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DAY 8 (1/2): SAKYA MONASTERY (ས་སྐྱ་དགོན་པ། 薩迦寺), Tibet (西藏), 2017.09.23

Founded by Konchok Gyelpo in 1073, Sakya Monastery is the seat of Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. During its heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries, Sakya abbots were the actual governors of Tibet under the Mongol’s rule.  There are actually two monasteries in Sakya at either side of Trum-Chu River.  While the older north monastery (1073) with its 108 structures has been reduced to ruins over the years, the fortress like south monastery (1268) survives and remains as one of the largest in Tibet.  The impressive fortress like monastery washed with ash grey and white and red vertical stripes symbolizes the trinity of Bodhisattva, and had became the symbol of Sakya.  Everything at Sakya is large in size, from its 16m high main assembly hall to the extensive defensive walls.

Many refers Sakya Monastery as Dunhuang (敦煌) of Tibet because of its remarkable murals, artefacts, and medieval scriptures.   Sealed behind a wall and rediscovered in 2003, the 60m long by 10m tall library wall (拉康欽莫大經堂) behind the altar in the main assembly hall is particularly impressive.  It contains a huge variety of text, 84000 in total, made of different materials and about different subjects from the Yuan Dynasty when Tibet was under Mongol rule.  The equally important murals made in the Mongolian style are also a rarity in China nowadays.  In the main assembly hall, the most valuable object is probably the white conch shell (海螺).  Legends has it that the conch shell originally belonged to the Buddha.  Then it went into the hands of an Indian king, and later became an offering to Kublai Khan (忽必列).  Kublai Khan gave the sacred object to Sakya and it remained in the monastery until present day.  Still capable to make a soft low sound, the conch is still blown by the monk to give blessing to pilgrims.  While we were visiting the main assembly hall, we did see a monk took out the conch to offer blessing to the pilgrims, who were so excited and eager to get as close as possible to the sacred object.  Also from Kublai Khan was one of the huge wood columns in the assembly hall.  With a diameter ranging from 1m to 1.5m, these wood columns are quite impressive disregard who its donor might be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs soon as we arrived in Sakya, our driver Sangzhu took us to the large dining hall of Manasarovar Sakya Hotel Restaurant for lunch.

02Unlike most other Tibetan monasteries, Sakya’s grey walls with red and white stripes offer a unique visual symbol for Sakya in the past 900+ years.

03.JPGWe headed into the entrance courtyard of Sakya and soon found out that almost all buildings were locked.  Apparently the monks were having lunch somewhere else and we had no choice but to wait for their.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn front of the main assembly hall, we stood by the stone lion and wait for the monk’s return.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASoon more local visitors arrived and waited for the monk’s return.  We decided to take a walk in the enormous compound.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe followed the long and narrow kora route around the central complex.  There were prayer wheels on one side and the defensive high walls on the opposite.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe buildings in Sakya Monastery all seemed really large to us.

06The Western style lamppost and the ash grey wall with red and white stripes somehow didn’t seem too coherent visually.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt last the monk with the keys showed up and led us into the inner monastery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the gate, a dark hallway with beautiful murals and old prayer wheels led us into the inner courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoing through the dark hallway with religious murals on both sides felt like going back in time.

12Without extensive renovations, many murals in Sakya were gradually fading.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the inner courtyard, we walked into the main assembly hall.  In the main hall, we saw the famous white conch shell, wood columns, historical murals and most impressive of all, the 10m high library wall behind the altar.  Just like most other monasteries in Tibet, photography of the interior is prohibited.

14After seeing the interior of the main assembly hall, we climbed the adjacent stair up to the flat roof of the complex.

15The flat roof offers another unique angle to admire the robust architecture of Sakya.

16Via the flat roof, we could walk to a variety of side chapels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe small chapels are accessible via doorways in the otherwise fortress like walls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALayers of eaves form a series of interesting lines on the flat roof.

19As we departed from Sakya Monastery, more pilgrims arrived to pay respect to this once most powerful monastery in Tibet.

