Xiqiao mountain

Last Sunday – the day after the theatre trip – we went to Xiquao mountain in Foshan. Its biggest attraction is a huge female Buddha (Guan Yin) literally sat atop the mountain. ‘Mountain’ flatters what is essentially a big hill (shan is usually translated from Chinese as mountain but can just as easily mean ‘hill’), but you’d do well to flatter the Buddha in terms of size. The structure is utterly extraordinary from a distance. The statue stands, or rather sits, at 62m, all the more impressive when you add that it is on a 15m pedestal and towers over a huge flight flight of stairs that separates it from the temple complex below. You can see on wikipedia that it figures pretty highly, especially when you consider most of the statues on the following list that are taller are standing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_statues_by_height

      

Before we could gawp at this structure we had to get there first. The journey to Xiquao was an event in itself, as I shall describe. We had arranged to meet with Emma and Cari. Two people also on the TEIC programme whom we had met the week before. They (and we) weren’t at all confident about getting to Xiqiao and so we agreed to meet in Zumiao and go from there. Amy had gathered from her guidebook that there was a ‘tourist bus’ that went from there straight to Xiqiao. I was when we were waiting for the bus to Zumiao  that we realised what a nonsensical route we were taking – there was a bus from that very bus stop that went straight to Xiqiao. We didn’t feel any better about this discovery when we were forced into ordering a taxi from the ‘Aloft’ hotel across the road because the bus twicemissed our stop, too full of passengers. This particular bus, the K5, has been the bane of our lives since we got here. In our experience, you have about 20-30% chance of getting on any given K5, and if you do manage to get on, the experience gets no more pleasant. There is clearly a frightening over-demand for this service, but no one seems too concerned. Once we finally got to Zumiao we managed to ask in Chinese where we would go to get the number 1 tourist bus. After meeting up with Cari and Emma, we hopped on this bus which was hardly as busy as we were have become used to, though none of the others on the bus could be described as tourists. We were reassured by Amy’s guidebook that this part of the journey would be easy, as Xiqiao was the destination of this bus. We were already beginning to have serious doubts when, on asking us where we were headed, a concerned fellow passenger told us that we had gone way past Xiqiao and would have to get off and take the same bus back the way we came. And so we got off with no idea where to go to catch the returning bus. A woman came to our aid in so unconvincing a manner I was keeping half an eye open for a wild goose. But it turned out we had no reason to doubt her, and she even gave instructions to the driver to tell us when to get off. And so concluded what could have been the simplest of journeys.

   

Once in Xiqiao, we followed the road to which the driver pointed and were at once set upon by motorcyclists offering to take us up the mountain/hill. Naturally, we declined – no way were we going to pass up the opportunity of a walk through a national park away from the traffic and pollution we’ve been exposed to from day one. And after the journey we’d had, we were going to make the most of the £7 entry fee! As we walked up the hill towards the entrance, I noticed something strange. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, but then I realised: it was quiet! There are times here when I just long for complete silence – the rarest of commodities in this over populated country. The very first part of the walk up the mountain was idilic. Ponds, waterfalls and pretty bridges. As well as relief from noise and at getting to our destination, the flowing water provided welcome relief from the humidity on a warm day. The perfection of the first part of the walk was short-lived – the normal walking path was blocked off and so we were forced to make our way along the road. The problem with being on the road was that we were exposed to the sun. Doubled with the fact we were headed uphill, it was hard work. But worth it. Especially when we got to the temple complex. The whole place looked as if it couldn’t have been more than about twenty years ol) id. This certainly detracted from the impressiveness of the site, but there remained a faint memory of the tradition that had inspired this building project (these are merely impressions, and I can’t back up my feeling with fact, as information on Xiqiao mountain is none too easy to come by). The impressiveness of the Buddha was in its size alone. When we had climbed the steps we found that there was a cheap-looking restaurant underneath the Buddha, and nearby there was a big bell that you could chime (gong seems a more appropriate onomatopoeia) for good luck – or so said the person charging you for the opportunity! If you think that sounds like an unnecessary disturbance of peace, then the fire crackers being set off near the summit will make you think again!

       

For me the Xiqiao mountain experience never got better than those first few steps just after the entrance. But to be fair, it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon that provided views, and (relatively) fresh air aplenty. We said goodbye to Cari and Emma and this time hopped on the bus direct to Shishan (which was inevitably packedn time for my one-to-one English lesson in the evening. This particular lesson started almost an hour late because there was no one at the school to open up. Sean (the name that I have given to my pupil) said this was typical of China…

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Hannah
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 01:17:40

    Just looked it up on Google Images – what an amazing sight – and quite a climb too! Impressed that you managed to ask directions in Chinese….

    Reply

  2. Judith Ross
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 04:44:39

    What an adventure, just getting to Xiqiao! Looks beautiful. Have been thinking about you because today the pandas arrived at Edinburgh Zoo…

    Reply

  3. Catherine
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 07:04:40

    I think you need to look out some more trips like this. Just the breath of fresh air you need! x

    Reply

  4. stephen
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 07:22:41

    I hope all fun is not as hard work as this. The pictures do look fascinating and beautiful. The account is almost frighteningly realistic. We are suffering with you.

    Reply

  5. Maddy
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 01:47:35

    Wow it sounds amazing! and I’m very impressed about your Chinese! So what’s Sean’s real name?!?

    Reply

  6. Trackback: Gaoming « chaileaves

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