Just got back from a trip to Emeishan national park. This is a large mountain nature area that is home to about a dozen different Buddhist temples. At the top, there is the golden summit, which houses a few different temples and a large golden idol. Sadly, the name in Chinese escapes me at the moment, but it has a god with 10 faces perched upon a heard of elephants. Everything is gold in color, which is why the area is known as the golden summit.
One thing that I was unaware of in my preparations was that there was a 150 Yuan entrance fee to the park. It failed to mention this on the map I had, the guides I had read beforehand failed to mention it, and my friends also didn’t tell me about it. No big deal though, I had the cash. I just didn’t realize that all the time I spent wandering around at the base of the mountain that I wasn’t actually in the park.
The area was very beautiful, and some of the scenery was breathtaking to say the least. When I entered the park, there was a sign informing me that it was 56 KM to the summit. The winds around the mountain and corkscrews up to the top. The elevation gain is about 2000 meters. I didn’t get to visit every temple, but I did visit many of them. I made sure to take a picture of each one I visited. However, I do not take pictures inside the temples as a show of respect to the sanctity of the place. One belief of the Buddhists is to leave offerings for their gods at the places they pray. There are the standard things one would expect such as varieties of fresh fruit, but it was also interesting to see the new gifts being left such as Oreos and energy drinks.
I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to make the entire distance in one day, so I ended up staying at a temple when night fell. I actually arrived just as they were ringing the dinner bell, just my luck! The meal was simple but delicious. Rice and beans, cabbage soup, a little tofu, and some bell pepper stew. One thing that bothered me about staying there was that the people staying there seemed to have very short tempers. They quickly got irritated with my lack of Chinese. I was a little put off because I thought that patience was one of the tenets of the Buddhist faith. The other problem I had was with the accomadations themselves. Now I wasn’t expecting anything beyond Spartan conditions, but it seemed like my bed was just a thin mat laid upon stone or concrete. I don’t know if this is something that is used to help trigger meditation; I heard my roommate rollover several times during the night and start uttering what sounded like a prayer in Chinese. Unfortunately, I got a horrible night of sleep, and my joints felt terrible when morning came.
I left before daybreak, around 5 AM. It wasn’t like I was going to sleep anyways. The path to the summit consists of stone stairs; thousands upon thousands of stairs. I left a little too early. Without a flashlight, I was using a cell phone to illuminate the path. I didn’t have a problem with the stairs going up; it was the stairs going down that sent a chill down my spine. After about an hour I arrived at another temple. Just in time for them to ring the breakfast bell. I wish I had stayed at this temple. The monk saw me coming up the path and asked if I wanted some breakfast. I told them that I did and his response was HA HA! (Don’t read it like laughing, actually make the sound HA HA!) It was just him and another monk there, so I think they were grateful for some company. They were a lot more forgiving in my lack of communicating.
A waterfall at the base.
I found a hidden cemetery.
Painting on a temple
The water was as clear as glass.
The view from the temple I stayed the night at.
The idol obscured in fog.
Ditto the golden temple.
One of the mountain monkeys.
I had brought my portion of Jorge’s ashes with me to China. I had been debating for a while where to spread them. A beach on the South China Sea? A Hong Kong strip club? After learning about the religious importance of Emeishan, I decided that this was the proper place. I will admit that I pushed myself to the summit at a grueling pace. I was determined to make it to the top. I did feel that I wanted to suffer a little bit in order to help me reflect on my memories and to feel that I was making some sort of sacrifice for him. It helped to have the motivation to keep pushing myself up the stairs. As I really got fatigued I would utter out in a melodramatic fashion “I… must… not… fail.” I got a couple odd looks from the various Chinese people who would over hear me as I passed them. I did make it to the top. It was a shame that everything was obscured by clouds though. I spread Jorge’s ashes on the idol itself, in a park on the summit, over a scenic overlook, and some in a primeval forest. RIP Jorge. I brought you to what will probably be one of the most beautiful places I will visit during my stay in China.
Credit to my friend Joe for the picture.