Damo’s cave and the giant Bodhisattva
I’m so sad that we have to leave here tomorrow! This place is actually amazing- I’m already mentally planning returning next year for a few weeks!
We set off with our day bags filled with enough snacks and water for what we thought would be an 8km hike to the top of the Wuri Peak – where the giant bodhisattva sat- and back down to the main area.
After ascending for almost 1.5km, walking up uneven stone steps and dodging the overgrown bushes, we had reached Damo’s cave! We’d gotten here a lot quicker than expected and although the heat from the sun was making our journey a little sweaty, the sight of the cave was a welcome relief because we realised that we were almost at the top of the summit.
Although it was a little cloudy the view from the top of the peak was pretty impressive!
Once at the top we refuelled (with some of our various snacks) and appreciated the serenity of the situation. We had only passed a few people on the hike and there was only 4 other people at the top of the summit with us- one was a drinks seller, the other three were two old women and an old man sitting in the shade of the giant Buddha. It was so quiet and it was great to see the path that we’d just climbed disappearing into the trees below us…
After descending the mountain we walked to Damo’s platform where we were given a bracelet by a monk on entry….We were then asked for money. It was really strange being asked for money by a monk so we refused and handed back the bracelet. It really didn’t seem legitimate as we saw him do it to lots of people after us…
Kung Fu performance
We were down the mountain quicker than planned so wanted to watch a Kung Fu performance before we stopped for lunch. We stopped to buy some steamed corn on route to stifle our hunger and joined the queue 30 minutes before the performance started. It was lucky we did because even 30minutes early, the queue was pretty large and continued to grow right up until we were allowed in the centre to take our seats.
The performances were incredible! Different groups of boys showcased different Kung fu skills – similar to those that we watched last night- both individually and in unison. One boy was tiny and did a contortionist routine whereby he bent and twisted his body into unimaginable shapes!
The performance came to a close with the help of three volunteers from the audience. One girl and two boys took to the stage and were taught a Kung fu routine each and then the audience voted which person performed their routine the best. The girl was hilarious and fair play to her she did attempt the majority of moves but the two guys clearly had Kung fu experience and were able to almost perfectly shadow the younger boys showing them the routines!
The Shaolin Temple
The Shaolin Temple was a little disappointing in comparison to everything else we’ve seen in Song Shan.
The temple and most of the associated halls in the grounds had been destroyed by a fire in 1928 so what was left today were just reconstructions. From reading the information plaques outside each building, it appeared that the majority of buildings were not even reconstructed in the original style as there were not any photos from before the fire available. This really made it lose a lot of its appeal…
It was also really busy with tourists and we kept getting stopped by families and couples to have photos taken with them. We don’t mind it usually but it’s really annoying when we’re in the middle of reading something ourselves and keep getting interrupted…
After the temple we went for lunch in one of the snack stalls near by and ordered cold sesame noodles (which we added our spicy peanuts to) and a side of greens to share.
Fully fuelled we walked to the cable car entrance – stoping for a photo with a young couple along the way. We asked them to take a photo of leah and myself in return, with the mountain ranges in the background, but the women literally zoomed in on our faces and cut out the mountains completely!
The cable car ride
We got half price tickets for the cable ride with our student cards and it was lucky we did because we were only on the mountain for half the time we had planned!
After queuing up for over 30 minutes we had to run to board the constantly revolving cable car before it took off up the mountain with only one of us inside. We saw lots of families completely miss it because it was moving so fast!
The cable car was a little old and rickety – which didn’t pan very well for Leah’s uneasiness with heights- but it was the only way up to the top of Shoushi Shan. After 16 minutes we’d made it to the end point of the cable way and disembarked.
After walking past the various vendors selling trinkets and food at the cable car exit, we climbed up to the the Erzu Nunnery (famous for a story about an apprentice monk who dug four wells with; sweet, salty, peppery and bitter water. He had to use each well for an entire year to drink with, cook with and even wash with as a test). You could sample the wells for ¥10 but we weren’t sure how our stomachs would function after trying them…
After passing through the nunnery we carried on walking to the top of Shaoshi Shan (the tallest peak in the region). Along the way we heard a few claps of thunder so quickly rushed to the top. After we reached the summit the sky had turned really dark and the thunder sounded a lot closer now. The only way back down the mountain was to get back in the metal cable car that we came up in so we decided to bail on the rest of the paths (that we’d planned to climb) and head back before the storm hit.
We were clearly not the only ones with the same idea because the queue for the cable car back down the mountain was pretty long by the time we reached it. After queuing for 20 minutes we were finally able to board as the rain began to fall.
The rain didn’t help Leahs aversion to heights. The way we were sitting you could see how far we were off of the ground and also how far we still had to travel…
16 minutes later and we were back down the mountain and the weather seemed a little stuffy but was completely different to the darkness we’d left behind on the mountain top! The entrance to the cable car was now closed to stop people travelling up…
More Kung Fu
We walked around the main area some more and luckily stumbled upon a Kung go group practising along a pathway. A small group had gathered so we sat down on the curb and watched the group practise their cartwheels (the really young ones), round offs (the young ones) and flips (the older ones). I filmed some of it on my gro pro and we all clapped after every routine it was so good!
After they’d finished we tried to watch another Kung fu performance in the indoor centre but were told that our ticket was for a single admittance. Instead we sat watching a group of younger boys (most must have been about 6 or 7) train outside.
We were sitting on the wall watching the group when a guy came over to me and asked for my mobile number… I kid you not! It seemed that he was there with his younger brother and would not quit asking for my phone number and trying to compliment me in English. It’s strange in China how much attention you get purely for being white… He left after a little while but came back 15 minutes later, handing me his phone to talk to an English speaking friend who asked me again for my number! I didn’t have the heart to be mean so just tried to explain that I was flattered and that my phone didn’t work in China (which isn’t a lie…)
Leah and I left our little spot and went back to where we watched the older boys train yesterday afternoon. We sat down on the steps with a few other people and I was in awe again. It really made me want to get moving and work out myself.
Song Shan is the perfect place to run, the climate and the terrain make it so much more interesting, but I know that I ‘should’ be resting my foot a little more…