mount qingcheng is one of the most important centers of taoism in china. according to myth, it was where the yellow emperor, a legendary ancient chinese ruler studied with ning fengzi, an also legendary taoist teacher. there are temples all the way to the top, 1,260 meters above sea level.
first, we have gates: the main gate to the park, the entrance to jianfu palace, and some temple gates.
there was a lot of up to get to the good views.
the sign next to the monkey reads “hey, kids, your parents keep saying ‘we’re almost at the top,’ but you’ve only been walking for five minutes – they’re lying.”
temples; decorative details.
the temples have altars in front where worshippers burn candles and incense.
after spending the night in dujiangyan, i took the bus to the china conservation and research centre for the giant panda. the centre has a volunteer program, where for 700 yuan you can work for the centre (that is, you pay them the 700 yuan; they don’t pay you).
more panda crap.
the work involves clearing out the uneaten bamboo from a few panda enclosures in the morning, picking up panda crap – which is basically undigested bamboo shards bound together with some nasty stuff – and bringing in fresh bamboo; then there is free time; then you hand-feed some of the pandas; then there is lunch; then there is free time; then there’s a video documentary about the program to reintroduce pandas to the wild; then there’s a little free time before another round of cleaning the enclosures and hand-feeding the pandas, and then you’re done. there really isn’t a lot to do, which gives you a lot of time to walk around and look at the pandas. i didn’t know there would be so much down time, so i signed up for three days of volunteering. in the end, i didn’t mind, because hand-feeding the pandas never got old, and i was too jet-lagged to do much else anyway.
the state department sent me on a work assignment to the consulate in chengdu, china for the month of september, to help out in the consular section. two weeks before i was scheduled to fly out, they asked if i could start one week later and work only for three weeks. i said yes, but kept my original flight plan and traveled during the first week.
i left athens at 8:15 am on a sunday, landed in chengdu at 1 am (athens time) on monday, dropped my bag off with a colleague, and then went straight to dujiangyan, a short train ride outside of chengdu. dujiangyan is best known for a major water irrigation project, which i didn’t visit, and for one of the bases of the china conservation and research centre for the giant panda, which i did.
first, however, i spent the day walking around the town itself. like many cities and towns in the area, dujiangyan has a rebuilt “old town” that is at oriented toward tourism, although there are plenty of places for locals to hang out as well.
games – mahjong and checkers – are a big deal.
so is food. every block has at least one restaurant in it, and some streets are devoted entirely to little stalls and eateries. one of my first meals was sichuan hotpot, where you choose raw food on skewers to take back to your table and cook in boiling oil that is flavored with chilies and spices, but there were plenty of grilled meats, dumplings, noodles and other items on offer.
occasionally, i just pointed to a picture on the wall or to something that someone else was eating, and took my chances. this usually worked out pretty well.