On Thursday 3 of my college students had invited Emily and I to meet them at Qianling Park. We have heard many stories from teachers and students alike and needed to experience the park. The weather has turned cold and it was very misty this morning but we drug ourselves out of bed despite wanting to sleep more and stay warm. I successfully told the taxi driver where we wanted to go in Chinese! It was a big victory. Frank, Ann, and Sofi were waiting for us at the main gate of Qianling Park and we arrived just after 10:00.
Due to the weather the park was not as busy as normal but still there were lots of people walking around, practicing tai chi, dancing to a live band playing some catchy tunes, and playing badminton. It was a very pleasant environment. One of the highlights of the park is the Hong Fu Temple, a Buddhist temple, on top of Qianling Mountain. We began the climb and noticed how much easier it was that TLG (thank goodness). The students were eager to practice their English, which is quite good, and conversation flowed freely.
When we reached the top we were struck by the foggy enchanting beauty of the park and temple. It was great to have 3 local guides who know quite a bit about the temple. They were able to show us how to bring good luck to ourselves and families through some of the rituals and superstitions practiced in the temple. There is a beautiful mural facing the entrance to the park centered around the Chinese character for happiness. If one is able to walk from 10 yards away, with eyes closed and touch the symbol, they will have good luck. I was fortunate enough to do it! After we entered the temple Sofi purchased some incense which is used to make prayers or wishes for your friends and family. We took part in bowing in front of Buddha to make a wish before lighting the incense. I wished for happiness for my wife, my family and my friends and lit one stick of incense per wish. Later it was Emily's turn to find some good luck; there were several pools of water in a courtyard with decorative jars submerged in the pools. If a person could drop a coin into one of the jars they would have good luck. Emily succeeded with the only coin we had, which was quite surprising based on the number of coins scattered along the bottom of the pool.
After we finished wandering around the temple we headed down toward Qianling Lake. It is a beautiful scene; water set against very green mountains. Along the way we met the macaques. There were tons of monkeys along the road frolicking and waiting to be fed by the passerbys. Occasionally they got down right aggressive coming up to you to see if you have food. There was a good amount of squabbling over food and fighting to prove dominance. As they climbed down the mountain I was reminded of the Wicked Witch of the West's flying monkeys- there were so many! Pictures will be forthcoming whenever we visit again because it is very hard to explain otherwise. Some Chinese ladies visit so frequently that they have named some of the monkeys and call them over by name.
After we got down to the lake we headed for the exit to find lunch. The students took us to a fantastic bean hot pot restaurant. Hot pot may be the best cold weather meal ever invented. When we were stuffed with food we headed back home to curl up with a book for the rest of the afternoon. It was one of my favorite adventures so far in China.