Monday, February 9: After having a good Western breakfast of homemade bread and bacon and eggs, we take a walk around the old town of Shaxi. As we walk down the street, we see this pretty little nook, but we don’t know what the business is. It never seems to be open.
In the Market Square, the two most significant buildings face off against each other across the square, the Theater and Xingjiao Temple. First, we stop at Xingjiao Temple. We pay the entrance fee and go inside.
Inside and to the left of a courtyard is Tian Wang Dian, translated as the Heavenly Wings Hall, also known as the Second Hall. It is a column-and-beam structure.
The courtyard is leafy and shady.
Da Xiong Bao Dian, or the Main Hall, is the last building on the axis at the end of the courtyard. It is made of timber frame, creating the skeleton of the hall. The bracket construction keeps the structure together and is flexible, making it earthquake resistant.
In May of 2010, the Main Hall was renovated and the five Buddhas were remodeled. It is said the five statues from north to south are Ratnasambhava Buddha, Ayshobhya Buddha, Vairocana Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, and Amoghasiddhi Buddha. This is one of the major Buddha combinations in Tantric Buddhism.
The inside and outside walls of the hall are decorated with paintings from the Ming Dynasty (1417 A.D.). The paintings are representative of Tantric Buddhism and are an embodiment of the ancient Bai style of painting, containing both local and national characteristics.
The restoration is not only of historical significance but, as many villages are still Buddhist, the restoration has also brought enormous cultural and religious significance.
We return to the square after leaving the temple, and we come across a lively wedding party. Some of the stragglers are setting off firecrackers.
We continue walking to the east, in hopes of finding the Bai Temple. The town’s streets are delightfully clean with moss-edged streams running through them.
Finally, we reach the Bai Temple on the northeast corner of town.
Inside the Main Hall are some very colorful characters.
And outside, we find incense burning and old ladies preparing offerings for the gods inside.
As we leave the Bai Temple, we come across a boisterous group riding by in a truck. The driver makes a drinking motion and waves for us to follow them. We can’t join them, sadly, because we have a driver picking us up soon, and we just have time to grab some lunch before we meet him. The driver will take us this afternoon up to Shibao Shan, or Stone Treasure Mountain.
We come across a pretty little bridge and stream on the east edge of town.
We stop for lunch at the Mint Cafe. I order a tuna sandwich, which surprisingly comes with corn in it. Alex has beef and mushrooms on rice. When we return to the hotel, I have a bout of diarrhea; I promptly take an Imodium. I end up with stomach cramps for the rest of the day.
Soon after lunch, we head up to Shibao Shan, a nature reserve and religious site that was one of the first to be officially protected by China in 1982.