sera Monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe rested a bit under the shade on the upper level of the Main Assembly Hall.

17After Main Assembly Hall, we returned to the main path and walked to the Debate Courtyard at the far end.

18Through the doorway, we could see the courtyard was already filled up with spectators.

19The young monks walked out one by one to perform their debate speech and body gestures.

20We sat down behind a group of monks for a while and watched the performances by several monks.

 

Advertisements

DAY 3 – POTALA PALACE (ཕོ་བྲང་པོ་ཏ་ལ་ 布達拉宮), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet

We arrived at the central gate of the Potala at around 9am.  We excitedly looked up at the magnificent icon of Lhasa as we entered the palace ground beyond the first security checkpoint.  We found our way towards the main ramp that ascend up to the Potala.  Before climbing up, we made a brief stop at a small museum that housed a decent collection of treasures from the palace.  Despite its interesting exhibit, we didn’t stay long as we wouldn’t want to miss our time slot for the palace visit.  The walk up the main ramp looked easier than it actually was.  Because of the 3700m altitude, the climb up the main ramp to the Potala may prove challenging to many tourists who haven’t completely acclimatized to the Tibetan highlands.  We took our time walking up to the ticket office near the top palace level.   After all the effort of pre-booking and climbing, we finally got a real admission ticket for the Potala.  A flight of steps led us up a colourful passage to a open courtyard known as Deyang Shar.  After a brief break at Deyang Shar, we walk to the far side of the courtyard and followed other tourists and tour guides up a small set of triple stairs into the White Palace.  The Deyang Shar was the final spot of our visit that we were allowed to take photographs.

The first room we arrived at was the throne room of the Dalai Lamas.  Walking into the former throne room felt like entering into a scene of Scorsese’s movie Kundun.  The visit continued to a series of Dalai Lamas’ former reception rooms, meditation room, study room, etc.  After the Dalai Lama’s living quarter in the White Palace, we continued our visit to the Red Palace from the top (3rd floor) down.  On our way down the floors and through the chapels and assembly halls, we passed by impressive statues, golden chortens of former Dalai Lamas, mysterious chapels such as Chapel Arya, one of the oldest structures in the Potala built by King Songtsen Gampo.  If not the noisy tourists and their rude tour guides were virtually everywhere in the visitor route, our Potala visit would be much more pleasant.  One of the highlights was the 12.6m chorten of the 5th Dalai Lama.  Gilded with 3.7 kg of gold, the chorten of the 5th Dalai Lama was significantly larger than the other chortens displayed in Chapel of the Holy Born.

In 7th century, King Songtsen Gampo erected his royal palace on the Marpo Ri (Red Hill).   A thousand years later, construction of the Potala’s White Palace (Kharpo Podrang) began in 1645 under the order of the 5th Dalai Lama.  In late 17th century, the larger Red Palace (Marpo Podrang) was also built to house the funeral chorten of the 5th Dalai Lama.  Since then, the Potala has become the residence and final resting place of the Dalai Lamas.  In modern days, the Potala was largely spared from the destructing forces of the Red Army during the Cultural Revolution.  Extensive renovations took place in the 1990s to restore the palace.  Since then, the Potala has been turned into an open air museum that attracts thousands of visitors everyday.

The palace visit took us about 2 hours.  We exited the Potala from its back entrance.  A prominent walkway zigzagged down the Marpo Ri, leading us to the kora path of pilgrims that surrounded the base of the Potala.  We followed the kora path and entered the Zongjiao Lukang Park (宗角祿康公園) north of the palace.  Large groups of park users were dancing at different open areas in the park under loud music.  We strolled for a bit in the park and then moved on to find a small noodle eatery for lunch.

01Unlike the mysterious night scene, the morning view of the Potala was splendid and elegant.

02During our visit, we only had access to small parts of the White and Red Palace.

03Despite the access and photography restrictions, a visit to the Potala is still a must-do for most tourists in Lhasa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo reach the ticket office of the Potala, walking up the main ramp is the second major challenge for many tourists (the first challenge being getting up early to queue for the pre-booking.

