Saturday, March 28, 2009

Datong Trip

Soon after we came to China our friend Matt Chivian sent us pictures of a hanging monastery in northern China. A little research and a trip to Datong quickly went to the top of our list. The weekend of March 13-15, we joined the China Culture Center on a trip. A night train on a “hard sleeper” (6 bunks per cabin) brought us to Datong -- near Inner Mongolia -- at 6:20 am on Saturday morning. Breakfast and a chance to freshen up blew out the cobwebs and our group headed out to see the 1500 year old monastery perched on a cliff. En route we stopped to see a cave home of an elderly man. Apparently his home was wired for electricity, so along with the dirt floor and traditional bed, there was a satellite TV. A classic image of modern China.

The hanging monastery was impressive, particularly when you were not looking at the parking lot that adjoined the scene. It was quite amazing to walk in a spot that looked so delicate, but had withstood time, weather, politics, and all the other forces that wash away history. Buddhism, Daoism and Hinduism are all reflected in the imagery there. After lunch we saw the 9 dragon wall, and for dinner took a bus ride through a construction site to a good meal and chance to cut noodles.

After a good night’s sleep we went on Sunday to see the Yungang Grottoes – an amazing site of Buddahs carved several stories high into the side of a mountain. There were dozens and dozens of smaller caves with intricate carvings. There was also a section with 3 missing carvings taken by foreign “looters.” We were told they now sit in the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. We’ll definitely check out the Met when we return!

The train ride back was a 6 hour interesting ride through the arid countryside. This is coal country and the coal dust settled everywhere. The land had a barren field and you could see the small villages struggling to sustain a living for their residents. The train car was heated by a coal burning furnace at the end of the car, with a water spigot for hot water. The train personnel would occasionally walk by and shovel in some coal. The ride gave us more opportunity to talk with the wide range of expatriates who were on trip.

1 comment:

Ann said...

Okay, we haven't done anything nearly as interesting as taking a trip to Datong lately, but I thought I'd take a moment and tell you what we've been up to lately.

Today, we are expecting a late season snow storm with 1 to 3 inches predicted. Just north of us they expect 6 or more inches. Drat! I thought we were finished with snow for the season!

The lilac bushes have buds on them. The peonies are pushing up from the ground. No forsythia yet, but there have been reports of crocuses blooming. We even have one single hyacinth that is about to burst into bloom!

We are busily getting ready for the Welcome Baby Richards party on Saturday, April 4th. Don't tell Kathleen and Brian, but a couple of presents have arrived! We are really looking forward to a good time and a celebration of new life joining the family! If all goes well, we hope to send pictures to you via Facebook. Keep an eye out for them.

My mother had uneventful cataract surgery earlier this month. She is so excited that she can see again! She is doing very well and is delighted to be a great-grandma yet again. My niece Briget gave birth to her third child this week. It's a girl, named Sarah Faye. Hurray!!

My dad will be having surgery in mid-April to patch a hole in his eardrum! He punctured it years ago, and it healed well, but recently the hole reappeared. The worst side effects were difficulty hearing and a tendency toward dizziness. We hope this surgery will be as uneventful as my mom's cataract surgery.

The rest of my large family is doing well. Spring sports have begun, keeping many quite busy either participating, cheering, or driving participants hither and yon. You know the drill!

Unemployment is above 12 percent in Michigan. On the economic front, things are bleak. Some of the stimulus money is just starting to arrive. Everyone is hoping that it helps and soon! The city of Flint is looking at shutting down sparsely populated sections of the city by relocating residents into more populated areas. The Ann Arbor News will close up shop on July 1st. The auto industry appears to be in what can only be described as death throes. It's not just GM and Chrysler gasping for breath, but has now extended to many auto parts suppliers. What a downer!

I can't end on that depressing thought, so here's a brighter note. Opening day of baseball season will be here soon! The Tigers opener will be a day game on Good Friday, which has reportedly caused a huge outcry among the faithful who must choose between Good Friday services and a baseball game. If the controversy involved the Cubs, I'd have to ask tongue-in-cheek if there's much difference! Hmm. What do you think, Rick?