Sunday, May 24, 2009

An Academic Trip To Crouching Tiger Temple

We scheduled a visit to Fuhu Temple for a couple of my students who were to write a travel journal article about the temple. Ms. Winter and Ms. Lorry were supposed to show up at around 1430 Sunday afternoon but were able to make it a little after 1500 due to class commitments. We had called Yanmao to coordinate the trip so eveything was set.

We took a bus to Emei Mountain, getting off at the little village nearest Fuhu Temple. The temple is another fifteen minute walk up the mountain.

Ms. Lorry, Ms. Winter and Sunee all walk casually up the mountain to the temple. It was a great day to be out and about on the mountain.

Yanmao greets us and invites us in to the meeting room for tea and interviews. Here she introduces the concepts behind being a nun on Emei Mountain ant Fuhu Temple.

Sunee relaxes and listens intently to the lecture on being a nun.

Lorry also listens with interest.

Ms Winter as well.

Both Ms. Winter and Ms. Lorry asked questions and took detailed notes about what Yanmao was telling them.

Here Yanmao shows a book written about the nunneries on Emei Mountain. It is written in both Chinese and English. She was kind enough to loan us the book for a few weeks.

After more than an hour of interviews and getting to know Buddhism from a nun's prospective, Yanmao invited us to share a meal with her. She took us outside to observe the ceremony that occurred prior to sharing food.

After prayers the nuns walked and chanted around the base of their living quarters.

Chanting and walking is part of the Pure Land Buddhist sects rituals.

A closer view of the rituals.

Nuns' living quarters.

Ms. Lorry and Ms. Winter with Yanmao in respectful pose.

Ms. Winter asked a question about prayers and Yanmao immediately took us to the small prayer room to give instructions on the proper way to show respect and pray. This was an interesting demonstration and practical experience for us all.

After a vegetarian lunch and on the way out, Ms. Winter meets and greets a cat that is cared for by the nuns. As I was taking additional pictures of the cat, one of the nuns invited me back to see the cat's family.

Ms. Lorry holds one of the temple cat's kittens, a fluff of white cotton.

Mother cat is not happy.

Yanmao bids us a fond farewell as we go explore the Fuhu Temple.

In the book Yanmao had loaned us, I read about some rare trees in the courtyard of the temple. Here the students pose by what we thought was a rare tree only to find out later it was not so rare.

In this building is the 13th century pagoda which celebrates the meeting of thousands of Buddhist across China during that period.

Can't help taking this beautiful stand in front of the bronze pagoda.

Ms. Lorry and Ms. Winter pose in front of one of the oldest relics in the temple, the 13th Century bronze pagoda.

Sunee visits with some of the nuns in front of the Hall of 500 Arhats. They were very delightful.

One of the huge Buddha images inside the Hall of 500 Arhats.

Ms. Lorry poses with her "lucky" Arhat. She found one that she liked then added her age to its number and found the corresponding sum. This was supposed to represent her lucky arhat.

I pose in the doorway of the Hall of 500 Arhats. Not too often I get my picture taken for this blog so figured I better take advantage.

This is one of the real rare trees the book mentioned. Its pedigree goes back to the time of the dinosaurs and is often called dinosaur food.

A spider makes his web on dinosaur food. Can this be considered an art photo? You judge.

My final photo of Fuhu Temple from above the main courtyard. Absolutely beautiful!

Our visit to the temple was a resounding success. The two students had a great time and learned a lot. Now let's see how well they write their article for the class.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gap Guys' Farewell Dinner

It is the last week for the Gap Guys at Southwest Jiaotong University so we got together for a final dinner. At first, it was going to be on Thursday, May 21, but then it was changed to Wednesday. I had my teacher's class on Wednesday so we started the dinner at 5:30 with a promise that I could teach my class even if I may be a bit late.

Unfortunately, someone did not make it clear to Tom that the dinner had been changed from Thursday to Wednesday and he was no where to be found. Later, I found out that he was doing his normal Wednesday afternoon thing at the gym. We all felt bad that we could not find Tom.

This is the restaurant we held the Gap Guys Final Dinner. The ladies our front were friendly but a bit shy. Of course, I spoke to them in English as if they all understood every word I said. Got a feeling they all wanted to do a smack down on me so I immediately greeted them in Chinese. Smack downs hurt!

As we made our way up the stairs to our feasting room we saw two lion's heads stuck on the wall. These were the real things from those lion dances we see all the time. Obviously for good luck and good profit.

Our feasting room was cozy but what caught our eyes were the beautiful yellow and blue dragon place settings. I had seen some similar to these in the tea district in Chengdu and lusted after them. They were very stunning against the black of the table top. The table was a huge round "hot pot" style table with the outer area able to revolve around the stationary hot pot in the middle.

