Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dafo and Mati Temples.

Mati Temple Complex.

It was another early morning call today. Mal wasn't up to it but I joined Yim and Sal to venture out in search of a place for breakfast. We followed Cathy's instructions and headed down the street adjacent to our hotel. It was barely 7a and not many places were open.


We walked past a few restaurants serving breakfast. No surprise. The choices were limited to either dumplings or noodle soup. No one was keen on dumplings so we eventually settled on a place serving up bowls of......you guessed it.....beef noodle soup. I ordered mine without chili. I've decided to limit my spice intake to just once or twice a day. I think I will try and keep my breakfast spice free. By now, the bowls of beef noodle soup have already blurred - every bowl tastes the same to me.


After breakfast, we walked back to the hotel, taking a small diversion to a local market that was just setting up for business.




We also stopped by a small little concrete hut where a woman was frying up Chinese cruellers. I've had so many of these in my life that one look and I knew they were good. We each bought some to eat. A pair only costs 1.5 yuan. We also bought Mal a fried chive dumpling for 1.5 yuan. As we walked away, we noticed she also had plastic cups of soy milk for sale. Damn. I would have bought one of those as I love the warm soy in the morning. We decided we would come back here for breakfast tomorrow. I'm happy about that. No more noodles. Can't believe I am actually tired of noodles. I am after all, the Noodle Queen!!

By 8a we were on the road with Cathy. The first destination of the day was the Dafo Temple, located in Zhangye.

Dafo Temple or Great Buddha Temple (Dafo means "Great Buddha) is an ancient Buddhist temple, notable for its gigantic reclining Buddha statue which measures thirty five meters (115 feet) in length.  Our driver dropped us off on a nearby street and we walked the rest of the short distance to the temple's entrance.


A very popular activity for Chinese.  Early morning tai chi in the local park.  The same scene plays out throughout the country.

The place was absolutely packed with Chinese tourists!  Not a single non-Asian here.



Cathy gave us a bit of history about the place and then gave us a bit of time to wander around on our own.  Truthfully, I had no idea what I was looking at so I just enjoyed taking photos. 





I thought the pllars were painted wood.  I was suprised to see they were wooden columns covered in painted cloth.




Dafo Temple itself is a pretty modest looking structure that dates back to the early 12th century.  We weren't allowed to take photos inside but indeed there was a very large reclining Buddha placed in the middle of a very large hall.  You can walk around the Buddha.  The four exterior walls are lined with niches displaying smaller Buddha images.







Next we headed out of town to Mati Temple which is located a short drive from the heart of Zhangye.    The scenery here is quite lovely as well.  Occasionally, we could see snow capped mountain peaks.


We made one quick stop for Cathy to buy us our entry tickets.  It was a good opportunity to get out, stretch our legs and use the facilities.  Weatherwise, it's a perfect fall day - sunny with cool temperatures.


According to Cathy, the region here is predominantly a Tibetan Buddhist area so it was not surprising to see the prayer flags.



From here, we drove to another spot where our driver dropped us off out front of a row of small shops. I could already see Mal the Shopper scanning the places for things she can buy. She's definitely the shopper in the group! 


From the small commercial area, a he path took us uphill to a pair of stupas.  It was a beautiful day for a stroll in Mother Nature though I just kept hoping that the path would not be a steep one.  So many Buddhist temples I've been to are tucked away in spots that require you to hike up to.  Today was my lucky day.  The path did go uphill but it wasn't steep.



Along the way, we caught glimpse of a few of the caves and grottoes that make up part of Mati.







From there we could have a nice view of the area.



The path then led downhill towards the cave grottoes.  The main temple is decorated with streamers of prayer flags leading to the ground below.


As we got closer, I could see the temple pavilions protruding from the face of the rock wall.  There were no steps leading up to any of them so I had to wonder how we were going to get up to them.


Mati is made up of the Lower Guanyin Cave, Middle Guanyin Cave, Upper Guanyin Cave, Jinta Temple, Qianfo Cave, Puguang Temple and Shenguo Temple. The temple was built first during the Liang period and it is home to over 70 shrines and caves.

Unfortunately, there were no signs identifying the individual caves and temples so I have no idea which ones we actually visited. 





Mati Temple is also known as the Horse's Hoof Temple, so named because according to legend, a pegasus once landed on this spot and left behind a large horseshoe imprint.  The supposed imprint is displayed inside a glass case housed inside Puguang Temple.


Pathways, stairs and steps lead to the various temples.


Photography was not allowed inside any of them so the only photos I have are from places where photos were permitted.  We did see a lot of Buddha images, frescoes as well as images of flying Apsaras which seem to be a common symbol in this part of China.



We explored all but the highest grottoes. We left that experience up to Sal who went on her own while the three of us walked back down to the shops and did a bit of damage to our pocket books. Yim and I each bought a horn spoon while Mal ended up with a couple more scarves and dangly things.


From here, we drove a short distance to another part of the temple complex where we saw more caves, grottoes and well, temples.  There were far fewer temples but for me, these were a more beautiful set than the ones we had seen earlier.  Again, no photos allowed.










Walkways, stairs and steps took us from one temple to another.

















We then headed back into the city for lunch.



Cathy and our driver joined us tor lunch at a restaurant that served what I would describe as set lunch platters. I didn't realize this. As with the others, I ordered one dish - tofu and wood ear fungus. When the waitress came by with two trays, I thought the food that was on them was for all four of us but it turned out to be just for Mal and I. The main dish I had ordered came with a whole lot of chives and bits of thinly spiced pork belly. The whole thing was soaked in a ton of oil.


Ugh....On my tray was also a serving of really spicy and mouth tingling ma po tofu. It was so spicy tingly that I swear I could not feel my teeth! :-) I also got a service of chicken mushroom soup which helped relieve the burn and tingle in my mouth. I ordered my sides with a cup of rice. Oh....such a nice change from noodles. Even though Sal and I had ordered the same main dish, her tray was completely different from mine. We all shared our dishes as there was more food than we could eat. Except for maybe Sal. She's the tiniest of all of us but the biggest eater! :-)

Never mind the so-so lunch.  It would be enough to sustain me for the rest of the day.  More importantly,  we would now be heading to visit the one place that I have had on my travel bucket list of years.  Counting down the minutes to the incomparable Zhangye Danxia Landform!