Tianning Temple Tour

Nicholas Quirke was able to mark off another now cherished wish on 20 March 2021 to see inside the temple compound of the really ancient Tianning Pagoda. He had tried to visit it once before but it was shut and though he had seen it from outside the temple walls several times getting in had been an impossibility and it transpired that the Temple had actually not been open to the public for many years. Peng and his parents had lived in the area in the 90’s and early 2000’s and it was not open then. When he discovered that on the 20th of March it would reopen to the public, it was an event that should be really heralded. He insisted on going that morning before any other of the days plans were put into action. The really good thing about visiting was that it also included a riverside walk to get there which he had cycled past the day before and seen the blossom but didn’t have the time to stop for a stroll as he had to get to the hairdressers. The temple, fighting for the skyline with the enormous chimney of the industrial sculpture park he favoured had always looked impressive even from the outside, and once inside the compound the 60-meter-tall pagoda built in 602AD when it had acted as the depository for treasured Buddhist artifacts on instruction by Emperor Wendi of the Sui dynasty, was equally daunting The thirteen story octagonal structure, is remarkable as its form and ornamentation, it is adorned with slightly dilapidated and worn relief sculptures of stone warriors and bodhisattvas, have remained the same since the pagoda was built, though the 1976 Tangshan earthquake caused the original pearl-shaped steeple of the pagoda to break off and fall, giving it a truly aged quality that is hard to find and refreshing in country where a substantial number of historical sites have been rebuilt in the past 50 year. Apart from watching another act of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and starting the unsettling and compelling Apple offering of ‘Calls’ that was the culture for the day over from here on it was all about food and managing an slightly disturbing racist streak he discovered in himself. It was Chūnfēn, the 4th solar term which, begins when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 0° Usually 20 March and ends when it reaches the longitude of 15°. 5 April. There was cake to be consumed and they would have to find a store to buy Lu Da Gun cake (rolling donkey) but first, Moka Bros had introduced 4 plant based meat dishes into the menu and they made their way to the western style restaurant in Tai Koo Li. The establishment had a very western atmosphere and look and he wasn’t surprised when a parade of pasty faced, unadventurous, dull looking Laowai’s began to fill up the seats. Throughout his journey in China he had barely encountered a westerner. More often than not he was the only foreigner in sight and the fact that they all congregated in such an obvious way, in such an obvious place, many with their dogs actually repulsed him. It was a surprising reaction and he had to remind himself that he was in fact a pasty foreigner himself but he couldn’t wait to get out of there even though the food, typically western style small portions, was tasty. Peng had planned that would make a trip to the Vegan cake shop they had bought their astonishing Christmas confection from as Nicholas owed him an expensive gateau as a forfeit from their Lantern Festival riddles. He wanted to get some cup cakes but the shop asked if they could deliver them (free of charge) as they wanted to close for the afternoon. This meant they had to make themselves comfortable in the area and Peets Coffee seemed a suitable venue mercifully free from the hordes of laowai he had felt suffocated by. The cakes looked magnificent when they were delivered and 4 were slowly consumed. They paid a visit to 3 cake stores on their way to a subway station all of which had sold out of the in demand glutinous rice cake and Peng eventually ordered online. At home they ate the cake watched television and went to sleep with the sense that it had been another day well if greedily spent.

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