05From the main ramp, we could clearly see the Potala Square (布達拉宮廣場) beyond Beijing Road.

06After an exhausting climb to the top, we finally reached the entrance gate and the ticket office.

07From the entrance gate, we could see the beautiful landscape outside of the city of Lhasa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mural of the heavenly guards and other mythical figures caught the attention of every visitors passed through the entrance gate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance door was beautifully decorated with colourful details.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the entrance gate, we passed through a flight of colourful stair up to the entrance courtyard of the White Palace called Deyang Shar.

11The Deyang Shar is a pleasant courtyard that serves as the entrance for the White Palace, and the courtyard is also the last spot where visitors are allowed to take photographs during their Potala visit.

12The visit of the Potala for all tourists begins with the White Palace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the Deyang Shar, groups of tourists began their palace visit via a steep stair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the visit we exited the Potala at the back side of the palace.

15We walked down a pleasant walkway down the Marpo Ri.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe walkway led us down to the kora path of pilgrims that surrounded the base of the Potala.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the kora path there were small shrines for pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANear the Zongjiao Lukang Park, we passed by a popular shrine frequented by pilgrims.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed the kora path and entered the Zongjiao Lukang Park (宗角祿康公園) north of the palace.

20We strolled for a bit in Zongjiao Lukang Park and then moved on to find a small noodle eatery nearby for lunch.

 

 


DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (ཇོ་ཁང། / 大昭寺), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet

Maggie and I arrived at the Trichang Labrang Hotel at around 2pm, and were delighted to find Angela feeling much better after a good rest.  We decided to head out together for a decent Tibetan meal.  Recommended by Pazu, the owner of Spinn Cafe in Lhasa who also helped us to arrange a 4 wheel drive for our 6-day excursion, we decided to go to a nearby restaurant called “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱們的藏餐館).  We walked east from our hotel towards the Muslim neighborhood, searched for a while until finally arrived at the old courtyard compound called Bangdacang Compound (邦達倉大院) where the restaurant was located in the courtyard.   “Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱們的藏餐館) offered many options of Tibetan and Chinese dishes and we had a delightful late lunch under a parasol and atmospheric Tibetan flags.

At 3:30pm, we finished our meal and walked out to the Barkhor Street towards Jokhang Monastery (ཇོ་ཁང། / 大昭寺).  At the heart of Barkhor old city, the Jokhang is often considered to be the most sacred destination in the entire Tibet.  Despite not all chapels were opened in the afternoon, we still wanted to visit the Jokhang before it closed for the day.  We entered the monastery through its side door next to the ticket office.  Immediately we arrived at a series of courtyards.  We followed a designated route around the perimeter of the central courtyard to reach the entrance of the main hall.  Similar to prayer halls at other Tibetan monasteries, rows of monk seats occupied the centre of the hall.  Small chapels with religious statues flanked three sides of the hall.  The main chapel at the centre housed a small statue of the Buddha called Jowo Shakyamuni.

Considered as the most sacred Buddhist image in Tibet, the statue was brought to Tibet from China by Wencheng Princess (文成公主) during the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century.  She came to Tibet to marry Songtsen Gampo, the King of Tibet.  To consolidate the foundation of Buddhism in Tibet, Songtsen erected a monastery to house the Jowo Shakyamuni.  Known as the Jokhang, the monastery soon became the primary pilgrimage spot for all Tibetan Buddhists.  The oldest part of the Jokhang dates back to 652.  Since then, the monastery had gone through up and down times, depending on the popularity of Buddhism and political situations.  The monastery was damaged in the 1960s during the Cultural Revolutuon, and took eight years to restore during the 1970s.  In 2000, Jokhang was inscribed in the World Heritage list as an extension to the Potala.

