Steadfastly you have to stand your ground;
Being high up in the firmament,
You had better set at ease your mind.
Those are the words you'll find outside one of the many caves at the Dragon's Gate monastery, which isn't exactly a monastery as much as it is a series of caves high in the West Hills near Kunming. Many of the caves feature a Buddhist deity and a plethora of vendors providing you with enough incense to choke an ancestor.
Its a beautiful walk up the side of the mountain. There's a real sense of ancient China there, though it is difficult to really get it because of all the new China in the area, namely the thousands of people that you're sharing this moment of sanctity with.
I wasn't too impressed with the Dragon's Gate, even though it features the best views of Kunming and Dianchi lake a couple thousand feet below. The fact that it is such a popular tourist destination makes it an unpopular destination for anybody who really wants to sense the subtle spirit of China. It just can't be done when you're pressing against so many people.
After we walked through many of the catacombs and saw all the painted figurines suitable for praying to, we finally got off the beaten trail just a bit to have some lunch that we brought.
The mountainous area featured many stones that had the ancient subtleties of many of the kinds of rocks that you'll find in bonsai gardens. We really were in a bonsai garden, except for the fact that nothing was in miniature.
There are many monasteries in the West Hills, and in other articles I'll describe them. This is the most famous, and for that reason, I kind of suggest that you avoid it, if you're in the area. Either that, or avoid the weekends and special holidays.
It is said (by whom, I don't know. I suspect a travel agent...) that "Once on the Dragon Gate, your fortune will be made." And it is also said that "Visiting Kunming without ascending the Dragon Gate is as regretful as visiting Hanzhou without seeing the West Lake." Well, that goes without saying, doesn't it?
Sorry that there's no pictures of this site, but the fact is, there were so many people everywhere all the time, I just couldn't get a clean shot of anything at anytime. A bit frustrating, really.