The great thing about my study abroad program is that it sets up field trips for us to go on. From what I’ve heard, it doesn’t sound like a lot of programs do that, so I lucked out with having such an excellent program right on campus. And as amazing as those field trips are, I am actually going to use this post to talk about a day trip that my new friends and I have taken outside of the program. And these are the experiences that you can’t really get unless you are a little bit adventurous.
I’ve found that on our field trips, while we get to see new things, sometimes we just aren’t given enough time to revel in the culture and the surroundings. That is what the day trips we have taken are for. Like my earlier experience in Beihai Park, these are things that I want to see personally or know that I will not get the chance to see if I don’t take the initiative and go. And every time it has been rewarding. There hasn’t been a moment that I have regretted.
The first day trip that we took was on our first weekend in Chengdu. We went to Qingchengshan, an ancient Daoist mountain about an hour outside of Chengdu. This is the moment that I was waiting to say, “This is the type of scenery in China that you only see in magazines and television.” Soaring mountains hidden in the mists (let’s pretend it was all mist), temples interspersed on the mountain for Daoist worship, distant farms showing the agricultural activity that is never far from the city. Like a lot of other sites, it was full of tourists. But unlike other sites, there were practicing monks on this mountain. People live this life - of worship and devout belief in the Dao.
And they had a temple dog – a little in need of a bath, but still treated well from the looks of it. =D
Being at this mountain, you realize this isn’t just something that you read about, but something that is real and vibrant and something that has meaning beyond what we experience in our everyday lives. But I suppose you could say that about any religion you find in the world. Myself? I’m not necessarily religious. But I do believe that religion – any religion, done the right way, really is something worth believing in. And there are moments here in China, where I enter a place so sacred, that I can feel that there is something more out there. A reverence, a certain resonance in the air that holds the beliefs and hopes of thousands of others before me. That is something that I can’t deny.
Being here in China, it is easy to forget that some of the amazing and beautiful things here started out as a way to connect to something greater. That’s why you won’t see a lot of pictures from me that show places where people actually pray. I’m not saying that it’s wrong, but it just seems more respectful to not take pictures at places where people are sending up prayers. And this way, just maybe it might encourage you to see some of these places yourself. =)