Following the Seven Fold Path in Hangzhou
I really, really apologize for missing a few days of posting. Between my muay thai (see below), and my trip to Hangzhou, there has been very little time and little access to internet. But I am back on the grid, and happy to be writing again!
Hangzhou is a smaller city outside of Shanghai. While foreigners may not have heard of it, Hangzhou is the largest tourist destination for the native Chinese. Why? Because it has been the holiday location for the emperors dating back as early as 1000 AD. It is no surprise why Hangzhou was so attractive to China’s elite class. Every square inch of the city is covered in lush green gardens, creeks, temples, and lotus flowers. It is situated along mid sized lake, where rowboats and fishing boats can be seen lazily puttering along in the summer heat. After the initial shock I experienced amidst the hundreds of tour buses and groups of chinese people wearing a neon tour uniform and hat (to not get seperated from the group), I discovered the beauty of Hangzhou. The lake is really picturesque, there is dense vegetation surrounding the lake with paths, bridges, and small canals to walk around. Our group spent a lot of time at the lake, partially because the combination of so many tourists and a big group of laowais. We were stopped every 25 ft or so for a picture, and once one person snapped a picture, it was pretty much a full on photo shoot. After the lake we headed back to our hostel for live music and a good time.
Fast forward to the next morning, we headed to the Lingyin Monastery. It is the largest Buddhist monastery in mainland China, and the first monastery I have visited. The architecture is lovely, and it is situated in the mountains surrounding the lake. It really is the perfect setting to have a spiritual experience. The real cherry on top of the whole visit were the ancient stone carvings lining a river bed at the monastery. The carvings are all religious symbols, sculptures, and characters dating back to 1000 AD. It was amazing to touch and see such old relics from an ancient culture and religion. One of my friends in our group is a buddhist, and explained all of the rituals we were observing, and some of the symbolism embedded in the architecture. As long as we were there, we thought why not participate in the worship ourselves? So we each took our own incense and practiced meditation and bowing with the rest of the chinese worshippers. Calming your thoughts is not as easy as it might seem.
for the first few minutes, I drafted a mental letter to my parents. It went a little something like this:
Dear Mom and Dad, I have decided to stay in China, please let Davidson know so you can get tuition money back. Don’t worry about me here, the cost of living is pretty cheap. Hopefully see you at Christmas. Namaste, Gen
and then I had a second thought. The real reason the visit to the monastery was so moving for me, was all of the history and culture that I was able to learn about while I was there. It really confirmed to me that history was a major that I truly cared about. I would be cheating myself out of a fascinating degree if I decided not to return home from China. So I redrafted the letter:
Dear Mom and Dad, Thanks for letting me choose my major, and supporting my decision with minimal teasing. The history and culture of China is continuing to rock my world, and I can’t wait to apply what I have learned to my continued studies at Davidson. Love, Gen
After all of my letter drafting and redrafting, my incense had almost completely burned through, and my group had already trudged up the steps to see a giant golden buddha. This week, I am really looking forward to finishing work, and heading to Huangshan on Friday!!!!