Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dali China - Three Pagoda Temple

Dali, China is close to the Vietnam border in southern China.  It is a garden paradise with a lake 30 miles long and 5 miles wide plus home of the largest Buddhist temple complex in China with 16,000 students.  The walking tour of the temple grounds is stunning. From the gate to the top of the last temple at the top of the hill is 2.7 kilometers full of pagodas, temples, statues and gardens.  This city of 600,000 people comprises 12 minorities and attracts thousands visitors every day; and on national holidays, a million daily visitors.

Notice the pagoda on the left. It leans...a lot like its western counterpart in Pisa, Italy. Here is the the Leaning Pagoda of Dali.

I was surprised to discover that pagodas are not multi-story buildings but rather, they are tall and hollow.

Yup. Surprised me too. We even saw a couple of churches that had these symbols in giant metal, propped at the top of their steeples. 

That's an impressive bunch of wish strips. Everything is this temple complex is done in a BIG way.

These are all either temples full of gold statues or storage halls.

Lots...and LOTS of gold statues.

Lots of BIG gold statues

That brown thing in the left of this photo is the biggest wooden temple block I have ever seen. These are all rhythm instruments of some kind; so it would appear this is where the "band" plays.

This pretty white statue makes me think of a Chinese-Buddhist Venus emerging  out of her lotus flower bed.

This is the longest scarf I have ever seen!

See the instrument this Golden Boy is playing? That's a Sheng, the ancient ancestor of the modern harmonica. It is said that Marco Polo brought one home with him from China. Over the next two hundred years it made its way to Germany and the rest is history.

We finally made it to the temple at the top of the hill. Nice view. 
Not so nice on the knees. Took 2 weeks for my right knee to heal. John's bum knee did surprisingly well. :)

That's a LOT of steps for our old knees. 

Take a close look at the lions in the next 2 photos. They are ubiquitous in China, standing beside millions of doorways and gates. In this case they are on all four sides of the gate. 
They represent guardian parents of China. The father has his right paw on an orb that represents the world.  The mother has her left paw on a baby lion. The family in incredibly important in China and has been from the beginning of time. All over China one sees this equal guardianship of the world and the family represented by these lion parents.

I had some cool captions for this one, but alas, one must remain culturally sensitive on someone else's turf. So you can come up
with one of your own:

In this region of China, Buddhism and Brahmanism merge on many levels; probably because of the geographic proximity to India, Nepal and Tibet.  

Finally....the Happy Buddha

We walked into one of the temples and saw hundreds of these golden men who all seem to be in the act of exhibiting their own specific magic, super power.     The X-men 

Then suddenly I came around the corner and was surprised to see this fellow. Very different from the rest with a head of hair and a bushy beard, plus distinctly western facial features and bone structure. And his staff is quite different from others. 
Who do you think he looks like? Interesting questions are posed by the presence of this statue.

Massive prayers wheels

Don't know what dragons have to do with Buddhism or Brahmanism but this bas-relief is spectacular. 
Note the strategically placed flower pots to keep the tourists from romping with/on the dragon. 

This is a mighty incense burner

This mammoth hunk of marble stands outside a state sanctioned marble mart. Rocks of all kinds are revered in China, and the bigger and more artistic the better. This is one fine specimen, perfect for the well-appointed private or public garden.

It's really remarkable when you come across a naturally occurring work of art in a slab of marble.

Piles of pretties.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ancient Chinese Musical Orchestra Concert

In Lijiang, we attended an Chinese orchestra concert comprised of ancient instruments representing over 2,000 years of instrumental music.  Instruments were individually demonstrated between performances and their music fully utilized the pentatonic scale.  This orchestra is the only one in China and has been recognized by UNESCO.  Check out the various families of string, flute and percussion instruments.  Five of the musicians are in the 80's and the oldest about 89 years of age.  We enjoyed the colorful, classic Chinese costumes and the old beards.

Some of these gentlemen can play in their sleep...and one or two did.

These two singers made some very interesting music. Their slap sticks would play at what appeared to be random points in the music, but actually were used to emphasize the poetry of their song. They sang exclusively from their sinuses, making them the envy of the finest cat fight.

This concert was special because of this guest performer. He is famous for helping to keep this orchestra and its music alive. He took them on a tour of Europe and America about 10 years ago. The instrument he is playing is an Er Hu.

These instruments are the primitive ancestors of some of the instruments we play today. Most of those seen here are string and woodwind ancestors. For some reason, brass instruments were not included in the orchestra even though they did exist.