The Temple Trek

Wanting to do something different during one of our weekends, I asked Jun if he was interested in visiting the National Forest Park of Mount Guanyin in Dongguan. He said he was and asked if we could invite his cousin to come with us. I was okay with it. We then decided that we would go visit on a Sunday morning.

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On the day of our excursion, everything was going fairly well. We woke up early and took the metro to the train station. We soon got our train tickets and were on the short ride north of Shenzhen to the town of Zhangmutou. As soon as we got off the train it started to pour. We were a bit worried that the rain would negatively affect whether we could go around the national forest. Fortunately, the rain started to lighten and we took a taxi to the entrance of the forest park.

We decided that we would be adventurous and hike up to the Guanyin Temple. To begin we had to climb up a series of stairs; from the top of the stairs we could start the winding journey around the forest towards the temple.

Along the walk we saw some cute topiaries of different animals, such as panda bears. The view from the path allowed us to see how far we would have to go to reach the temple. To get to it we had to cross different mountains as we went up towards the top.

As we were making progress on the trail, it started to rain. At first it was light, but then it got to be torrential and we were all soaked. We were lucky that we were able to find a place to shelter and wait out the rain. That would be the last of the heavy rains while we were there. As soon as the rain became a drizzle, we continued on to the temple.

After going up the steepest part of the mountain, we finally made it to the top. The view from up there was beautiful. The dissipating cloud cover allowed us to see the surrounding area. The temple complex itself was quite nice. At the center of the complex stood the Statue of Saint Guanyin, a bodhisattva of the Mahayana Buddhist School.

As we walked around the complex, we saw these colorful pigeons flying in one area of the temple grounds. It was quite a sight.

By the time we had walked around the temple, we were ready to go find something to eat besides the snacks we had brought. So we were soon on our way back to the entrance and off to eat.

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Besides the rain, it was a nice hike and we got to experience a new part of the region. Overall, a lovely place to visit.

Village Tranquility

After the more ad-hoc nature of last week’s trip to Huizhou, Jun and I decided to be more organized with our outing this week. On Friday we decided to go to Nanshe Village in Dongguan. Jun booked us train tickets to go there and figured out the fastest route to get there from the train station. Everything was set. But no matter how much you may plan for an incident-free excursion, the unexpected may arise and alter plans.

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On the day of our trip to the village everything went according to plan. We took the train from Shenzhen to Dongguan without any issue. Then we took a taxi to the village also without issue.

The village itself is quite remarkable. There are parts of it that have been preserved, but there are also other parts that have not. These areas I found quite interesting. The type of building materials used for these traditional Lingnan architecture is quite different from modern materials. Instead of using concrete as the main building materials, wood and bricks were more prevalent in the past. As a result there’s a more refined and unique look to the buildings instead of the generic style prevalent in modern Chinese architecture. Outside of the signature skyscrapers, most modern buildings in one Chinese city looks similar to buildings in any other Chinese city. It was thus nice to see the subtle differences in the architectural styles at Nanshe.

As we first started to walk around the village we kept hearing music being played not far from the entrance. I thought it was music being played over loudspeakers to create a mood of old times. But as we went closer to it we saw there was a Cantonese opera performance. That was nice surprise to see and hear.

As we continued to walk around the village we saw some really beautiful areas with interesting buildings and small gardens. Other areas were in disrepair, but they had glimpses of what the building used to look like with different ornamentations hidden under the wild foliage. Overall, the feeling of the place was quite calming and enjoyable.

After a few hours at the village, Jun and I decided we were ready to go back to Shenzhen. We traveled back to the train station and got ready for the ride back. We boarded the train and everything was going well; we were making plans for what we were going to do for the rest of the afternoon.

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Then things went awry. As soon as we entered central Shenzhen our train stopped. We thought it was going to be a temporary stop and then we would be on our way. To our surprise our short stop turned out to be a four hour wait! Apparently the station that we had passed—Zhangmutou—had lost power. As a result all trains in both directions that traveled through that station had to be stopped. We couldn’t move into Shenzhen station until the trains there could leave. As a result we had a nice four hour wait for a 45 minute trip. Finally in the early evening our trained started to move, and ten minutes later we were at the station. We were only ten minutes away from the station! As soon as we left the station we set off for home as quickly as we could.

While the end of our outing to Nanshe was unwanted, our actual time visiting the village was enjoyable.

Keyuan Garden

On a whim Jun decided that we were going to visit Keyuan Garden in Dongguan. It’s one of the Four Renowned Gardens of Guangdong from the Qing dynasty. Each of the gardens represent the Lingnan garden culture that tied architecture, art, and nature together in a delicate balance.

Keyuan was the last of the four gardens I had to visit. I had previously visited the other three in the last four years. It was nice to finally get to cross this off my list as I rarely have a reason to be in Dongguan.

This garden has its own unique feel compared with the other gardens. Keyuan feels much more intimate than the other three with the how close the buildings are to each other. Adding to this feeling are the different corridors that meander around the structures. The buildings are tightly linked to each other; it creates that intimate feeling as you walk around the different structures. Tied with how lush the gardens are and how intermingled they are to the buildings leads to a wondrous feeling to the place.

From the main structure the gardens go to a surrounding park centered with a pond. The park has a nice museum with a variety of art and examples of Lingnan architecture. In one of the courtyards there are examples of different building features to examine.

The gardens are beautiful and shows another side to the Lingnan gardens other than the other three gardens in Guangdong: Yuyin in Panyu, Liangyuan in Foshan, and Qinghui in Shunde.

It was definitely a nice visit.