For a few magic minutes time stood still. A full moon illuminated the pond where a gaggle of Buddhist nuns were lighting candles and carefully balancing them upon enormous, floating lotus leaves. Overhanging red lanterns left their reflections suspended in the water. Occasionally, a well- fed golden carp broke the silky smooth surface and then, with a swish of its tail and a plop, disappeared into the murky depths again.
This is the China we imagine when we close our eyes. The China we see on ancient scroll paintings, the China that we hope to find, but so seldom do. Was I dreaming? Well, not exactly. This was Jiǔhuá Shān in late September 2001, serene and so peaceful after the mayhem of Huang Shān. We remained transfixed by the moment, for how long? I don’t know. And then, out of the night came the shrill sound of laughter, and in the distance the local guitar- playing and folk-singing busker started up again. The nuns slipped out of sight through the temple gate, a cloud crossed the moon and the light from the candles paled. In short, the spell broke and we found ourselves again in 21st Century China.
A bit of history: Jiǔhuá Shān is one of the four sacred mountains for Chinese Buddhists, together with Eméi Shān, Pǔtuó Shān and Wǔtái Shān. Set in a beautiful area of southern Anhui province, Jiǔhuá Shān offers the traveller some rare moments of rural bliss and the chance to witness Continue reading “Jiǔhuá Shān九华山 From our Diary, September 2001”