On previous visits to the city, I had time to visit places in the region, but this time around, there is not much time for that, so I decide to explore some of the city itself. I take the subway to the north - a subway that was still under construction on my previous visit. The pace of development in China sometimes is breathtaking: now, a network of various lines with many stations serves the city, those seeking to escape the traffic jams. When I get off, I walk past highrise buildings and a busy street, turn right, where old people line the street with their carts selling all kinds of stuff. As soon as I step through a door opening, I am in a different world. Here, smoke of incense whirls around, a monk floats by, and people kneel in prayer in an old temple. I walk in an anti-clockwise direction: I pass the flower shop and head to the 13-story pagoda.
When I approach the pagoda, I first come across two large statues of elephants, with triple tusks, carrying globes on their backs. Direct access to the pagoda is blocked, so I walk under a wooden corridor to the tiny circular square, in the middle of which is the tallest iron pagoda of China. Every story is decorated with a brass plate with Chinese writing, and golden Buddha sculptures. In the base of the pagoda, remains of the skull of Xuanzang, a famous Chinese Buddhist monk and traveler from the early 7th century. This coincides with the fact that Xinxiang monastery, the predecessor of Wenshu, was founded in the 7th century. From here, I walk directly north through the park grounds of the monastery. More than just a place for worship, Wenshu monastery also attracts people with its extensive and well-kept garden.
In the northern part of the monastery grounds, I reach the Scriptures Hall. Behind the large building, I see apartment blocks, and I remember that I am still in a big city, even though I felt in a separate place ever since I entered the compound. The building is richly decorated at the outside. On ground level, people sit on round pillows to pray, and when I walk up the stairs, I come to a large hall where I find hundreds of Buddha statues in glass cupboards. This building also contains the library of the monastery, which supposedly holds many important religious documents and items. I walk back down, take a different path through the gardens, and come across a pond with a circular stone sculpture. There are shrubberies cut in the shape of a pagoda, and tall rocks giving the illusion of a landscape in this city monastery. Back at the main entrance, I wonder the central section of the monastery where I find many halls, people burning incense, monks entering side alleys, I hear chanting, and gradually, people leave because the monastery is about to close. But no one notifies me, so I stay, and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere until all halls are closed and it is time to go.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Wenshu Monastery (China). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Wenshu Monastery. Read more about this site.