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More blog posts on Tibet 2017:
JOURNEY ABOVE THE CLOUDS, Tibet 2017 (西藏之旅2017)
DAY 1: TOUCHDOWN ON THE ROOF OF THE WORLD, Lhasa
DAY 1: TRICHANG LABRANG HOTEL (赤江拉讓藏式賓館), Lhasa
DAY 1: KORA AT BARKHOR STREET (八廓街), Lhasa
DAY 2: FIRST GLIMPSE OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 2: KORA OF DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: DREPUNG MONASTERY (哲蚌寺), Lhasa
DAY 2: JOKHANG MONASTERY (大昭寺), Lhasa
DAY 2 : SPINN CAFE (風轉咖啡館), Lhasa
DAY 2: NIGHT VIEW OF POTALA (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: POTALA PALACE (布達拉宮), Lhasa
DAY 3: SERA MONASTERY (色拉寺), Lhasa
Day 4: KORA OF GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
Day 4: GANDEN MONASTERY (甘丹寺), Lhasa
DAY 4: TEA HOUSE AND FAMILY RESTAURANT, Lhasa
DAY 5: ON THE ROAD IN TIBET
DAY 5: MORNING IN SHANNAN (山南)
DAY 5: SAMYE MONASTERY (桑耶寺), Shannan
DAY 5: SAMYE TOWN (桑耶鎮), Shannan
DAY 6: YAMDROK LAKE (羊卓雍錯)
DAY 6: PALCHO MONASTERY (白居寺), Gyantse
DAY 6: WORDO COURTYARD (吾爾朵大宅院), Shigatse
DAY 7: ROAD TO EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: EVEREST BASE CAMP (珠峰大本營)
DAY 7: STARRY NIGHT, Everest Base Camp
DAY 8: PANG LA PASS (加烏拉山口), Mount Everest Road
DAY 8: SAKYA MONASTERY (薩迦寺)
DAY 9: TASHI LHUNPO MONASTERY, (扎什倫布寺) Shigatse
DAY 9: ROAD TO NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 9: EVENING AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: SUNRISE AT NAMTSO LAKE (納木錯)
DAY 10: LAST DAY IN LHASA, Tibet
EPILOGUE: FACES OF LHASA, Tibet

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CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China

Our last day in Guangzhou was dedicated to the contemporary architecture at Zhujiang New Town again.  The night before, we had a brief visit of the area to check out Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House, Rocco’s Guangdong Museum, and Nikken Sekkei’s Central Library illuminated with dramatic lights.  The next day we returned to check out the interior of these buildings.

The first stop we made was Guangzhou Opera House.  We joined a 1.5 hour guided tour that took us into the a number of the major spaces in the complex, from the main auditorium to practice rooms.  While the interior spaces of the Opera House were visually impressive, the uncounted design and construction deficiencies and traces of poor maintenance were all difficult to ignore.  Nevertheless, Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House still stood out as the most unique architecture we saw in Guangzhou.

Not far from the Opera House stood the new Guangzhou Library designed by Japanese design firm Nikken Sekkei.  Completed in 2013, Guangzhou Library is a neatly detailed and designed public building.  Once got in, we were immediately overwhelmed by the large and airy atrium and the glassy link bridges overhead.  We wandered in the library briefly before moving over to the Guangdong Provincial Museum.  Opened in 2010, Rocco Design Architects’ museum building is a mega-scale Chinese treasure box.  Similar to the library, the main atrium space of the museum offered a pleasant surprise for us.  A single footbridge high up overhead created a dramatic visual impact.  To our disappointment, we then discovered that it was blocked off from public access as soon as we reached the bridge.  The permanent collection of the museum presented the rich heritage of various regions in Guangdong.

It was late afternoon by the time we left Guangdong Museum.  We rushed to the Guangzhou East Station for our direct intercity train back to Hong Kong.  Overall our three-day trip was a pleasant introduction to the heritage of Guangdong Province.  Seeing the photogenic diaolous in Kaiping County was especially interesting for us.  Perhaps one day we would return to Kaiping at a different season, such as early spring when yellow mustard flowers blanketed the fields under the shadow of the century-old watchtowers.

