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Friday, May 26, 2006
China Trip colour photos are online -vvv vwv

Selected colour photographs from our (Shuquan, Len Chow and I) ORD trip to China are now online. As usual, you can find them here. Since I have always been interested in legends and folklore, I shall share some stories related to some of the places we visited.

(Note: Use Unicode UTF-8 encoding on your browser to see the chinese words)

Long ago, there was a man called Shiwa. He would spend his days skillfully carving stone Buddhas in the hills with other youths of his village. There was a woman named Huamei whose embroidery and singing skills were unparalleled. Naturally, they were a perfect match as these stories go.

On their wedding day, the thunder god became jealous and tried to abduct Huamei. To separate the couple, he split the hill in two. The half that Huamei was standing on flew off into the sky. Shiwa reacted quickly and managed to hold on to a vine and flew off with half the hill. The flying hill eventually landed in Hangzhou near Lingyin Temple 灵隐寺 (where Jigong 濟公 came from). From then on, the hill became known as 飞来峰 (the peak that flew from afar) shown in the picture here.

Shiwa fell unconscious from the shock of the impact while Huamei became trapped under the hill. When Shiwa regained consciousness, he had transformed into a bird. So he flew around looking for Huamei. Eventually he heard her singing and started pecking at the rocks to dig her out. When Huamei heard the pecking, she dug from the other side with her hairpin. When they managed to complete the tunnel, Huamei too became a bird and they both flew to the thunder god and pecked his eyes out (quite a vengeful act for humble villagers). From then on, the thunder god can only make rumbling sounds and no longer dares to come down to Earth to disturb people because he's freakin' blind. The hole that they dug came to be known as 一线天 (Gleam from Heaven).

Ok, I'm not so sure if this picture I took is indeed the Gleam from Heaven because it looks like a really big hole and the Gleam from Heaven was supposed to be a small stream of light. But this is the closest cave to the explanatory tablet that has a visible hole showing the sky so I guess this must be it.

I would share some pictures of Lingyin Temple as well but it was a rainy day so I didn't really have any good photos of it. Moreover, taking photos of the gigantic golden Buddha (I estimate it to be 5 or 6 storeys high) in one of the halls is not allowed.

* * *

This is Huangshan 黄山. It consists of 72 major peaks and is home to many strange looking rocks.

Places that look like this usually inspire many imaginative tales. For example, a monk used to live on one of the highest peaks in Huangshan. One day, three deities (I can't remember who but Goddess of Mercy was one of them) descended from the sky to visit, maybe go sightseeing or something. They emitted such bright divine light that the monk subsequently named the peak Guangmingding 光明顶, literally translated as Bright Summit. This is not a picture of Guangmingding though. Frankly, Guangmingding looked pretty boring, especially when there is a large weather station on it. Not to mention the large number of tourists and aunties due to the relative ease to climb to the top.

I think Huangshan is a place full of forgotten deities who earn a living now by becoming tour guides and porters because the porters here are damn strong and the tour guides can suddenly step out of the mist to offer their services.

* * *

This is a picture of the famous West Lake 西湖 of Hangzhou. In the background is another famous architecture, the Leifeng (Thunder Peak) Pagoda 雷峰塔.

Actually, this pagoda is built in 2002. The original collapsed in 1924 due to the weakening of its foundations caused by theft of its bricks. Yeah, people will steal anything. The locals believed that the bricks possess magical properties. The Pagoda also used to house what is supposed to be the 舍利子 of Sakyamuni (founder of Buddhism), which is now in a museum in Hangzhou.

According to the tour guide, the government offered 30000 RMB to buy back the original bricks but people refused to part with their bricks. Eventually the abbot of Lingyin Temple donated three bricks and they are now in a museum too. I really wonder how he got those bricks in the first place.

When the pagoda collapsed in 1924, many locals headed to the ruins for two reasons:
1. To get more bricks
2. To see if 白娘子 is inside

Coincidentally, we managed to catch the last 4 episodes of the Liu Tao (actress on left as 白素贞) edition of the Legend of the White Snake on Chinese TV back in the hotel room. Some people might remember her as 阿朱 from 天龙八部. The 4 episodes we watched pretty much covered 80% of the White Snake story, so I guess the first 26 episodes must be really long winded. Anyway, I liked 刘涛's portrayal but I digress.

Back to the story. I assume everyone is familiar with the White Snake legend so I shall not repeat that. As the legend goes, Fahai imprisoned Bai Suzhen in Leifeng Pagoda and that she will only be free when either the West Lake dries up or the pagoda collapses. Obviously the locals wanted to verify if the legends were true. But I doubt they saw anything because as all who watches TV knows, she went to Hong Kong to open Waiting Bar.

-- permalink --
Yiheng made
5:59 PM


Great trip yah!!! Incidentally I'm going to these same places next month. Exciting man...

Saw your mention about tianlongbabu and I suddenly remembered the time we watched it together at Mount Tremblant...forgoing our day ski pass as a result. :)

By Anonymous jangace, at 12:12 AM  

Haha, yah I remember Tremblant too. The weather wasn't that great that day anyway. Besides, you can't stop once you start on these drama serials. Enjoy your trip man!
By Anonymous Yiheng, at 9:49 PM  

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