Monday, October 24, 2005

Bao Shan Zai

The next stop along the trip was Bao Shan Zai, or The Stone Mountain Palace. The boat pulled into the dock around 1 o’clock and we made our way through the other boat to get to the shore (it is strange… many times we would stop with another boat between us and the dock. We would have to walk through the other boats to get to the gangway onto land). Again, we were herded through a street market along the way to the palace. These merchants were by far the most aggressive so far, but they had some of the nicest things. I ended up buying an old Chinese coin, a silver Mao badge that people use to wear, and an original second edition “Little Red Book” (quite worn, but neat… certain passages are underlined, although I can’t read them).

Once we made it though the gauntlet of the street market, we came to a massive rock face and had to climb some stairs. Here there was an entrance to a large pagoda-like building that seemed to grow up the rock cliff like ivy. On the entrance was a red painted line that denoted where the new water level will be in 2009. Fortunately, most of this temple will survive, but half of the entrance might be submerged. We then started ascending the wooden stairs of the wooden pagoda, with each level getting narrower and the stairs steeper. I was getting quite excited at this point because it was clear that this structure was quite old… perhaps we were actually going to be seeing something authentic for once! The staircase opened up onto a stone veranda atop the rock face. You could continue up the stairs a few more levels, and then climb a ladder to get to the top if you wanted a nice view of the “palace”.

There was this stone courtyard or veranda and behind that was a small temple-like building. I actually cannot remember what the inside of it looked like, so I think it was probably the same as all of the other temples we’ve gone into… they literally all look alike inside… usually one or more very large, colorful deity that looks angry and a bunch of candles and inscense burning. I know this sounds suprising, but once you’ve seen the inside of one temple in China, you’ve seen them all… I hope though that I am proven wrong in the future. While I don’t remember the inside of the “palace” (it was very small and un-palace-like), the building itself and the pagoda were beautiful. I don’t really know what the history of it… let me look it up in my China book… ok, here is what it says:

“Stone Treasure Stronghold (Shibaozhai) is a 100-ft rock said to resemble a jade seal, with a brilliant red pagoda against the side. At its summit is an early 18th-century temple.”

Well, looks like I got the name wrong… but that is pretty cool… early 1700’s… one of the oldest thing I’ve seen in China yet. I guess one of the temples I saw in Penglai was around 1000 years old… but other than that all of the “ancient temples” we’ve seen are about 20-30 years old.

Well, the boat sounded its horn, which meant we had to get back, so we took an alternate way down, navigated our way through the street market, and got back on the boat.