shibao shan: haiyun temple & the shizhongshang grottos

Monday, February 9: After Alex and I walk around Shaxi Old Town and finish our lunch, we go with a hired driver (for 200 yuan) to Shibao Shan, or Stone Treasure Mountain, a nature reserve and religious sanctuary.  It was one of the first to be protected by China in 1982.  There are a good number of well-preserved temples on this mountain, some dating back 1300 years to the once powerful Nanzhao Kingdom during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

Our first stop is the Haiyun Temple.  This is an active Buddhist temple where people are bustling about hanging red lanterns for the Chinese New Year.  The people here are friendly, offering us cups of tea, hot freshly roasted walnuts, and a snack that seems to be a cross between a square of styrofoam and a Rice Krispies treat. We are made to feel welcome and end up hanging out here for a while, snacking and enjoying hot drinks with our amiable hosts.

Character at Haiyun Temple

Character at Haiyun Temple

There are a lot of colorful characters at this temple, but I have to say I don’t know who they are.

Buddha in Haiyun Temple

Buddha in Haiyun Temple

More fierce warriors at Haiyun Temple

More fierce warriors at Haiyun Temple

Tough characters

Tough characters

a happy group

a festive group

Inside the main hall of Haiyun Temple

Inside the main hall of Haiyun Temple

We can see a view of Jianchuan, the town where we changed our bus from Lijiang to come to Shaxi, from this mountaintop temple.  Sadly, none of my pictures turn out because we’re facing into the sun.

Trees and blue sky over Haiyun Temple

Trees and blue sky over Haiyun Temple

Some of the colorful characters have strange and inscrutable looks on their faces.

Sarcastic face?

Sarcastic face?

And some of them look incredibly disappointed.

Another of the cast of characters at Haiyun Temple

Another of the cast of characters at Haiyun Temple

Main hall at Haiyun Temple

Main hall at Haiyun Temple

Inside the main hall of Haiyun Temple

Inside the main hall of Haiyun Temple

I love some of the rich paintings on the walls.

Drummer

Musician and drum

painting on the wall

painting on the wall

And, in case you hadn’t noticed by now, I’m always captivated by the painted carvings under the flying eaves.

colorful structure

colorful structure

Alex sits down for a while to enjoy the warm fire and the roasted walnuts.

Alex eats hot walnuts with the locals

Alex eats hot walnuts with the locals

Courtyard at Haiyun Temple

Courtyard at Haiyun Temple

flower power

flower power

Haiyun Temple

Haiyun Temple

Alex full of walnuts

Alex full of walnuts

festive red flower

festive red flower

We finally tear ourselves away from the warm hospitality of Haiyun Temple to head to Shizhong Temple, also known as Stone Bell Temple.

the gate at the entrance to the path to Shizhong Temple

the gate at the entrance to the path to Shizhong Temple

We hike down a seemingly infinite number of steps and then on a paved trail about 500 meters to the temple.  We walk through dense forest until the vista opens up, offering sweeping views of the valley and surrounding mountains.

View on the path to Shizhong Temple (Stone Bell Temple)

View on the path to Shizhong Temple (Stone Bell Temple)

When we get near the entrance, we find some strange, organ-shaped rock formations.

Shibao Shan got its name, “Shibao,” from the surfaces of the red rocks on the mountain that look like a tortoise’ s back; these rocks sometimes appear to be lions, sometimes elephants, and sometimes clocks.

rocks on the path to Shizhong Temple

rocks on the path to Shizhong Temple

When we hand over our tickets, we’re told “No photos.”  Signs everywhere instruct the same. I really hate it when places don’t allow you to take photos.  I can understand if they don’t want you to use a flash, as I know light can damage artwork.  But I feel it is uncalled for to prohibit all photos.

Shizhong Temple is home to the Shizhongshang Grottos. The Shibao Shan rock carvings represent the spread of Mahayana Buddhism from Tibet into Yunnan. Representations of the bodhisattva Guanyin and other Buddhist images are carved into the rocky mountainside.  They’re magnificent cultural relics, but of course you’ll just have to imagine them since I can’t take photos.

At Shizhong Temple

At Shizhong Temple

It seems the “no photo” signs are specifically meant for the grottos.  I do respectfully obey the rules, even though I don’t like it one bit.  However, I do take some photos of the outside of the temples.

Shizhong Temple

Shizhong Temple

walkway up to Shizhong Temple and the grottos

walkway up to Shizhong Temple and the grottos

Across the valley, we can see more temples and unusual rock formations.

view across the valley from the temple

view across the valley from the temple

There are paths going off in all directions here, but we decide to take one to Watching Bell Terrace.  We can see the pavilion on the hilltop, so we traipse off in that direction.

Watching Bell Terrace

Watching Bell Terrace

From the terrace, we see more lovely views of the mountains and rock outcroppings.

View from Watching Bell Terrace

View from Watching Bell Terrace

Watching Bell Terrace

Watching Bell Terrace

View over the mountains to Watching Bell Terrace

View over the mountains to Watching Bell Terrace

View across the valley to interesting stone formations

View across the valley to interesting stone formations

Finally, we head back toward Shizhong Temple, where we see a strange brain-shaped rock formation.  I don’t know if this is natural or man-made.

a brainy rock formation

a brainy rock formation

On the way out of Shizhong Temple

On the way out of Shizhong Temple

We hike back through the forest and climb the endless steps; we’re hot and exhausted by the time we arrive back to the main gate.  Then we head to my favorite temple in Shibao Shan, the “Suspending Temple,” also called the Baoxiang Temple.

The Baoxiang Temple was built on a ledge of a nearly vertical cliff and can only be reached by a long flight of stairs.

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Categories: Asia, China, Haiyun Temple, Shaxi, Shibao Shan, Shizhong Temple, Shizhongshang Grottos, Stone Bell Temple, Stone Treasure Mountain, Travel, Watching Bell Terrace, Yunnan Province | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “shibao shan: haiyun temple & the shizhongshang grottos

  1. Again and always, the senses are bombarded with color. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. that’s how I feel a lot!

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    • Hmmm. Which part, Orpheus Eye?

      Liked by 1 person

      • the first image on your page of the crazy-yogi statue: Character at Haiyun Temple – his expression, his demeanor, what he is wearing, the context of his awakened mind – all all deeply resonate – I feel like I know him – I feel like he is someone who I know and have spent time with – and seems all so familiar – and maybe even was one time known in a more famous way – but now no one remembers him lol – I inexplicably feel deeply connected to that statue – THANK YOU for posting!

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      • Very interesting, Orpheus Eye, that he resonated with you! If you’ve met a character like him, I’d be interested to know who that person is. I’m sure he’d be very colorful indeed. Maybe he was you in some previous life, if you believe in that! (Someone just suggested I was Middle Eastern in a previous life because of my pull to that region!) I’m so glad you enjoyed him. 🙂

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  3. I like the paintings very much, but the figures leave me cold. What are they made from? They look very plasticy and quite tacky to me. I much prefer the understated beauty of the Watching Bell Terrace pavilion and those views, of course.

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    • I don’t know what those figures are made from, Jude. They are over the top, aren’t they? I also prefer the understated, but I also find the overly done temples interesting too. You should see what I found in Myanmar. Talk about a lot of tacky, kitschy temples. But I loved them all. That’s the thing about Buddhist temples: they each have a distinct character. 🙂

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  4. Oh, and how was Hong Kong?

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    • Hong Kong was great! I wasn’t very organized about the whole thing, plus I got sick on the last day, so I didn’t get to see or do all I would have liked. Maybe I’ll have to go back. I think one could easily spend a week there. 🙂

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  5. Much as the towns are colourful and interesting, it’s the natural world you visited that is really beautiful.

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  6. More steps!!! Good job I’m fit 🙂 🙂

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  7. Thank you as always for this post!!!!

    As a long-time practitioner of the oldest form of Buddhism, I recognize many of the figures in these temples, but … and I learned a new word to write this post …it takes a while to recognize them, since in this case moreso than in others you have posted, their features are quite strongly “sinicized”, which means they have been made more Chinese in character (“or brought under Chinese influence”)!!!

    I love any excuse to discover new verbs and it that not a fantastic one: “to sinicize”??!!! Thank you!

    You must know how much we so love your descriptions of food, but miss when there is no accompanying photo! PLEASE post photos of the food you describe, especially when is quite horrible (e.g., one of Alex’s recent meals which you found particularly nasty) or odd, like those rice-crispy Styrofoam treats!!!

    Also, and I hate to ask you anything, let alone something which makes more work for you, but when you cannot provide a photo because of either a restriction or weather anomaly, would you be able to kindly provide a link to an approve site with image online, or possibly download an image and post that, so we can see what you saw? I know this is extra work for you, and I apologize in advance for that, but that would be really helpful! 😀

    If not, please know even if your photos do not do it justice in your opinion, it would be better than nothing to see that, too!

    We soooooooooooooooo want to see everything that you saw, as we take this journey with you.

    Cannot wait for the HK posts!!

    Be safe! 😀

    Like

    • Sinicized – what a great word to describe how the statues are made to have more Chinese features, Mona Lisa. I hope I can remember that.

      I should provide a link when I can’t take pictures, but I don’t dare use someone else’s image in my blogs. In some of my earlier (Oman and Korea) blogs, I had some people complain when I used their images, and I had WordPress threaten to close my blog down when I did it. Now I always use only my own images. If I can find a link, I’ll try to include it.

      As far as the food, I used to be so good about taking food pictures. I don’t know why, I always seem to forget these days. And sometimes the food is just not that photogenic. Plus, if I forget before I take a bite, then it’s too late. Anyway, thanks for your interest in seeing them; I’ll try to remember going forward. Thanks, Mona Lisa! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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