Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle

Winter/Spring 2016

Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle Magazine

Issue link: http://read.dreamscapes.ca/i/631317

Contents of this Issue


Page 40 of 47

kilometre-long area outside the city of Datong. Today, 51,000 statues from the fifth and sixth centuries still remain. The Yun- gang Grottoes are so stunning and significant that UNESCO bestowed them with World Heritage status in 2001. I enter Cave No. 5. I imagine what used to decorate the impressive high walls. As I round a bend to the exit, I can't believe my eyes. An immense Buddha, as tall as a five-storey building, is spotlit by the sunlight filtering through the rough-hewn window. Stunning as they are, I barely notice its two intricately carved companions, merely half its height. There's another five-storey Buddha out- doors and, on a different scale, the Ten Thousand Buddha Cave, which houses tens of thousands of statues of Buddha and his disciples. I'm moved by devout Buddhists lighting joss sticks in front of the main statue so the smoke can convey their prayers to heaven. The little boy I photograph trying to fold himself into a Buddha pose for his parents' camera is just as heartwarming. MOUNT WUTAI At another Shanxi UNESCO site—Mount Wutai—I am forced to suspend my disbe- lief again. First, because of the sheer number of monasteries clustered here. Temples have been built on this five-plateau mountain for two millennia, providing a catalogue of Buddhist architecture. About 50 remain. I hope it isn't my disbelief that brings the thunderstorm of biblical proportions, which causes the crowd to cower under Longquan Temple's brightly painted eaves as we try to escape the deluge. The mountainous scenery here is gor- geous. Mystical five-coloured clouds, representing bodhisattva—a state of enlight- enment—are said to sometimes appear. Not today. The dark skies hide the beautiful views, and I just pray I'm not hit by lightning or deafened from the cracks of thunder. Among the holiest mountains in China, Mount Wutai marks the end of the pil- grimage route, which begins at Yungang Grottoes more than 1,200 kilometres away. Since the seventh century devout Buddhists from all over Asia have walked between the two sites. Last year, the Dalai Lama himself spoke of his deep desire to make the pil- grimage to Mount Wutai. Shanxi provides rare opportunities to see many spectacular sites, beautiful both aes- thetically and religiously. All must be seen to be believed. WINTER/SPRING 2016 DREAMSCAPES 41 FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: The red symbols on the boulder mean "spectacular"—and the Xuan Kong Temple certainly is! Mount Wutai, a sacred Buddhist place, is endowed with numerous monasteries and temples. An immense Buddha sits at Shanxi's Yungang Grottoes. DS T R A V E L P L A N N E R For more information, visit the Toronto- based China National Tourist Office at tourismchina-ca.com or call 1-866-599-6636. Don't confuse Shanxi with its westerly neighbour Shaanxi, the province with the famous Terracotta Army. You can take a bus from Beijing to see Shanxi's sites or fly into Datong and out of Taiyuan. Hiring a car with an English- speaking driver and/or guide gives you maximum flexibility to see the province. The ancient walled city of Pingyao is a charming place to stay for a couple of days, with plenty of English services. Enjoy the best fried chicken you'll ever taste near the upper west gate, where three spicy drum- sticks can be purchased for 10 yuan (CDN$2). While a 72-hour visa-free visit is possible for 15 Chinese cities, the privilege is not yet extended to Shanxi province. Canadians should apply for a Chinese visa in person in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver or through a travel agent. CDN$10 buys about 48 yuan. ATMs in bigger cities accept Canadian cards, but machines in smaller towns only work for Chinese cards. Most hotels will exchange U.S. dollars for yuan.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle - Winter/Spring 2016