"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wudang Mountains

Festive times in China. School was closed for a week as China recently celebrated its “Mid-Autumn Festival” or “Moon Festival”, a 3,000 year-old holiday connected with ancient moon worship (though contemporary celebrations are only loosely in touch with these origins, maybe paralleling in ways American celebrations of Christmas and Easter). It’s a fun time for people to celebrate and be together, especially by watching the moon and eating “moon cakes,” the festival’s traditional food. The date (Oct 3rd this year) varies each year, depending on the Chinese calendar; this year’s celebration coincided with the 60th anniversary of the PRC, a huge deal here.

Nine of us—five teachers and four students—spend several days earlier this week in the Wudang Mountains, a place of great cultural and historical significance in China, famous for its natural beauty, its Taoist temples, and its association with Martial Arts. We had a great time exploring the many shops in the town below the mountain, a challenging but adventurous time navigating trains and buses to get there and back, and a rich and rewarding time making a 3-hour hike up an old stairway to the top peak of the mountain range—incredibly challenging, though the payoff of reaching the summit was well worth the effort.

A recap in pictures:

A Taoist monastery at the base of the mountains, with a Kung Fu master leading his students in warm-up exercises. There were several foreigners here training; it seems people come here from all over the world to study martial arts.

Meet Thomas, one of the students who accompanied us on our travels. I’ve included this pic for two reasons. One, unlike the other teachers, I hadn’t yet met Thomas; the best word I can use to describe him is “delightful,” maybe a 21-year-old, Chinese version of Dick Van Dyke. Two, I’m drinking coffee out of a soup cup. I bought instant coffee at the supermarket, then got hot water and a soup cup (no coffee cups) from a noodle restaurant. Don’t judge me.

This might be one of my all-time favorite pictures of myself.

The stairway up the mountain.

A view of some of the various temples (which are scattered all over the area) taken from about ¼ of the way up; note the temples in the center peak and the lower left of the picture.

A temple we passed at about 90% of the way to the summit.

View from the top, looking down at a lower level temple area.

The “Golden Temple”—a heavily symbolic temple situated on the highest peak of the range, the destination of many religious pilgrims.

The “victors”: only four of us—Will, Thomas, Emily (another student), and myself—made the trek all the way to the top.


Scrumpy said...

I would do alot for a cup of coffee too. :)

Coby said...

1. starbucks just came out with instant coffee called via. It's no Peets but it is darn good instant coffee (not freeze dried poo).
2. It is my favorite picture of yourself too

JillW said...

Awesome pictures, Matt. I'm enjoying your writing very much. Keep up the good work!!

Barb said...

Great pics Matt. I love seeing China through your eyes, your thoughts and your heart.