We started day 3 at the Qingyang Temple. As soon as I smelled the incense and saw the decorative iconography I began rummaging in my bag for a jacket to cover my bare arms. Our guide said it wasn’t necessary but I just felt uncomfortable walking around bare armed and tattooed in this ancient place of worship. My early childhood experiences of Eastern European Orthodoxy were rearing their oppressive heads – again. So I covered up, stepped over the threshold and entered the beautiful Taoist Temple.
Qingyang Temple is small and intimate. Although much, much older than Eastern Orthodoxy, I’m surprised at how similar this place of worship feels. I smell incense, hear chanting and see images of fantastical deities and holy people. Food and drink are left as offerings and there is a quiet and peace all around. It doesn’t seem that different to the Orthodox Churches I remember from my youth. But the architecture is different. Pagodas, one of my favourite architectural forms, replace the Cathedral like structures I’m used to.
The larger Wenshu Monastery is our next stop. This has a very different feel to me than Qingyang Temple. Although there is still incense, chanting and similar iconography, it doesn’t remind me at all of my youthful Orthodoxy. This is more what I was I expecting. Stunning pagodas, beautiful trees and a lake. The scenery is breathtaking and peaceful.
In direct contrast is the next place we visit, ancient Jinli Street. Bustling with people it is full of sound, colour and action. There is so much to see and do.
From the bustling Jinli Street we move onto the much quieter Tibetan Quarter. Chengdu is the gateway to Tibet so it’s not surprising it has a Tibetan Corner. The streets are dotted with shops selling traditional Tibetan wares and elaborate religious iconography. It is a very interesting part of Chengdu and well worth a visit.
Our final stop for the day is Baihuatan Park. Unlike the People’s Park, Baihuatan is less crowded, quiet and tranquil. Bird life and butterflies are abundant. There is a delightful bonsai garden and a stunning pagoda perched near a river. After our exhilarating day it is a pleasure to just sit and observe nature. It makes me think I need to include more quiet time in my life back home.
We return to our hotel and stop by the bar for a pot of tea. No sooner do we sit down when we hear excited voices say “I know those accents – Australians!” Thinking some fellow Aussies are about to befriend us we are surprised to find two Malaysian men introducing themselves. They ordered beer and chips as they thought that what’s Australians drink and eat! They’re not wrong 🙂 Their wives join us and we soon learn all about each other. What I wasn’t expecting was the political turn the conversation took. We groaned when asked about our newly elected Prime Minister. Realising we were not fans they comfortably asserted that he was “an idiot.” Sadly, we couldn’t argue, especially when we realised what they were mainly objecting to was his anti-climate change policies. They were architects and, like us, environmentalists so it was a subject close to all our hearts. We ordered more beer and this time spring rolls and an evening of informative conversation followed. As exciting as the evening turned out to be we were way more excited about where we were going the next day –
Chengdu Panda Base!!