On the way to the restaurant, we asked Zoe about the type of food we were going to have. When she said "hot pot" we all showed the same kind of disappointment. None of us really liked hot pot that much.

During the course of Zoe's ordering, we found out the style would not really be the Sichuan hot pot we had come to . . . well, not like so much. The broth would be light with chicken and the most mushrooms anyone in the room had ever seen.

With the ordering done, Zoe clued us in on exactly what we would be eating and it did sound pretty good. No Sichuan hot pot this evening.

Along with the basic clear (sort of) soup came an interesting array of snacks or appetizers. On the far right just in the picture are some hot spicy peanuts. Next was some strange popcorn kinda things (more like cracked corn). Then we got some thinly sliced and very nice beef . Going around the table to the left were the typical Sichuan "kimchi-like" radishes and then a bunch of green onions for the soup. The stuff was very Tom delicious!

John, into his professional photographer mode, takes pictures of everything in sight. When he first arrived to Emei, he barely took a picture. Now he is Mr. Photo.

The chicken and the mushrooms are "dumped" into the heated broth and in a few minutes we start eating all the mushrooms in the world. They were very good and hearty.

Robert and Sophie share some interesting stories about the Gap Guys visit to our university. It was probably pretty rare for Gappers like Dave and John to get to spend time at a university since they were newly minted HS grads and not yet in college. I thought their time here was absolutely off the charts for us, our students and them. They were the same age as most of the students they interacted with so it was much more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Enliven (Eleven) does her normal helpful stuff to insure we all had a great time with plenty to eat. She helps Zoe take care of all us Lao Wai while we are at the university.

Lots of 'shrooms! Lots of food. Lots of fun!

These were some sweet sticky rice cakes that were so good we ordered another dish of them.

Here is our group outside the restaurant after having a great meal. We all got to say good bye to our Gap Guys. There plan was to travel to Xian on Friday via train and then on to Beijing. From Beijing they would fly to Kunming and then travel to Dali, Lijiang and maybe Shangri-la. They would then return to Emei to pick up their suitcases Sunee helped them buy and then it is off to Thailand and eventually England and their colleges. It was a real pleasure having them visit us, help us, party with us these last three months. Wish they could have stayed longer.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Saturday Chinese Wedding Luncheon

We were invited to attend our apartment's managers who live downstairs on the first floor. Their job is to insure our apartment is in good order and maintain the utilities and repairs. Their daughter was getting married. Robert volunteered to take us to the hotel where the reception was being held. We also were accompanied by Gap Guy Ivan of Leshan Vocational and Technology College fame. The party started at around 1100 so off we went.

Here is the hotel where the reception was held. It is a famous Emei Mountain Hot Springs hotel and very nice. It is located only a few minutes from our apartment but we had to wait on the main road for Ivan to arrive via taxi from the bus station. He arrived, we stuffed him in the car and we went to the reception. The reception started at around 1100 and we arrived just in time.

Robert, Sunee and Ivan (along with me the photographer) arrive ready for a good time.

Here we have the bride and groom along with the brides mother and father, our apartment managers. We were greeted with candy and other goodies including cigarettes.

Bride and Groom greeting all their guests.

I had as many people as I could get in the picture as we were about to enter the main part of the hotel.

Cigarettes anyone? A very Chinese tradition.

We sat out in the garden area for a while having tea and then went to the dining area for the official reception. This lady, a friend of Robert, visited with us as we waited for the reception to begin in the dining area. She was lovely and very hospitable.

Ivan was hungry. Ivan is always hungry as you can tell from his looks as we were waiting for things to start.

Sunee checks out the candies we were given as gifts as we arrived to the hotel. They were cute.
The three of us (Ivan, Sunee and I) build a pyramid with our candy packages. Cute! We obviously had a few minutes to entertain ourselves while we waited for the party to begin.

The party begins with fireworks. As the bride and groom walked toward the stage, all kinds of fireworks went off along the way. This one was the last just before they reached the stage to begin the ceremony. This wedding appeared to be almost entirely Western in dress and style. Obviously the fireworks was a Chinese twist.

Strange situation here where this little girl recited the vows and the couple repeated them. Never saw that in Western Culture. The little girl was definitely cute, though.

Another shot of the little girl reading the vows and the couple repeating them. Notice the picture of the couple in the background. Matches well, huh?

The lighting of the candles.

The pouring of the champaign and then the toast. Very Western, indeed.

More fireworks go off as the couple finishes the vows and celebrate their wedding. This was a Western-style wedding with only a few Chinese things thrown in. The food was fairly good and the company was fun. It was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon at Emei. We wish the couple happiness and a long profitable relationship. We just have too much fun here at Emei Mountain!