so, i’ve blogged about food, and i’ve blogged about pandas … what’s next? temples. mount qingcheng had taoist temples, but there were plenty of buddhist temples in and around chengdu as well.
first, we’ll look at daci temple, which is located in downtown chengdu. daci temple was built approximately 1600 years ago, and is now surrounded by high-rise buildings. the day i visited, there was some kind of celebration going on, possibly related to the mid-autumn festival (what we think of us the mooncake festival). the place was mobbed with people lighting candles and burning incense, listening to a buddhist monk preach, and generally hanging out.
in my first post, i mentioned sichuan hot pot. hot pot is a meal of meats and vegetables cooked on skewers in boiling, flavored oil. the best hot pot restaurant i visited had a brightly-lit refrigerated room full of food – as elegant as anything i’d find at trader joe’s, if trader joe’s did hot pot – and aprons on the back of each chair.
most of the time, it was obvious what the meat on the skewer was. but not always; just because something is “chicken” doesn’t mean it’s the part of the chicken i normally eat.
this was a pretty nice hot pot place, as they go. others were less fancy. and then there were restaurants that i didn’t want to try at all.
the markets had a lot to offer, too, including a good place to nap during the day.
the most interesting “destination” restaurant i visited was in the city of le shan, a few hours away by train. le shan is the home of a giant buddha statue carved into a cliff (more on that later), and my guidebook included a listing for zhao family crispy duck:
foodies flock to this tiny barbecue stand for its speciality – sweet, crispy roast duck (jin ¥22). the draw is the skin, which is best described as duck candy, a miraculously ungreasy bite of heaven. eat it while it’s hot – in the middle of the sidewalk with your bare hands, if necessary.
naturally, i went. it was not “miraculously ungreasy,” but the proprietor hands out cellophane gloves with the bags of duck, so i could indeed eat it in the middle of the sidewalk. i didn’t get a “pretty” shot of the duck, but it was pretty awesome.
so, food. eating is a pretty intimate affair – you can be elbow-to-elbow with the next table, or with passing cars, but everyone’s gonna eat. and for my money, a plate of pork dumplings with chili oil is about as close to heaven as you can get.
after a week, i returned to chengdu, to begin work.
the state department measures the quantity of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and suspended particulate matter in the air at its china missions and publishes an air quality index daily. for most of the time i was in chengdu, the air was rated “unhealthy,” with index values over 150 and particulate matter concentrations of 50 μg/m3. (as of the date that i’m writing this, the aqi in chengdu is 186; by comparison, the new york city region’s aqi is 38.) i was warned off exercising outside, but even just walking to work each day, i felt a slight burning in the back of my throat. i got used to the sensation fairly quickly and forgot about it, which was a good thing, or it wasn’t, depending on how you look at it.
of course, when you live with this kind of air day to day, you get used to it and don’t let it hold you back. i saw lots of people enjoying the outdoors, particularly at night.
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.