01From the metro station, we made a short walk underground before ascending to the ground level.  At almost 600m, the Canton Tower played well as an urban icon for us to orient ourselves.

02Approaching Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House and the reflective pool.

03The triangular ceiling coffers and curved concrete walls reminded me of Hadid’s other projects,

04The ceiling motif did remind me of Hadid’s Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany.

05Bronze statue at a stair landing that led to the underground parking level.

06The magnificent main auditorium of Guangzhou Opera House.

07Cool light troughs filled up the walls and ceiling of the music practice room.

08The wavy ceiling and wall treatment of the dance studio was another highlight of our guided tour.

09Interior circulation space in the Opera House on the upper levels.

10During daytime, the building structure and facade details could be closely examined by visitors.

11Overall view of the Opera House.

12Atrium of the smaller concert hall in the Opera House complex.

13Approaching the Guangzhou Manmade Library.

14Central atrium of the Guangzhou Library.

15Rocco’s Guangdong Museum resembled an enlarged Chinese treasure box.

16The museum atrium was a remarkable design.

17New kinds of materials were used in the museum project.  The overall experience of the space was centred at the flying bridge high above.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors leaving the Guangdong Museum, with Hadad’s Opera House at the back.

19The entrance path of the museum provided a nice urban playground.

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All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China
8) CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China


ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China

Other than Kaiping diaolous, another reason for our 3-day excursion from Hong Kong was to check out Guangzhou’s contemporary architecture.  After arriving in Guangzhou by long distance bus, we took the city’s metro to Shamian Island (沙面島) to check in at our hotel and had a Cantonese meal.  Before calling it a day, we rushed out again to explore the new central business district to see its flamboyant buildings at night.  Soon we arrived at Zhujiang New Town Metro Station and walked towards the Opera House.

In a distance, the Guangzhou Tower on the south side of Pearl River aligned perfectly with the strip of public plaza that marked the central axis of Zhujiang New Town (珠江新城), the new central business district of Guangzhou.  Along both sides of the axis, new commercial towers lined up like soldiers queuing from afar all the way to the Pearl River.  Before reaching the river, three public buildings stood out, the Guangzhou Library designed by Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei, Guangdong Provincial Museum by Rocco Design Architects, and Guangzhou Opera House by Zaha Hadid.

01Reaching Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House from its back.

02A ramp flanked by stone walls of the opera house expressed a sense of urban fluidity.

03The craftsmanship and the maintenance of the stone cladding were far from ideal.

04Similar to many other cities around the world, The Phantom of the Opera has become a popular musical with lots of sold out shows.

05Main hall of Guangzhou Opera House with Guangzhou IFC at the rear.

06The upper plaza of the Opera House has become a hotspot for photos.

07The Guangzhou Library by Nikken Sekkei was another interesting building in the area.

08Cool facade treatment expressed horizontality and layering.

09Rocco’s Guangzhou Museum presented a sense of mystery.

10The semi-outdoor stadium on an island in the Pearl River.

12Guangzhou Tower with colouful lighting effect.

13Guangzhou IFC and the axial plaza.

14Visitors enjoyed themselves on the floor feature lighting.

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All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China
8) CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China


DAY 21 (2 OF 5) – REAL GABINETE PORTUGUES DE LEITURA, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

We started our tour of the Centro of Rio de Janeiro with the Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura (Portuguese Reading Room).  In contrast to the hectic chaos of traffic and pedestrians in the Centro, the Portuguese Reading Room seemed like a peaceful haven to us.  An association that promoted culture of the community found the Portuguese Reading Room in 1837, during the time when Rio was the national capital of Portugal.  The architecture was built in Manueline style, which emphasized the royal power of Portugal with decorations inspired by Italian Renaissance, European Gothic, and Moorish art.
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Read other posts on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Day 20.1 – Ipanema
Day 20.2 – Urca
Day 20.3 – Pao de Acucar
Day 21.1 – Ipanema Beach
Day 21.2 – Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura (Portuguese Reading Room)
Day 21.3 – Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil
Day 21.4 – Lapa and Santa Teresa
Day 21.5 – Botafogo and Leblon
Day 22.1 – Museu de Arte do Rio
Day 22.2 – Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought