Trip To Quanzhou
Happy Fourth of July! Even though we are in China and oceans away from the cracking of fireworks and waving flags, I thought about what I would have been doing in America if I had stayed. Probably eating a hamburger. Instead, I and the UDNSLIY group took a day off of school and visited the ancient Chinese city of Quanzhou which was the starting point of the ancient maritime silk route and where different cultures including Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Jainism, as well as various other kinds of local beliefs met and co-exist peacefully.
We rose early to a gray tomb sky and felt rain paint the sky like wet ink blotting slowly on a piece of paper.
On the way there, a Chinese buddy named Luke told us they were known for their tea – Tieh Kwan Yin tea. I later talked with Luke about jazz music and the differences between Eastern and Western music on the bus. Everyone worships something. It seems my roommate Francisco worships tea – he bought some in Quanzhou.
We first visited a museum filled with ancient Chinese-Muslim-Christian tombstones, their crosses carved into the stone in eternal writing, their words unearthed from a world unknown. It was truly the religious point of convergence.
After that, our group lumbered over to a Quanzhou restaurant to have a quick lunch. The walls of the restaurant sparkled with pink and white flowers, booming bursts of tulips and roses, and posters with Chinese calligraphy hung over some walls. Their pork was good, too.
Afterward, we went to a Buddhist temple (the first of two) to see more of their culture in motion – what I have come to call their practical faith. In the temple, between the smoke and burning incense and stone sculptures, plastering the space with the teeth of tigers and dragons, I saw people kneeling and placing their heads and hands on the ground. It was a good place to make peace. I am not Buddhist myself, so I felt a bit intrusive and did not want to get in their way of praying.
The second temple we visited was once a large garden, but when the owner of the mulberry garden had an afternoon nap he was visited by a deity who told him to convert the garden into a temple where people could pray. The owner woke up surprised. When he stumbled outside of his house, he saw all of his mulberry trees had bloomed with white lotuses. Thus, a sacred temple was born.
The temple was spacious and held many stone walks with bushes and jackfruit trees, knotted and gnarly on the bottom, and two ancient pagodas that stood like the lighthouses of heaven. I took some time to myself walk around and see the sight and smell the peace – the quietness of the quiet light that slanted into the dark temples with giant red and gold statues of laughing Buddhas, of crying saints, smiling – I saw more people pray.
I guess a nap and a couple white lotuses can change a lot.