Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Both yesterday and today we visited temples. This morning in Ningbo we also went to a library garden that was really beautiful, and I would love to have spent more time there. But we were hurried along to eat lunch early so we could catch our plane to here in Nanching. Had another wonderful dinner, and now back to the hotel. I'm not the only one who tends to crash during dinner and go to bed early, only to wake up around 4am. I'm gradually adapting to local time.
Back to temples. Today's wasn't exactly on our itinerary, being optional if we had time. And we did, as our flight was earlier than they expected. So we went to this temple in downtown Nanching. I don't know the name of the temple -- I just can't keep all these Chinese names in my head. But we were greeted by a monk guestmaster standing in for the abbot, who was on his way to Beijing. He took us upstairs and served us tea. An assistant brought in peanuts, and also gave us all mala bracelets. Very sweet.
This monk who made the tea today did this odd thing of pouring the first batch of tea he brewed out, and then brewing with the same tea again, over and over. Evidently the first batch (in this lovely little tea pot that looked a little like a french press -- I want one!) is for "washing" the tea, to get out any dust, etc. They discard that and then brew from the washed tea. Maybe I'll figure out a way to do something like that the next time I cook Sunday breakfast. We'll see.
Yesterday we visited two temples. The first was King Ashoka's temple, and the second was the one where Dogen trained under Rujing (which won't mean a lot to many of you -- he is considered to be the founder of Soto Zen in Japan -- he went to China to find answers, having studied under many Japanese teachers, and found Rujing at this temple we visited yesterday. Then he brought that back to Japan.). It was really cool to join in practice there -- we participated in Evening Service in the afternoon. It was strange in many ways, and lasted well over an hour. By the time it was done the sun was going down, a little after 5pm. Some elements were familiar, and I saw some things I had seen at Tassajara last fall. Of course, I couldn't chant along, as it was all in Chinese, and most of it was sung, so after a while I was able to get some of the melody and hum or even "ah" along.
It's about 7:30pm, and I'm tired and very interested in bed. On the other hand, I should try to stay up a little later than I really want to so maybe I'll sleep later in the morning. Eric (the Chinese tour guide) told us that the tea we were drinking this afternoon should keep us up until midnight. I doubt that, but maybe it will keep me going a little longer. and of course I'm excited to finally get on to the Internet.
This is the third big city we've been in (the first was Shanghai). Andy (our tour arranger) says tomorrow we leave the cities and go to the countryside. Another temple, a big one, with a lot of construction going on, so we will again stay at a hotel. But we will spend much of the day there at the temple -- Baizhong's, as I recall. I'm not doing a lot of keeping track, just mostly going along and participating as well as I can. There have been some intervals where we could kind of wander on our own, within limits, and told to meet at a particular place at a particular time. So I've been able to do some walking.
The weather has been sunny and pleasant. Cool in the mornings, but generally nice in the afternoons. This afternoon it was positively warm. We are in the south, but even so, I gather this unusual for this time of year.