Pritam Rohila Travels

Reports of my travels along with some pictures

Oct 31, 2010


May 30

Next morning, we found ourselves docked for the after-breakfast optional tour of the “Precious Stone Fortress” of Shi Bao Zhai.

This temple-fortress is perched on the top of a steep, 700-ft high cliff, which is located on the north bank of the Yangtze River. Recently a coffer-dam was built to protect this National Protected Cultural Site from the rising water of the Three Gorges Reservoir.

This 16th century, three-storied temple is dedicated to Manjusri, the Buddhist deity of wisdom.

In 19th century, a nine-story red wooden pavilion was added, as a covered spiral staircase, for easier access to the temple on the top. Before the pavilion, visitors had to be hoisted to the top with a system of iron chains.

The temple is visible from the dock.

Since Kundan and I had not signed up for the optional tour, Kundan and I got special permission to leave the dock.

At the end of the dock, we found women doing their laundry.

The path from the dock to the town entrance is lined on both sides with shops and vendors selling mementos, food, water and soda.

At the entrance to the small town, there is a large hoarding with picture of the temple.

Then Kundan headed for the vendor stalls for memento shopping. I went “people-hunting” with my camera.Then Kundan headed for the vendor stalls for memento shopping. I went “people-hunting” with my camera.

Soon I came across a boy and a girl, who started following me. I turned around and pointed my camera at them. They put an arm around each other and posed for me.

After the picture, I started walking away. But they continued coming after me and kept trying to attract my attention. As I pointed my camera at them again, they sat down and posed for me. After I was done, I showed them their pictures. They were satisfied and went their way.

After a while, I came across the
gateway leading to a second market, which end
ed at the entrance to the path to the temple.

Near the entrance I spotted two parents each with a child. They readily complied with my request for their pictures.

Later other parents and children also consented to my requests for their pictures.

Finally, I spotted a group of old men and women sitting at the entrance to a senior center. They agreed to my request,

although some appeared uncomfortable and looked away from the camera.

A woman even refused to look at her picture.

Very likely some of them had lived through the atrocities committed by the Red Guards during the infamous Cultural Revolution, when neighbors spied on neighbors and people reported even their family members to the authorities. It was difficult to trust strangers and people avoided them.



May 30

Our next stop that day was the ancient necropolis (“Ghost City”) of Fengdu.

Located on the north bank of the Yangtze River, and built on Mt. Ming (Minshan), many parts of Fengdu will be submerged, upon completion of the Three Gorges Dam project.

According to the Taoist beliefs, when you die, your soul is arrested and escorted the office of the King of Hell (Yama/Yen-lo-wang). On the way you have go through various tests.

This big statue

guards the gateway to Fengdu.

Then if you are adventurous, like a couple of our fellow-travelers, you can climb up a large number of steps to go to the base of the Temple, or like the most of us, you can take the easier way, and go up by chair-lift.

After going across the entry gate, you come to a

temple on each of the two sides. One temple is dedicated to the god of wealth, and the other one to the god of health.

Then you faced with the first test, crossing the Nothing-To-Be-Done-Bridge.

If you successfully passed the test, you come across are a few other temples before you reach the Temple of Jade Emperor, the god of heaven.

Then you go through the Ghost Torturing Pass lined with 18 sculptures depicting ferocious demons, and temptations.

Now, you are ready to enter the Temple of Hell, which is located on the top of the hill. Yama, the god of hell, is the reigning deity here.

But before you reach Yama, you have to be checked by the ferocious-looking deities.

Finally you reach the Last-Glance at Home Tower, which commemorates the site where spirits consigned to hell could take one last look at their families.

Altogether there are 48 temples, all built during the first two-and-a-half centuries of the Common Era.

At the Temple of Jade Emperor my camera card was full, and my spare card was in the camera bag, which I had left in our ship-cabin. May be the god of heaven want me to go to hell to take pictures there, or it was the result of a Chinese curse by the god of hell! Anyway, I have borrowed a couple of pictures from Sherry, a fellow-traveler, and have stolen another couple of pictures via Google search of Fengdu images.

Upon return to our cruise ship, we were treated to the Farewell Banquet, followed by a Cabaret Show consisting of entertainment provided by the ship staff. It included court costumes from various Chinese dynasties.

To our surprise, our dining-room waitress nicknamed Bamboo

and her companions performed a Bollywood (Indian movie) dance.