Gufo Dongtian, Lechang, Guangdong
(July 26, 2012)

(1) The front gate of Gufo Dongtian (古佛洞天) meaning "Old Buddha Cave Heaven." A "dongtian" was an area of caves inhabited by hermits (often Taoists); this one was apparently used by Buddhist hermits.

Scholar Kees Kuiken postulates that Huineng studied here, since we know he studied in a cave area west of Lechang (over an hour north of Shaoguan city by bus). It's only speculation (and the locals had heard nothing about it); still, it's as good a place as any to get in touch with Huineng Spirit.

Gufo Dongtian is a pricey 50rmb (over $7US) to get in because it's a AAAA Tourist Attraction. That doesn't count the 40rmb I paid a gouging cabbie for the 5km ride out (but I got even, catching a free ride back in). There's a bus for those who know how to find it.

(2) After passing the tourist center, you round the bottom of the mountain to find this temple. They claim this is the site of the former "Old Buddha Temple."

(3) Frankly, this two-headed monk statue kinds creeped me out. The printed guide spoke of it like it was a standard iconographic motif. Any ideas?

(4) A long shot of the cave in which "Old Buddha Temple" is located. Unlike Zhaoyin Si, this one is at ground level. There are three monks and a tour guide in the shot.

(5) There is no Buddha in this "Old Buddha Temple." I got a pretty good laugh from two monks and the tour guide when the eldest monk pointed at Guanyin and said "This is a Buddha" and I said "That's not a Buddha; that's a Bodhisattva!" He laughed, too.

(6) Here's where it gets weird: Behind the previous statue is this "Reclining Guanyin." Probably meant to be modeled on a "Sleeping Buddha" image, it looks more to me like a centerfold gone wrong.

(7) I climbed part way up the hill expecting to walk through a tunnel. Instead, I had to wait 20 minutes until a guide would take me through a cave. She spoke a little English; what follows is the product of long guessing games by both of us.

(8) Seeing things in caves is a bit like seeing patterns in the stars. This one is supposed to be Mile Fo, the Laughing Buddha. She couldn't explain why he seems to have two heads.

(9) Somehow the label on this got lost (discovered in Oct 2013). Obviously the nearly-touching stalactite means something; the laser pointer beam on it tells us that much!

(10) This is the "Queen Mother of the West," seen, among other places, in the story of Journey to the West (Xi You Ji, 西游记), the story that includes the Monkey King.

(11) The cluster of rocks to the left is supposed to resemble a group of Buddhas, hence the name "Thousand Buddha Cave."

(12) This is on the ceiling, and is said to look like a giant bird.

(13) The Monkey King lived behind a waterfall. The waterfall is clear; the accretion indicated by the red arrow is supposed to be the Monkey squatting nearby.

(14) I had no idea what the guide was describing here, and am still a little vague. Titled "定海神珠" (Ding Hai Shen Zhu), something like "Sea Gods Pearls," I think it's something from Chinese tradition, but I haven't been able to run it down. Any help? Anyway, it's huge, and is one of the symbols of the place. [Update 2019: Seems it was a string of 24 pearls used as a weapon with "the power of the sea" as foundin the classic Creation of the Gods (封神演义, Fengshen Yanyi).]

(15) The 7th day of the 7th month is "Chinese Valentine's Day." The story tells of two lovers (really stars) who can only meet one day a year because the Milky Way ("Silver River") separates them. The arrows are the lovers (male on left, female on right--but why?) and the dotted line indicates the cleft in the rock representing the river.

(16) A full moon creeping out from underground

(17) I suspect this dragon has been "enhanced"; I know the eye is a light bulb. I have only shown the head here, but a long formation behind the head gives the image of a long, flying body.

(18) Sunlight! And a really interesting pattern in the paddies.

(19) As the weather had turned nice, I decided to climb the mountain to see the Great Buddha of Northern Guangdong. Here's the gateway to the trail.

(20) At l-o-o-o-ng last, approaching the Buddha.

(21) Not so big, not terribly lovely, kind of Thai looking. But a great location, and spectacular weather for the week.

(22) The way the light looks on his back makes me think morning would be a good time to visit. And that's all for today. I got a ride back into town with a rice wine vendor, and took my hour-plus bus ride back to Shaoguan.

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Last Updated August 19, 2019

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