After the main hall, we walked one level up to the roof terrace, where we could admire the golden ornaments of the architecture.  Unfortunately the roof terrace where visitors could enjoy the view of the Potala was closed for renovation.  We could only wander around the roof for a little bit before heading back down.  Our tour of the monastery was brief but it offered us a decent introduction to Lhasa’s history and Tibetan Buddhism.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABangdacang Compound (邦達倉大院) was only a few minute walk from our hotel.

02“Our Tibetan Restaurant” (咱們的藏餐館) is located in the courtyard of the Bangdacang Compound (邦達倉大院).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe ordered yak meat and pancake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mushroom momos (Tibetan dumplings) were good and deserved a longer waiting time.

05The forecourt of Jokhang is always busy with pilrims.

06Inside Jokhang, the first courtyard beyond the ticket entrance was rather peaceful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked around the inner perimeter of the central courtyard to admire the wall paintings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was late in the afternoon with few tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking up, we could see parts of the golden ornament on the roof of Jokhang.

10At one side of the courtyard, there was a seat reserved for the Dalai Lama.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeautiful decorations could be seen everywhere in the building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked around the central courtyard to check out the wall paintings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wall paintings had undergone extensive restorations in recent years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the main hall were living quarters for monks.

16After walking around the courtyard, we entered the main prayer hall through its old entrance door.  Unfortunate photography was not allowed in the interior.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the roof terrace, we were overwhelmed by the extensive golden decorations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA long courtyard near the main hall indicated the start of monk living quarter.

19On the roof terrace, the golden roof and decorations were clearly shown.

20Details of the golden ornaments on the roof.

21After visiting Jokhang, we walked over to the monastery’s forecourt where devoted pilgrims performed all kinds of worshiping rituals.


DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa (拉薩), Tibet

After we put down our bags into the hotel room, we couldn’t wait but to venture out into the alleyways of Barkhor Old Town.  Soon we arrived at a security checkpoint where we needed to show our ID and put our bags through the x-ray.  A little further beyond the checkpoint was a much wider stone paved street where almost all pedestrians moved in one direction.  We knew we had arrived at the famous Barkhor Street (八廓街).  We were all sleepy from the red eye flight.  Angela got a bad headache from the high altitude.  We had no particular itinerary for the day.  We took our time to walk around the Barkhor Street, taking in the energy and Tibetan atmosphere of the ancient street, and dropping by the nearby Summit Cafe and Spinn Cafe for brief breaks.

Kora (སྐོར་ར) is the term for a pilgrimage circumambulation for Tibetan Buddhism around a sacred site or object in the clockwise direction.  In Lhasa, if not the entire Tibet, the most popular kora route is undoubtedly the Barkhor Street (八廓街), the pedestrian circuit around the Jokhang Monastery (大昭寺).  For over 1300 years the stone paved circuit was the most sacred pilgrim route for Tibetan Buddhists.  Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo erected the Jokhang Monastery in 647, and the pilgrim path around the temple soon followed and had since then evolved into Barkhor Street.  On the hand-polished stone pavers, uncounted pilgrims stepped on the Barkhor everyday, some would even perform prostration while moving clockwise along the Barkhor.  Apart from prostrating, some pilgrims also spin their prayer wheels, chant mantra, or count their rosary beads.

Nowadays, other than its spiritual identity, Barkhor Street has also become a prime tourist destination of Lhasa.  Souvenir shops have lined up along both sides of the famous street.   For tourists, following the local pilgrims to stroll along Barkhor Street is compulsory.  Beyond souvenir stores and gemstone shops, visitors may find religious shops selling all kinds of items for the pilgrims.  For us, the Barkhor Street was the place that we walked by several times each day during our stay in Lhasa.

01The route from our hotel opens to the Barkhor Street at the south side of the Jokhang Monastery, near a colourful flag post.

02Many locals were dressed in traditional clothing while walking the kora on the Barkhor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA turn near the colourful flag post led us to the square in front of Jokhang Monastery, where a group of pilgrims and tourists congregated.

04At the Jokhang Square, local pilgrims passed by another colourful flag post.

