Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Dao Temple and Dao Green Tea

This awesome spiritual place is full of natural wonders to numerous to count. When we started out this morning we weren't sure if we could visit the temple due to the awful weather conditions, constant rain with periodic thunder and lightening but we set out for Mr. Fong's factory, graciously he agreed to be our guide, hoping things would work out. He informed us that the cable car's up to the temple were not operating due to the weather but that he had spoken with them and they were attempting to fix the power in order to get the car's moving for us. So off we went both Barb and I were very excited this is something both of us really wanted to do.

When we arrived at the bottom of Qiyun Mountain we saw the car's sitting motionless half way up, and I mean up. It wasn't long before we were back in the car and on our way to climb the mountain to the temple with the ancient villages deputy mayor as our guide.

As we walked across the stone bridge that spans the Hengjiang River we encounter the villages native people and got lot's of stares, a few "hello's" and numerous laughs. One woman stopped us and chuckled at my obvious height advantage over our hosts, all in good fun. As we entered town at the bottom of the mountain through the sacred arch we knew word had traveled quickly about our presence there because once again we had drawn a crowd, this happens a lot! Anyway we crossed one more bridge and started up this incredibly beautiful mountain.

We were traveling the original path up the mountain a stone staircase that was some 7 kilometers to the top, about 4 1/2 miles. For as far as the eye could see were streams, green plants and misty mountains not to mention rain and more rain. But despite the rain and the eventual difficulty of the trek up getting to visit this temple was certainly a highlight of the trip, especially when I saw a woman working in the tea gardens! About half of the way up we encountered small tea gardens, small by China standards, that are harvested and produce Dao tea. That was my motivation, a good, warm cup of Dao green tea, to keep going up. These gardens, like most in China, are all groomed and harvested by hand a feat that is unimaginable. The woman working in the garden was using hedge clipper's, by hand of course, to manicure these beautiful plants. I must say that I have a whole new perspective and understanding of what kind of labor is involved in every single cup of green, white, oolong or black Chinese tea.

Once most of the way up our guide hired a guide that is a direct ancestor of the original Dao priest of the temple. She was able to really give us some insight on the surrounding area, history and traditions of Dao. We stopped at different prayer shrines where you buy incense, about 30 sticks, light them all at once and blow out the flame and holding the incense in both hands above your head bow three times. No one can buy you the incense you must purchase it, a rule of the temple.

All along the way were ancient carvings in stones and mountain cliffs, prayer shrines, misty mountains, water falls and incredible views. The natural beauty here was breathtaking! We reached a large temple and I was able to pray quietly for a few moments which will always be a wonderful memory for me.

Once we approached the humble ancient village and Yuehua Street our hosts told us we were heading to lunch, I knew a hot cup of green tea was awaiting us. As we sat down to lunch we were served tea and after sitting for about five minutes the dampness and cold began to set in. Our hosts knew we were chilled so a new brew was brought to the table, and leaf of some sort that would ward off the chill and a future cold, delicious and warming we drank and when we were leaving a bag of the dry leaves were presented to us.

Beginning our trek back down I asked about the Dao tea and whether that was what we had been drinking, the tea mind you, we when started lunch. In fact is was not so I asked if I could purchase some of this special, sacred tea especially for students of Daoism and our guide took us to her home where I was able to buy some of Dao green tea. Now I was ready to head down.

The walk down was nothing like the walk up except for the rain. As we encounter the people who live in the mountain village I could not help but wonder what it must be like to have to climb that staircase every time you need something from the bottom?

I have included a brief history on Daoism in this area below if you want to learn more. Thanks to everyone for your great comments on my journey I still have a lot more to see in this wonderful land, Beth

Strongly linked with early folk beliefs Daoism incorporates, directed energy qi, yin and yang, and an ordered universe. Daoism philosophy encourages following your intuition and following the grain of the universe a durational concept of an ordered universe. Laozi was the founder of Daoism and may have lived in the 6th century BC. He is credited with the "Dao" or the Way. Daoism was introduced to Qiyun Mountain during the Tang Dynasty and flourished during the Ming era. Praised as the first Daoist County in China the abundant culture and scenic surroundings have drawn, political leaders, poets, scholars, artist and celebrities to this wondrous mountain. Created by Heaven, Qiyun mountain was praised by Emperor Qianloong of the Qing Dynasty as "an unrivaled scenic spot and the first mountain south of the Yangtze River".

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