Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Putuoshan

As part of the National Holiday, I went to Putuoshan for a couple days. It was the second part of the trip after going to Ningbo. The actual trip took place over two weeks ago, but unfortunately it seems I am perpetually behind on the blog. From Ningbo, you can take a short bus ride to the sea port and from there take a high speed boat ride to Putuoshan. The boat ride was pretty cool and I was surprised how fast such a large boat was going. Because we weren't able to get tickets to leave Ningbo as early as we hoped and because the whole trip took around 3.5 - 4 hours, we didn't arrive in Putuoshan until the afternoon. Since it was the National Holiday weekend, there were tons of people coming and going when we first arrived. Also, the prices for hotels, food, etc. were all inflated because of the influx of tourists, but that's to be expected anywhere during the heavy tourist season. We ended up staying in an old fisherman's housing area that had been converted into a few hotel rooms. It was relatively nice and provided an opportunity to stay near to a bunch of locals. Putuoshan is an island with a sacred Buddhist mountain peak in the center of the island. As such, there are a lot of Buddhist temples and statues on the island. Being an island, it also has a couple nice beaches. After the long and hot travel from Ningbo, we wanted to go for a swim in the ocean to cool down. So after settling into our hotel, we set out to the ocean. When we got to the beach, we noticed that nobody was really swimming in the water, but we weren't really sure why. I said what the heck and started running into the water with plans to jump into the oncoming waves. After a few seconds, however, a Chinese lifeguard came running over and started yelling at us to get out. At first I thought that maybe since the island was a sacred Buddhist island they didn't want people in swimming suits running around, but then I looked at the lifeguard and thought that his long t-shirt and speedo combination hardly left anything to the imagination. It turns out that the "fierce" waves were too dangerous to allow people to swim. I have seen waves larger than that on Lake Michigan and was pretty disappointed we weren't able to swim. The beach, however, was very beautiful and it was nice to sit and relax as the sun went down.
Hundred Step Beach
Hundred Step Beach
Hundred Step Beach
Dangerous Waves
The next day we went to a lot of the sites on the island. The first area we visited was around the Puji Temple. There were a lot of people around, but the temple and surrounding area were nice.
Puji Temple Area
Puji Temple Area
Puji Temple Area
We then went to a smaller temple that was on the edge of the island near the ocean. The temple itself was just ok, but the view was spectacular. The weather this day of the trip was perfect and the clouds and blue skies provided some of the best views we had.
People Worshipping at Temple
Ocean View
Boats in Harbor
Ocean View Beautiful Day
The next site we went to was the Guan Yin Statue. It is a large statue of Guan Yin, who according to wikipedia is the Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion. It is probably the coolest site on the island, in my opinion, and there are great views of the statue from a distance and up close.
Guan Yin Statue
Guan Yin Statue
Guan Yin Statue
Guan Yin Statue
The whole area and temple around the Guan Yin statue was very impressive and beautiful. They had several inner areas to visit and a lot of large murals that were very elaborately carved, drawn, or decorated. The view of the rest of the island from the statue area was also amazing.
Statues
Inner Mural
Outside Mural
View from Guan Yin Statue
Most of the people who go to Putuoshan seem to be there to worship and aren't casual tourists like myself. At all of the temples and sites on the island there are areas for people to worship, give offerings, and everything seems to be held sacred. The offerings came in the form of money, food, snacks, and even large containers of what seemed like oil for cooking. I assume that the Buddhist monks on the island use the offerings to maintain the island and for their own personal living expenses, but I'm not sure. To worship, people will light these incense sticks and wave them a few times in all 4 general directions. Then, they will kneel and bow towards a statue or some object of worship. To be honest, I am not sure of the meaning or significance of the different actions, but I thought the worship was interesting and hopefully nobody is offended that I am posting some pictures of it.
Area of Worship
Lighting the Incense
Waving the Incense
Worshipping
After the Guan Yin statue, we took some shuttles to the opposite side of the island to take a tram up to the peak of Putuoshan, or Mount Putuo.
Tram
Cute Kids in the Cable Car
View from Tram
On the peak of Mount Putuo, there were of course several temples to see and also great views of the island.
Temple at Mount Putuo
Buddha
View of Putuoshan and Neighboring Islands
View of Putuoshan and Neighboring Islands
After seeing everything from the peak, we hiked down the mountain. There was another temple at the bottom and a nice surrounding area.
Temple Area
After that temple, we went to a different beach than we had gone to the first day. The sun was just starting to go down and oh, did I mention that it was absolutely gorgeous this day? It was really spectacular and even though the pictures are amazing, they don't fully capture how beautiful it truly was.
Sky
Sky
Sky
Beach
Beach
Beach
One thing I failed to mention before was the food in Putuoshan. Being an island, there was some excellent seafood available. There were a lot of small restaurants in the village area where we were staying. All the restaurants had plastic containers full of fish, crabs, shrimp, etc. that were still alive and you could walk over and choose which ones you wanted. When you selected a fish, they would scoop it out with a net and then grab the fish by the tale and smack its head on the ground. If that didn't suffice, sometimes they would smack the fish one more time with a flat wood stick not too different than the wooden paddles frats use for pledges. I'm not saying that that isn't efficient, I'm just saying I don't really want to see my dinner brutally murdered 15 minutes before I eat it. Regardless, the fish were all really fresh and delicious. The only problem was that, as with most meat in China, the fish were served whole so you had to deal with all the bones and other things. Usually the flavor and sauces they used were really good and I really liked the food.
Fresh Fish!
Fish Dish
Crab Anyone?
The final morning in Putuoshan we did a quick trip to a "cave". I put cave in quotes because the main cave was closed for construction and the only other caved turned out to be not a real cave. It was just a 4-meter recess in the side of a mountain where some holy person lived for awhile. What a ripoff, just kidding. Truthfully, after seeing so many temples at Putuoshan, I was ready for a change of scenery, so I was disappointed to not see the main cave. The views from the cave area, though, were beautiful, as most of the Putuoshan area is.
Temple near Cave
The Giving of Gifts
The "Cave"
The Closed Cave Area
View from Cave Area
The trip to Putuoshan was definitely a unique experience from my previous travels. It was interesting to see some Buddhist religious sites up close and see the people worshipping. I felt like a bit of an outsider, though, both as a foreigner and as someone who was just a casual tourist snapping pictures instead of worshipping. Overall, though, it was a great experience and the weather and scenery were incredible. Here are some more photos of Putuoshan: http://picasaweb.google.com/wallred10/Putuoshan#

4 comments:

Phil Dawsey said...

I'm glad you appreciate the blue sky and good weather so much! Looks quite pretty though.

Phil Dawsey said...

cable car

Edward said...

In case you were still curious, Buddhists will kneel down with lighted incense and perform chants as a way to pay respects to the Buddha, deceased family and friends and to build good karma, I'm not sure if that's the right word but it's essentially the same concept. As for the random stuff people were giving to the monks,Buddhist monks are not allowed to use or eat anything that was not donated to them in the form of an alm so I think that is why you were seeing them get such mundane things from people. They cannot request anything either so without thoughtful generous people they would be out of luck.

Great pictures btw. I definitely feel your pain about not being able to capture the beauty of what you saw in its entirety though. I think that's what spurred me to take so many pictures in HK.

Anonymous said...

They aren't "offerings", they are alms. Remember how Buddha died? Of course you do (trichinosis due to undercooked pork presented as alms).

How strange that a top religious shrine would host so many worshippers! Definitely an astute observation.