05There were constantly pilgrims prostrating in front of the Jokhang Monastery.

06Visitors can no longer get in the original main entrance of Jokhang Monastery.

07The original main entrance of Jokhang Monastery has become a small plaza for prostrating pilgrims and spectating tourists.

08Going north from the Jokhang Square, the Barkhor Street gets narrow again into a retail street.

09The Barkhor Street is flanked both sides by traditional Tibetan houses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the Barkhor, there are quite a number of benches and seating areas for the pilgrims.

11Makye Ame is a famous restaurant bar at the southeast corner of the Barkhor.  Legend has it that Tsangyang Gyatso, the 6th Dalai Lama, met the girl he loved at this bar in the 17th century.

12There are also hidden courtyards behind the traditional Tibetan houses on the Barkhor, where young artists and artisans gather to promote a new generation of Tibetan culture, as well as cool cafes and interesting bookstores targeted at the local youngsters.

13Late afternoon is a popular time to walk the Barkhor, when the fierce highland sun becomes a more bearable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from Jokhang Monastery, there are a number of historical buildings at Barkhor, including this former office of the Qing government representatives.

16Smaller in scale than the famous monasteries, local Buddhist temples such as this one on the Barkhor Street is equally interesting with vibrant worshiping scenes.

17Both pilgrims and tourists love to interact with the Buddhist prayer wheels.

15Inside the small temple there is a much bigger prayer wheel where pilgrims move clockwise with the turning wheel inside.

19Police has a strong presence at Barkhor Street, with security stations set up at certain spots.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATea shops and shopping centre of gemstone shops dotted around the Barkhor Street.

21Before sunset, Barkhor Street can get pretty crowded with pilgrims and tourists.

22Among all the pilgrims and tourists that we had seen on the Barkhor Street, probably this old man and his seven dogs had captured the most attention.

 


SENSOJI (浅草寺) & SKYTREE, Tokyo (東京), Japan

On the last day in Tokyo, we decided to pay a visit to Tokyo’s oldest and most popular Buddhist temple, the Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) and Kengo Kuma (隈 研吾)’s Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center right across the street from the iconic Kaminarimon (雷門).  Sensoji was definitely the busiest attraction we visited in Tokyo.  Everywhere in the temple ground was filled with people, from the souvenir shop lined Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り) to the Kannondo Main Hall.

After the temple and Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, we had a little bit of time left before heading to the airport.  We took the metro to check out the nearby Skytree, the tallest structure in Japan.  We didn’t go up to the observation deck of the tower, but instead wandered around at the shopping area and the outdoor terrace, where a group of tourists crowded in a small Calbee shop picking the colourful packs of special edition potato chips.

Soon enough, we returned to Shinjuku and boarded an Narita Express to the airport.

1Designed by Kengo Kuma (隈 研吾), the eight storey Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center is an architectural gem across the street from the Sensoji.  With exhibition and activity spaces stacked vertically, each floor of the building has a distinct function.

2The ground floor is dedicated to an introduction of the district of Asakusa.

3Glass railing and exposed timber joists wrap around a central atrium.

4On the roof terrace of Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, there are information signage on the railing associated with the view.

5At two metro stops to the east, the 634m Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) stands out at the background, while the wavy golden feature of the Asahi Beer Hall dominates the foreground.  Designed by famous designer Philippe Starck, the golden feature is meant to represent the burning heart of Asahi beer.

6To the north, the view from Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center is dominated by the Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り), the procession route of Sensoji.

7Across the street, the iconic Kaminarimon (雷門) or “Thunder Gate” marks the start of Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り).

8Standing 11.7m tal, with its enormous lantern and statues at both sides, Kaminarimon (雷門) is very popular with tourists and locals.

9Lined with souvenir and snack stores at both sides, the 250m Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り) is always packed with visitors.

10The Hozōmon (宝蔵門) of Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺) features three large lanterns, with the 3.75m tall chochin (提灯) hang in the middle.

