The Holy Man of Wutaishan: I thought I was bumping into a sage from China’s mystic past or even a larger than life Gandolf. The wispy beard and the implausibly brushy eyebrows harked back to an age of Chinese ledgends or Tolken’s Middle Earth.
The old monk was causing quite a stir; all the other monks, pilgrims and tourists were making an enormous fuss over him. Everywhere he went, he was stopped, greeted and revered.
Obviously, he must have been important figure in the world of Chinese Buddhism and his presence in Wutaishan shouldn’t have come as any surprise. There are few places more sacred to Chinese Buddhists than the 5 peaks of Wutaishan
The kids loved him too; especially his pointed staff. Some kept trying to touch it’s tip, others tagged on to his orange robe.
We never found out who he actually was, but he was incredibly photogenic and I think he knew it.
He smiled at me and the encouraged me to take some snaps. I must admit, I should have centered the camera better, but I was trying not to get in his way and that of his followers.
‘ Adam asks the monk if he can take a picture of the statues, the monk gives a long speech, at the end of which we understand: “Yes you can, if you pay your respects to the Buddha”. Adam takes this to mean that he has to ‘kow-tow’ and starts doing so – accompanied by the sound of the monk hitting the alms bowl. He donates 10 yuan. He`ll do anything for a good picture’.
The Luohan / Arhat Hall
The Jinge temple金阁寺 is a riot of colours, a kind of Buddhist Disneyland, in which the most outrageous arhats or luohan 罗汉 – in Buddhism, a perfected person, one who has gained insight into the true nature of existence and has achieved nirvana (spiritual enlightenment) – we have ever seen are cavorting!
One of our favorites is a luohan in a colorful patchwork robe who is doing the splits in the air – with his feet on two rocks – while joining his hand in prayer Another swings on a tree trunk. There are luohans swinging off the ceiling by one hand, a luohan that looks like a cross between Santa Claus (face and white beard) and Spiderman (red and blue outfit).
Changing Times in WutaiShan: Twenty years ago Wutaishan was a remote and spiritual destination that felt a million miles away from the modern world. On our recent visit we could see that times had changed as the picture below shows.