Saturday, May 20, 2017

Xingshan Temple / Singshansi Nanlu

My Chinese Rosetta Stone
When wandering around Xi'an, which may be the same in other larger cities, many of the street signs are in Chinese characters, Pinyin characters which are a type of phonics for the written characters and English. On the Metro the announcements are in Chinese and English (A soothing British female voice) and the directional signs in characters and Pinyin plus Metro pass machines where you buy or top up your card and ATM's have the option for English. Although many locals in this town do not speak English you can navigate the city and with some basic Chinese you will not starve or go thirsty. Plus a smile goes a long way.

All the being said I was walking from the convention center tower recently (which was closed but that is another story) and came across a sign for the Xingshan Temple. As much as I have tried to learn about this city and visit as many historical and important sites as I have I did not even know about this temple. Another serendipitous discovery. I decided that on my next day off I would find it and see what it was all about. I am happy I took the time.

First, the temple complex is downtown near one of the busiest shopping districts in Xi'an. The main mall called the SAGA Mall has the longest escalator in China. Someone said the longest in the world but I find that hard to believe, plus if I start researching things like the "world longest escalators" I will know that I have crossed into some dark "Google Vortex" and may never return. The main gate is very beautiful in it's simplicity but unless you were looking for it you could just as easily walk right past it. Once you step inside you immediately step back in time. Well, except for the electricity, the garbage cans, telephone wires, people with cell phones and the high rise building surrounding you on all sides.

Outside it was a busy street with normal Chinese street sounds but as soon as you cross the threshold and walk under the first gate the sounds of the outside world disappeared. Seriously it was that dramatic without being overly dramatic. You are greeted by what immediately appears to be the main temple and courtyard with a few surrounding out buildings. The colors quite stunning in the mid morning sunshine.

 I went into the main temple and viewed the Golden Buddhas and other idols of worship. The scene was serene as worshipers would light incense then go to each building and pray for a few minutes. I tried to be respectful taking no pictures while they were praying and if I was using my camera they smiled and let me finish. I immediately noticed the swastika on the buildings and the Buddha's chest and remember back to my visit to the Nara temple in Japan seeing that for the first time. It gave me fantastic insight into the symbol and how it is not just a Nazi symbol of the 20th century but a symbol of peace that goes back 12000 years.

I was zoning out observing all of this tranquility and harmony until I noticed people walking past the main temple. I thought nothing of it until I snapped out of my trance and followed them. The Temple Complex opened up to more buildings, courtyards, statues, temples, and people just enjoying the day. This place was so much larger than I could have imagined.

I do not know the history of the particular site but the China Travel Website has nice article if you are interested. What caught my eye was this passage "Daxingshan Temple is a pure and peaceful Buddhist space in the prosperous metropolis. Originally built in 265-289 in the Jin Dynasty (265-420), this temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in China and a birthplace of Chinese Tantric Buddhism (Vajrayana)."  

All my religious background knowledge or exposure has been the Abrahamic Religions of Christianity Judaism and Islam. Ultimately they are the same but, have been and are enemies of each other at one time or another. As I have gotten older I have evolved beyond what I was taught to be an atheist. I do not need a "god" to tell me to be "good, honest and treat people with kindness". I certainly do not profess to know anything about Buddhism and one trip to a Temple makes me curious not an expert. Curious to know about such devotion to peace and tranquility without it being shoved in your face. Remember this is a country that "frowns" on religious freedoms yet religion thrives here. No so much in Tibet but that is a story for another time, after I visit there.

The Abrahamic Religions have been around for just over 2000 years and during that time they have Crusaded against each other and have constantly been trying to kill each other. Buddhism and other "Eastern philosophies, well some are over 5000 years old live in harmony with each other. So, who is right? I bet if you took the time you could find issues and battles with the Eastern Religions but I am going to live in my bubble of philosophical happiness for the time being. The Xingshan Temple was a marvelous discovery for me and I will make the effort to visit again. If my Chinese is good enough maybe I will attempt a conversation with one of the monks that were wandering about and learn a little something. Of course I am sure a small donation would help. After all, religion is still religion.

I could not go to bed without Googling "The Worlds Longest Escalator". It is in Hong Kong.

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