11A cute white akita dog rests at the courtyard in front of Hozōmon (宝蔵門).

12The prominent Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) can be seen from Sensoji.

13Many visitors would gather close to the big incense burner in the central courtyard and cover themselves with the smoke, due to a traditional belief that the smoke can improve their thinking and make them smarter.

DSC_3221The entrance of the Kannondo Main Hall is also decorated with a huge red lantern.

14With 30 million of visitors per year, the Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺) is one of the most visited religious site in the world.

15Traditional lanterns on the pavement waiting to be hung.

16The five-storey pagoda is also another main feature at Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺).

17At the main ground of Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺), there are a row of food vendors selling all kinds of Japanese snacks.

18Near Sensō-ji, the famous Azumabashi (吾妻橋) is a popular spot to photograph the Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) and Asahi Beer Hall.

19At the base of Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー), a series of outdoor terraces provide a pleasant approach to the tower.

20Designed by Nikken Sekkei, the 634m Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) is the second tallest structure in the world just behind Burj Khalifa (830m).


FRAGRANT SEA AND PRESTIGIOUS MOUNTAIN (香海名山), Tsing Shan Monastery (青山禪院), Tuen Mun (屯門), Hong Kong

In the middle of the 5th century, Buddhist Master Pui To (杯渡禪師) from India arrived in Tuen Mun, where at that time was a military outpost where foreigners were required to go through immigration customs.  Legend has it that Pui To traveled in a “wooden cup” across the sea, and therefore was named “Pui To”, which literally means “cup sailing”.  Pui To decided to stay in Tuen Mun to host religious ceremonies and teaching sessions for the stationed soldiers.  He settled on the mountain above the military station and practiced meditation regularly in a cave.  His name was widespread across the region, and his residing place (a grotto and hut) soon became a place for pilgrimage.  In the next 1500 years, this pilgrimage site had been considered as the origin of Buddhism in Hong Kong.  In 1829, the To clan built a Taoist institution known as Tsing Wan Kwun (青雲觀) just adjacent to the pilgrim site of Pui To.  In the 1910s, Chan Chun-ting bought the adjacent land to redevelop Tsing Wan Kwun.  His plan made a big twist in 1918 when Chan was converted to Buddhism.  Instead of a Taoist temple, Chan developed the Tsing Shan Monastery (青山禪院), which encompassed Buddhist halls, Pui To’s grotto, as well as the Taoist Tsing Wan Kwun.  The monastery and Taoist temple fell into legal dispute after Chan Chun-ting died in 1932.  In 1998, the case for Tsing Shan Monastery concluded at the High Court.  The court ruled that the Monastery would become a public institution managed by a charity trust.

We arrived in Tuen Mun by bus No. 962 all the way from Causeway Bay.  It was a grey day and it seemed that rain patch might come in any minute.  In the first glance, Tuen Mun New Town appeared like another uninspiring satellite town built in the 1970s by the British government to resolve the housing issue of Hong Kong.  Adjacent to the new town, the lush green Castle Hill (青山) was partly hidden in the mist.  We came to visit what claimed to be the oldest temple in Hong Kong.  From Tsing Shan Village, the winding Tsing Shan Monastery Path was a decent uphill walk to the monastery.

01With relaxed hearts, we slowly climbed the Tsing Shan Monastery Path to the famous Pailou (牌坊).  On the Pailou, the calligraphic inscription 香海名山 or “Fragrant Sea and Prestigious Mountain” was written by Hong Kong Governor Sir Cecil Clementi (金文泰) in 1929.  Clementi was a British administrator who possessed deep knowledge of Chinese culture, fluent in Cantonese and mastered the skills of Chinese calligraphy.

02The front gate (山門) of Tsing Shan Monastery was renewed in 2009 into the current appearance.

03The first thing that caught our attention was a portrait of Maitreya (彌勒佛) displayed on the wall of the Guardian Pavilion (護法殿).

04To the right of the Guardian Pavilion (護法殿) stood the Tsing Wan Kun (青雲觀).  The original heritage building was the oldest structure in the entire Tsing Shan Monastery.  Against advise of conservationists, the old structure was controversially demolished in 2004 by the To family, the owner of the monastery.  A new building in style of the Tang Dynasty was erected in its place.

05
Despite the relatively new building, there were still a number of historical items inside the Tsing Wan Kun, such as the bronze bell in the courtyard.

06Inside the Taoist Tsing Wan Kun, there were quite a variety of deities for worship, such as the 60 Tai Sui deities (太歲), a group of deities created from the orbiting stars directly opposite to the Jupiter in Chinese astrology.  Worshipers would come each year to pay respect to a specific Tai Sui deity according to his or her birth year.  Other than the Tai Sui, the central altar was dedicated to Doumu (斗母), the mother deity of the Big Dipper.

07Other deities could be found in the upper chamber of Tsing Wan Kun.  Like many Taoist temples, Tsing Wan Kun houses a variety of traditional deities.

08The atmospheric inner hall of Tsing Wan Kun was filled with suspended incenses.

09Buddhist figures like the Guanyin was present in the inner hall of Tsing Wan Kun.  Most believe that the Chinese Guanyin originated from Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.

10Back to the entrance courtyard of Tsing Shan Monastery, we followed the path to the back of the Guardian Pavilion and arrived at the Grand Hall (大雄寶殿).  Eight characters were inscribed on the front wall, “Everything on Earth Has Ties and Reaches Nirvana Together” (一切有情、同登覺地).

11The Grand Hall (大雄寶殿) was dominated by the altar of three Buddha statues.

12On the side walls of the Grand Hall (大雄寶殿), there were a series of tiny niches each with a bodhisattva figure lit up from above, many were marked with a donor’s name.

13Outside of the Grand Hall, we could clearly see the interesting roof detail of Guardian Pavilion (護法殿)

14Behind the Grand Hall (大雄寶殿) we walked up the stair to the upper section of Tsing Shan Monastery.  From the upper platform, we could have a closer look at the roof carvings of the Grand Hall (大雄寶殿), which included a pair of dragons on the ridge.

15And a ceramic lion at the side hip of the roof.

16On the upper part of Tsing Shan Monastery we reached a open platform overlooking town centre of Tuen Mun below.

17One of the highlight of the monastery’s upper platform was the shrine at what believed to the the grotto where Master Pui To (杯渡禪師) meditated.

18Near the grotto, there was a offering table and a wall of plaques with donor’s names.

19Near the grotto, a small stair led us up to another platform where a three-tier Buddhist stupa (時輪金剛佛塔) stood.

20Further up the hill stood the ruins of the old Abbot’s Chamber (方丈室).

21As we turned away from the ruined Abbot’s Chamber, we spotted the profile of two people standing at a lookout.  Soon we found out they were actually life size paper cut of passed actors Bruce Lee (李小龍) and Roy Chiao (喬宏).  In 1973, Lee, Chiao and their crew members came to Tsing Shan Monastery to film a scene of “Enter the Dragon” (龍爭虎鬥).

22Back down to the level of the grotto, we passed by a garden and the Gate of Harmony (和合山門).  On both sides of the gate, the inscriptions stated that “No sweeping is needed for pure land.  No closing is needed for empty doors” (淨土何須掃,空門不用關).   At the end of the garden stood a yellow pailou.  It was part of the original Hall of Scriptures (藏經閣).

23After a decent stroll of the monastery ground, it was time for us to head back downhill.  We passed by the Entrance Pailou once again.  Instead of “Fragrant Sea and Prestigious Mountain” ( 香海名山) at the front of the pailou, this time the back of the Pailou read as “Repentance is Salvation” (回頭是岸).

24After the descend, we soon reached a large public square and the historical Hau Kok Tin Hau Temple (后角天后廟 ).  Tin Hau was the deity that former fishermen of Tuen Mun prayed for a peaceful return from the sea.

25In the public square, a large bamboo pavilion was erected, probably as a stage and performance theatre for traditional Chinese operas.

26Adjacent to the Tin Hau Temple, there was a relatively new museum housing three enormous ceremonial backdrops.

27We walked southwards along the Tuen Mun River Channel.

28Since 1970s, Tuen Mun new town has been developed into a city with close to half a million of population.

29Boats by the shore at the mouth of Tuen Mun River reminded us that Tuen Mun was once a fishing village.

30In the evening, we walked to the mouth of Tuen Mun River and reached the Butterfly Beach (蝴蝶灣) in the dark.  The Inner River Dock (內河碼頭) where container ships to and from China’s Pearl River would stop for customs.


DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan

Visiting Nara and Kyoto in Japan, where historical temples and old timber houses mushroomed across the landscape and lined along the alleyways of the ancient capitals, is a close encounter with what we consider as the heritage of Japan.   A brief visit to Kofukuji on our way out of Nara Park provided a proper closure to a fruitful day of cultural heritage when we had already seen Horyuji, Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha.  A prominent representation of the Nara Period (AD 710-794), the Buddhist temple had seen better days in history, primarily during Nara Period and Heian Period (AD 794 – 1185), when Kofukuji and Kasuga Taisha controlled much of the politics and religion of the kingdom.  Since, Kofukuji had gone through a gradual decline.  The anti-Buddhist policies of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) gave the temple its final blow, when Kofukuji was forced to be separated from Kasuga Taisha, such that Shintoism could be separated from Buddhism.

Kofukuji is the headquarters of the Hosso sect of Buddhism in Japan.  Hosso, known as Yogachara in Indian Buddhism, is the school of Buddhism focused on meditative and yogic practice and believed that human experience is primarily constructed by the power of the mind.  This school of philosophy was founded by the famous Chinese monk and traveler Xuanzang (玄奘), who visited India in the 7th century for Buddhist teachings and scriptures.  Some of Xuanzang’s pupils were later responsible to bring the teachings of Buddhism to Korea and Japan.  As the headquarters of Hosso, Kofukuji was once a large temple complex comprised of 175 buildings.  Today, only a few of the original architecture remained.  While we were there, the Central Golden Hall was under renovation and covered with scaffolding.  We could still, however, admired the ancient architecture of Kofukuji Temple, including the Octagonal Halls, Eastern Golden Hall and the iconic Five-storey Pagoda.

dsc_3563We passed by the iconic Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) on our way out of the Nara Park.

02At 50m, Kofukuji’s Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) is Japan’s second tallest, and an iconic symbol of the city of Nara.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beautiful Eastern Golden Hall (東金堂) houses a large wooden statue of Yakushi Buddha.

dsc_3576Overview of the Eastern Golden Hall and Five-storey Pagoda.

03Founded in AD 813 and reconstructed in 1789, the Nanendo (南円堂, Southern Octagonal Hall) is another beautiful piece of architecture.

04List of donor’s names near the Nanendo (South Octagonal Hall)

05The stair down to Sanjo Dori Street was lined with donor’s flags.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA path off the stair led us to a platform where a cluster of small Buddhist shrines stood under a few maple trees.

08A beautiful statue stood out from the cluster of shrines.

06Reconstructed in AD 1181, the Three-storey Pagoda (三重の塔) is one of the two oldest surviving buildings at the temple complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Nanendo viewed from the Three-storey Pagoda.

10Nakatanidou (中谷堂) at Sanjo Dori near Kofukuji is famous for its traditional fast mochi (Japanese rice cakes) pounding known as mochitsuki.

11Yomogi mochi at Nakatanidou (中谷堂) are made with a wild Japanese plant called mugwort.  These rice cakes were really tasty.

12After a long day of temple hoping, we stopped by the relaxing Mellow Cafe for a quick bite.  The cafe is famous for its stone pizza oven.  We ordered a pizza with top with cheese and Japanese pickles.

13And washed the pizza down with a glass of local beer…

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan