This account will be continued in Trip to China 2005, Part Two at:

                       TRIP TO CHINA 2005

                      by Maureen Halsall

My fourth trip to China promised to be very different from the
previous ones in 1984, 1991 and 1992, all of which were organized
tours.  This was to be a family visit.  For the first week I would be
staying in my niece's Beijing apartment.  Following that, we would be
travelling together for a week in Shanxi Province.  Then, in my final
week, my niece and her husband and I would be making an excursion
by car north of the capital to the Qing Dynasty emperors' Mountain Retreat for Escaping the Heat at Chengde.

On Thursday, September 29 at 5:30 a.m., Airways Transit picked
me up for transfer to Pearson International Airport.  Whilst that trip
(which involved a second pick-up near Freelton!) was rather slow,
taking an hour and a quarter, once in Terminal 1 my machine-issued
boarding pass was quickly obtained and the lines at both the luggage desk and the security check proved to be short at such an early hour.
Also the transfer by shuttle bus to satellite gate 522 was prompt.
After that, however, my travel schedule deteriorated.

The 10:00 a.m. departure of Air Canada 031 was delayed for almost
two hours by high winds, which reduced the airport to only one active runway.  Finally, our 343 was cleared to take off at 11:40 a.m.   The subsequent 12 1/2-hour flight was uneventful except for a few brief sessions of turbulence; and my seat companion proved to be a small, quiet young Chinese immigrant from Toronto, returning to her
original home for the week-long national  holiday beginning on
Saturday, the anniversary of the establishment of the People's
Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

On Friday, September 30, Air Canada 031 touched down 20 minutes
after noon at Beijing's Capital Airport, only one hour late (the pilot 
having made up 40 minutes en route).  My niece Rosemary had
obtained a pass at the Canadian Embassy, enabling her to come all
the way through and surprise me by meeting me at the gate.  She
then shepherded me through Health, Immigration, Customs and
Baggage Control; and soon we were driving home to her apartment
in the Chaoyang District, an easy walk from the embassy, where her husband, Ken, is military attache.  That night I went to bed very early
(by 8 p.m.), tired out after 29 hours without sleep.

On Saturday, October 1, I began to recuperate from the twelve-hour
change in time zones.  In the morning we walked around the
neighbourhood, looking at various of the embassies: some guarded
gratis by green-uniformed Chinese soldiers; ours guarded at our
own expense by grey-uniformed security guards (as a penalty for Canada's stance on Taiwan).  It was fun pretending to be a local
resident--stopping off for a programme schedule at the cinema
that shows English-subtitled movies and then at an East German delicatessen for snacks.  That evening was spent at home, gossiping, watching T.V. and reading, before I headed off to bed at 10 p.m.

On Sunday, October 2 at 10 a.m., we set off by car through the truly
terrifying Beijing traffic for Dongyue Miao, a Daoist temple founded
in A.D. 1322, later burnt down and rebuilt, reaching its present size 
in A.D. 1761.

The god Dongyue is supposed to reside on the sacred mountain of
Tai Shan in Shandong Province, the most revered of China's five
Daoist peaks.  He is charged with supervising the 18 layers of Hell
and the 76 departments where his under-officers preside over 
various aspects of life and the rewards and punishments humans reap
according to how well they succeed in ordering their lives to keep harmony with the dao (natural order of the universe). Ringing the
main courtyard of the temple are 72 open-fronted cells (a few departments are obliged to double up), where devotees offer
money, incense and fupai (red ribbon tokens inscribed with their
names).  The large number of offerings before the departments
governing education, wealth, health and fertility affords a clear
indication of the importance of these in Chinese life; whereas such
values as justice, charity and "Freeing Captured Animals" trail far
behind in popularity.  The first photo below shows many fupai before
the department governing education; the second shows rich offerings before the department governing fertility; the third shows a section
of the department of "Pity and Sympathy", which had no fupai.

Dongyue Temple also boasts Beijing's largest collection of stelae
(inscribed stone tablets).  The fourth photo below shows a few of the
85 stelae still remaining out of an original total of 140.
For lunch we went to the highly-recommended Courtyard Restaurant, which turned out to be great on ambience, but below standard in food.
Then we dropped into the Friendship Store for groceries.

In the afternoon Rosemary entertained five visitors from Canada
and their two Chinese hosts.  The Canadians had come to visit the
hospital in Shijiazhuang built in memory of the Canadian surgeon,
Dr. Norman Bethune (1890-1939), who served with the Eighth
Route Army in the war against Japan and was eulogized in Mao
Zedong's Little Red Book as haobuliji (utterly selfless).  The visitors seemed interested to learn that during the 1930's my parents were acquainted with both Dr. Bethune and his politically-active mother.

On Monday, October 3, we drove out along the Airport Expressway
to visit Dashanzi 798 factory zone, where a thriving art community
has established itself in various abandoned factory buildings.  In one
such building I had Rosemary pose in front of a revolutionary poster.
On Tuesday, October 4 at 9:30 a.m., we set off by taxi for Yong'Anli
subway station to meet the other attache wives for a trip by tube to
Qian Men station and a visit to the Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Center, followed by a tour of the Underground City of Beijing, which
was excavated between 1969 and 1979 to protect the city's residents against bombing raids.  Below is a photograph of Rosemary taken against the 302-square-metre model of Beijing's city master plan,
which takes up most of the eastern section of the third floor of the
Urban Planning Exhibition Center.
On Wednesday, October 5 at 10 a.m., the weather already muggy
with a forecast high of 32C, we set out by taxi for the Forbidden City,
where, along with what seemed like half of Beijing's 13,800,000 population. we toured the Gu Gong (Former Palace) of the
emperors--from Tian'An Men (Heavenly Peace Gate) in the south
to Shenwu Men (Martial Spirit Gate) in the north.  Somehow the presence of Starbucks within the Nei Ting (Inner Court, where the imperial family actually lived) gave a totally different tone to the
place, in comparison with my three earlier visits.  Also, it was
somewhat frustrating to find that, where I previously had been free
to wander at will, now I could only peer at the interiors through glass.  Below are: a photo of Rosemary with the Tian'An Men in the background; a second photo giving a bird's eye view of the three
great halls of the Forbidden City: Taihe Dian (Hall of Great
Harmony), Zhonghe Dian (Hall of Middle Harmony) and Baohe
Dian (Hall of Preserving Harmony); a third photo, taken from the
Taihe Men (Gate of Great Harmony), of mobs of people swarming
in the huge courtyard in front of the Taihe Dian, the largest wooden
hall in China, which is mounted atop a three-tier marble terrace--
a purely ceremonial hall where the emperors came to mark the New
Year and winter solstice; a fourth photo of the Pavilion of Spring in
the Yu Huayuan (Imperial Garden); and a fifth photo showing
Rosemary at the back of the Imperial Garden, where a rockery
mountain with artificial waterfalls stands in front of the north wall
of the palace and its Shenwu Men (Martial Spirit Gate) by which
we exited the palace to return back home for lunch at 1:30 p.m., exhausted by the milling crowds and very ready for our afternoon appointments with the hairdresser.
On Thursday, October 6 we attempted to finalize our arrangements
for the trip to Shanxi Province, going to CIIC Travel Service Co., Ltd.
for our air and train tickets, only to find that the train tickets to
Datong were still unavailable.   So we went back to the apartment
to await their delivery.  Later, upon checking the tickets over,
I discovered that the plane tickets for our return to Beijing were
for the wrong day, necessitating another visit to the travel agent on

On Friday, October 7, we visited the Canadian Embassy for a first
aid kit and then went to the travel agent to have our air tickets
corrected.  After that we visited the Great Bell Temple (first photo
below), finding to our dismay that most of it was under construction. 
Only the great 46 1/2 ton bell itself remained available for viewing
and, for a fee, to be struck with its huge gong (second photo).  
So we soon headed home to do our packing.
On Saturday, October 8 at 8:45 a.m. we found a taxi driver who
actually knew the way to the Xi Zhan (West Railway Station),
having first been refused by a new driver who apparently did not.  
There kindly passengers helped me lug my suitcase down the long
steep stairs to the track.  Train N213 departed on time at 10:10 a.m.
for the 6 1/2 hour journey west through the Taihang Shan range of mountains, which parallel the entire eastern border of Shanxi
Province, to the city of Datong.   In order to relax a bit en route and
also to avoid being kippered by the omni-prevalent smoking in the
open carriages, we had booked "soft sleeper" accommodation: a compartment with four bunks, which fortunately we had to ourselves
--except, of course, for the cockroach on the wall that Rosemary hit
with her shoe.

Upon arrival in Datong at 4:40 p.m., we were met at the door of the
railway carriage by our Shanxi guide, Li Pei-Jiang.  Mr. Li escorted
us up the steep steps from the track and across the torn-up pavement
of the station forecourt to where Mr. Ma, our driver, awaited with the comfortable Passat in which we would be making our eight-day tour
of the province.  Because I had been unable to secure any stamps
during the week-long holiday, we stopped at the main post office,
where, in the absence of international stamps, we decorated my postcards home with three stamps apiece--all affixed with glue
borrowed from one of the postmistresses.  Since Datong has no
airport, these cards took some time arriving in Canada; the first
reached my niece in Victoria two weeks later on the same day I flew home and the rest followed me to Ontario in the course of the week
after that.   Finally, my postcards duly posted, we drove to the four-
star Hongan International Hotel, where we dined in their Thai
restaurant and went early to bed at 10 p.m.

Datong is an industrial centre, a small city by Chinese standards
with a population of only 2,696,800.  It is located in the north of
Shanxi Province.  The entire province is both isolated and poor,
its economic linchpin being coal (one third of China's coal is
extracted there); and northern Shanxi can boast the bulk of the
worst polluted cities in China, with toxic watersheds, chronic
bronchial diseases and rainbows refracted from airborne coal dust. 
After a while in Shanxi, I developed the habit of breathing very
shallowly off the top of the lungs, probably in an unconscious effort
to minimize the amount of coal dust entering my respiratory system.  
So why would any tourist want to visit here?

The isolation and relatively small population of Shanxi Province
meant that its early remains were left almost untouched.  The
northern half of the province in particular is a virtual goldmine of
early wooden temples, monasteries and cave-temples, arguably
surpassing in archaeological riches its more accessible neighbour Shaanxi (the terminus of the Silk Road, proud site of the tomb of
Qin Shi Huang Di and self-proclaimed cradle of Chinese civilisation). 
As for Datong, where we began our eight-day tour, aside from the temples and other remains in the town itself, just outside are the magnificent Yungang (Cloud Ridge) Buddhist Caves, carved during
the town's zenith as an ancient capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty
in the fifth century A.D.  The Yungang stone carvings are the very earliest of their kind in China and a marvel to behold.

On Sunday, October 9 at 9 a.m., we drove 16 km. southwest from
Datong to visit the Yungang Caves: 53 grottoes cut into the southern cliffs of Wuzhou Mountain, extending 1 km. in length and containing more than 51,000 large and small carved figures.  Below are: a photo
of Rosemary and Mr. Li in front of the entrance to the site (the
pyramidal structure on top of the cliff being a remnant of the Ming
fortifications); a lateral view from the west along part of the cliff;
and two views of the colossal image of Sakyamuni (the historical
Buddha) in Cave 18. 
At noon we stopped for lunch at the Yungang Hotel, where a child's
birthday party was in progress.  Then we returned to Datong to visit
Huayan Si, founded in A.D. 1140.   Rosemary stands before the
brick Bell Tower just inside the monastery gate (first photo below). 
Huayan Si has separate upper and lower temples.  The Upper
Temple's massive main hall, the Daxiong Bao Dian (second photo below), is one of China's few surviving 12th-century buildings.  
Inside are the Buddhas of the Five Directions (including the centre) seated on elaborately decorated lotus thrones (third photo).  The
Lower Temple's Bojia Jiaozang Dian (A.D. 1038) contains 31 elegant Liao Dynasty clay statues (see the fourth photo for one of the most prized: a female bodhisattva with her lips parted revealing her teeth
--a rarity in Chinese sculpture).
Afterwards, we paid a brief visit to the Nine Dragon Screen, a fine example of a spirit screen, designed to fend off ghosts and evil
spirits that can move only in a straight line.  It was built  in A.D. 1392
as part of the gate of the palace of Ming Dynasty emperor Taizhu's
13th son and is over 4 metres long and 2 metres thick.  Only a
member of the imperial family was entitled to display nine dragons.
Next we visited Shanhua Monastery.  Originally founded during the
Tang Dynasty, but destroyed by fire at the end of the Liao Dynasty,
it was rebuilt in A.D. 1128 under the Jin and further restored in
A.D. 1445 under the Ming.  Daxiong Dian, the main hall, contains
Liao and Jin clay statues of 24 Celestial Guardians, including the
usual male figures (first photo below) and a particularly elegant one
in female form (second photo).  I also enjoyed the cast iron bull in
the pleasant garden adjacent to the Bell Tower (third  photo).
On Monday, October 10, we were awakened at 4:15 a.m. by loud
fire-works from a nearby wedding celebration.  By 8 a.m. we were heading 62 km. south to Hengshan Mountain, passing cave dwellings
en route (see the first photo below). 

Xuankong Si (Hanging Temple), as shown in the second, third and
fourth photos, is built precariously on sheer cliffs above Jinlong
Canyon.  Dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (A.D. 386-534),
it is composed of some 40 halls, connected by corridors, bridges and boardwalks and supported by sturdy timbers that extend deep into
Hengshan Mountain.  The temple contains Buddhist, Daaoist and Confucian chambers with bronze, iron and stone statues (see fifth
photo below).  Because it enjoyed imperial patronage, the temple
was permitted to use the brilliant golden-glazed roof tiles visible
in the sixth, seventh and eighth shots.

After leaving the Hanging Temple, we circled round the mountain
(first photo below) to see some of its other ancient constructions,
boarding a gondala near the Hengshan Reservoir (second photo)
to ascend to the Heng Zong Monastery, which was founded in the
Ming Dynasty (third and fourth photos).
After lunch at a restaurant in Ying Xian, where a wedding feast was
in progress, we proceeded to the town's famous Mu Ta, built in
A.D. 1056 and China's oldest surviving wooden pagoda (see first
photo below).  Frescoes and also a gilded statue of Sakyamuni on
the first floor of the pagoda date to the Liao Dynasty (second and
third photos).
From Ying Xian we headed for the the northernmost sacred peak of Buddhism, the cluster of mountains collectively known as Wutai Shan
(Five Platform Mountain) 210 km. south of Datong, in Buddhist lore
the earthly residence of the great bodhisattva Manjusri (or Wenshu,
as he was named in China).  Entering what is now a national park
via the East Peak pailou (gate, shown in the first two photos below),
by 4:45 p.m. we had reached Tai Huai Village.  Cradled in a valley
at the centre of the five flat peaks of Wutai Shan at an altitude of
1,680 metres (5,500 feet), this was the only place in Shanxi Province where it felt safe to draw a deep breath.   Here, in these unpolluted surroundings, we stayed two nights at the Qing-style Yinhai
Shanzhuang Hotel (third photo), which looks almost like another mountain temple.   It was so cold at night that we needed extra
blankets; or perhaps our blood was thinned by the vegetarian supper
we ate on our first evening there.
On Tuesday, October 11 at 9 a.m., we set out to tour six of the
village temples: Pusading, Xiantong and Tayuan in the morning; and
Dailuoding, Puhua and Shuxiang after lunch.

First we took a chairlift up Lingjiu Peak to Pusading Temple
(founded A.D. 471-499).  On account of its use at one point as a temporary Qing palace,  Pusading obtained the imperial privilege
of golden glazed roof tiles, such as those on the Wenshu Dian
(aka Dripping Hall) shown in the first photo below.  Even the temple's
whimsical floor drains clearly are the work of specialized craftsmen
of exceptional skill (see the second photo).  Our exit from Pusading Temple was via the 108 steps leading down into town to the Xiantong Temple at the foot of Lingjiu Peak (see the third photo).  In the fourth photo Rosemary stands near the landing about halfway down from
the peak, with the splendid decorated archway entrance to Pusading
at the head of the stairs behind her, bearing an inscription written
by the early Qing emperor Kangxi (A.D. 1662-1722).
Below, in the centre of Taihuai, lay the Xiantong Temple and the
adjoining Tayuan Temple (once Xiantong's pagoda yard) with its
huge white dagoba, which has become the symbol of Wutai Shan
(see the first photo below).  

Xiantong Temple is the largest and one of the oldest temples in
Taihuai  Zhen.  Among its many notable features is its sixth hall,
the Tong Dian (Bronze Hall) completed in A.D. 1606.   This hall's
exterior flawlessly reproduces in bronze contemporary timber construction (see the second photo below) and its interior is lined
with 10,000 varied miniature images of cross-legged Buddhas.

The huge white Dabaita Pagoda, according to the "Pilgrimage Note
in Tang Empire" written by Yuanren, was constructed in A.D. 1301
by a Nepalese craftsman on the base of an earlier two-storied
octagonal stupa.  Today its towering structure dominates Taihuai
village (see the third and fourth photos below).
After an hour back at our hotel for lunch, at 1 p.m. we drove east of
town beside the Qingshui River and took the chairlift (see the first
photo below) up Dailuo Peak to Dailuoding Temple (A.D. 1465-1487). 
Within its Wu Wenshu Dian (see the second photo below) are five
18th-century copies of the images of Wenshu found on the five peaks
of Wutai Shan.  These were made so that in A.D. 1786 the Qing
emperor Qianlong, prevented five years earlier from undertaking
the Great Pilgrimage to the five peaks and prostrating himself before
the original statues, could instead undertake a Minor Pilgrimage to
this more accessible peak and prostrate himself before the copies.
From the vantage point of Dailou Peak, the valley of Taihuai village
is spread out at one's  feet (see third photo).
This account will be continued in Trip to China 2005, Part Two at:

At 5:30 p.m. we went for dinner at a favourite haunt for expatriates,
a bookstore called The Bookworm, where at 7 p.m. visiting author
Pankaj Mishra gave a talk entitled "An End to Suffering - the
Buddha in the World".  The speaker focussed on the varous forms
of Buddhism in North America, particularly in California.   Plenty
of journalists were in attendance and all of them were vocal, which
made the question period after the lecture pretty lively.