We finally got to visit a real live Taoist Monastery. I was actually a little saddened by the reality of this monastery. It was just another tourist trap. Sure, there's lots of pretty buildings with colorful paintings and more than enough really big statues of Taoist deities, but the spirit of the temple is lost in the glamor of it all. Perhaps the spirit was lost when they built the temple in the first place.
The story of how this monastery came to be is actually kind of interesting. During the reign of Wanli in the Ming Dynasty, Chen, Yongbin, the governor of Yunnan, believed in Taoism. One day, or night or something, he dreamed about the immortal Lu, Dong-bin making an appointment to meet him the next morning at the foot of Yingwushan Hill. Shortly after the rooster crowed the next morning Chen, Yong-bin stood there waiting, only to find an old herdsman leading some sheep tied up with a rope down the hillside carrying an earthen pot with another pot as the lid. As he took a step forward to have a closer look, the old man, the sheep and the pots suddenly disappeared.
Naturally, this was completely baffling to Governor Chen. As it would be to most public servants. But it eventually dawned on him that the two pots put together shaped the Chinese character "Lu", alluding to the family name of the immortal. Besides, the character for rope is homonymous to the character for purity and the character for sheep is homonymous to the character for Yang (as in Yin and Yang). The immortal Lu, Dong-bin also styled himself as Pure Yang. It was obvious that Lu was intentionally indicating to him that the scenery of Yingwu Hill was wonderful and that it was as good as an earthly paradise. Thereupon Chen Yongbin began to recruit workers to build an ideal temple there.
The touristy stuff was added since 1993.
If the eight immortals were alive today, uh, I mean if their presence were a little better understood, I think that they'd be the first to knock down the monasteries and let plants grow in their place. They'd burn the statues for warmth and invite the hundreds of tacky touristy stuff hawkers to leave their wares behind to enjoy what this mountain really has to offer.
The real spirit of this monastery is found elsewhere on the mountain upon which it is situated. Finally, I was able to get away from the crowds long enough to sense the spirit of the area. The energetic patterns that remain following hundreds of years of intense meditations and a joyful approach to life in its simple rhythms of yin and yang. Taoist archetypes that still echo from unseen mountain tops, rustle in the forest's leaves on a windless day and trace playful patterns onto the surface of an algae ridden lake.
This is a typical hallway in the temple area. The paints that they use for all the colors are very vivid and beautiful. It wasn't captured well in this picture, but the ornate art on each and every horizontal beam was something to really behold.
This was the central statue among three that were found in one of the many little shrines. I don't know who he is, but I'd like to meet his stylist!
The reason they call this the Golden Temple is because it has one of China's largest bronze temples. This is a close up of one of the doors. Nice ornamentation and bronze work.
Linda is translated to "Lin Dao" in Chinese which means Path-in-the-forest. Here she is, on that very path.
This specific area was my favorite of all. You could almost hear the rolly-polly drunken fairies.
Some of the areas of the mountain were well manicured gardens. I didn't care for them too much. Taoism isn't about well-manicured anything. However, there were some areas where plants and trees grew with a little bit more random beauty. Here's some of that beauty in the form of a traditional Chinese herb called "Xin Yi" or Magnolia bud. Its the Dristan of the Chinese herbal pharmacopoeia.
Elsewhere on the mountain, there were many park like settings were people could just go to spend the day. Lots of open grass, and little forests to get lost in. The spirit of this mountain really was special. Warm, relaxed, fun. The monastery was more of an amusement park than anything that would elicit a spiritual awakening. However, elsewhere on the mountain, it seemed that people everywhere were getting caught up in the special vibe of their surroundings.
Pictured here is a small pavilion overlooking a lake. Inside, people drank tea and played Mah Jong.
There are some great places to see and things to do on the mountain at Jin Dian, however, the monastery is not one of them.