12th June 2015
the Great Wall, Hanging Monastery and Grottoes with amazing buddhas
The last couple of days have been a cultural blast ! ( the 9th and 10th June )
It started with the Great Wall. We are driving along heading somewhere …. And Pete calls up on the radio. “We need to stop”.
We pull over on the tollway and Jerry explains the Great Wall is just over there … “You want to go have a look” …. we say “Shit yeh”.
So we back track a little and stop for a few minutes at a burial site where there is about 5 or more hectares of burial mounds …at least 1000 years old and then work our way though a village and down a side street and there it is one the human constructed wonders of the world . Part of the Great Wall incorporated into a village or visa versa .. We walk around in awe taking pictures and there is no one but a local or two…!,! We are astoinshed.
And then we drive a little further up the hill and there is car park and grand entrance statements and walkways up to a high point on the wall. And still no one . It turns out that in 1987 the local government spent some serious money trying to make this section of the wall an attraction and it did not work. Few people stop here. And the place is in disrepair .
That did not bother us to much we had a little section of the Great Wall to ourselves … 100 years of construction and loads of human sacrifice for a defence mechanism that did not work ! The wall is amazing , climbing up hill sides, made of a kind of rammed earth and in some places terracotta bricks .
Apparently Mao said … “If you have not walked on the Great Wall you are not a man…” or something like that …
But Genghis Khan … Had other ideas … He pointed out (apparently) “the wall is only as strong as those who defend it !!! “
And then yesterday …a Hanging Monastery … A third of the way up the wall of gorge an amazing timber an brick structure … Just seemingly hanging there. A modest number of local tourists and an experience to behold. The structure is a series of rooms or chambers stocked full of Buddha, Taoist and Confucian idols … A very moving experience …the dedication of the builders (and the preservers ) of this place is quite astonishing.
And this amazing cultural icon is only a few hundred metres below a significant dam …that uses the gorge structure to hold water back for the industrial / coal mining areas around
And then …. To top that off we went to Yingang Grottoes…. An amazing set of 45 human created caves where Buddhas of all sizes are carved from the sandstone rock. Again …the dedication of those who created the place is astonishing ….it very hard put in words …pictures tell part of the story .
The are other special things about this place .. It’s on the door step of Datong ….the heart of the coal and power producing region .. The grottoes are with a km or two of a museum of coal mining ….just across the valley. Two parts of China’s cultural history …one 1500 or so years old …the other recent .
And coal is a major part of the economy …to get to the Grottoes you need to drive through a major coal truck repair and holding area … It’s an amazing contracts …nearly being squashed by massive coal trucks …and Pete nearly did …and then a few minutes latter driving into a very well designed landscape park, developed only 15 or so years ago that surrounds the grottoes ….and amazing contrast ….. But that in China …. Madness and Grandness ….right next to each other.