Lingshan Temple, Shantou, Guangdong
(January 21, 2012)

(1) The Mountain Gate at Lingshan Temple on the outskirts of Shantou is a bit odd, in that it's turned sideways. It faces the parking lot to the west, and the next hall faces the reservoir to the south, so you walk through this hall, then take a left inside the grounds.

Getting there was not that fun. After four hours (should have been 1 or 2); two misadventures (the bus driver wrangling with another driver who claimed our driver rolled back on him, and me overshooting my destination by 20 kilometers); lots of underwear ads (Chaoyang seems to be the underwear-manufacturing capital of China); and way too much money (the first 10RMB for the bus, the 12 it took to get back to where I should have gotten off, the 50 for the taxi to take me to the temple instead of the local bus I couldn't find--72RMB, and the return bus was only 18!), I finally reached the temple.

(2) Another oddity: a shrine to the earth god (Tu Di Gong 土地公, also called Fu De Zheng Shen 福德正神) stands right next to the Mountain Gate, on the outside where the locals can always reach it. It's unusual for a Buddhist temple to accommodate such a structure.

(3) The front of the Heavenly Kings' Hall. Loved the color; hated the tile.

(4) More oddness: Instead of the Laughing Buddha, the Heavenly Kings' Hall featured a Guanyin. (I know that sometimes Maitreya is represented in the more classic Bodhisattva form, but this is definitely Guanyin, vase in hand, Amitabha in tiara, and attendants on either side.)

(5) And the oddities continue: the Drum and Bell Towers are attached to the ends of the Heavenly Kings' Hall, and raised, with passages underneath. There's also a hand-pumped well just inside the Bell Tower entrance.

(6) Need I say it? Odd: There's a plastic awning suspended between the Heavenly Kings' Hall and the Buddha Hall. Convenient when it rains, ugly at other times.

(7) Odd: I've never seen al fresco dining right outside the door of the monks' dining hall.

(8) Not so odd: A pretty-but-ordinary statue of Amitabha Buddha inside the hall, with a "cute" Laughing Buddha outside. There was a plaque on the front of the hall saying a Shenzhener had donated something--either the hall, or the statue, not sure which yet.

(9) And this is really odd (and cool): those are pearls around Guanyin's neck! Like nine strands of them. I've never seen her in pearls. Real or not? There is some pearl industry here, but also plastic pearl manufacturers. Hmmm...

(10) This grand old man (see face in inset) is seated at the center of the "Patriarchs' Hall." I don't know who he is yet, but what a face! And, he's flanked by demonic-looking companions.

(11) These guys are in a side room of the Patriarchs' Hall. Should be easy to learn who they are, when I can get someone to read that signboard.

(12) The side-yard of the temple has a fairly lush garden, as Chinese temples go, with several pavilions and halls.

(13) A family at play in front of the Dharma Hall.

(14) The Dharma Hall is pretty imposing.

(15) These Buddhas are carved in a new pagoda in front of the Dharma Hall. It's hard not to compare the workmanship to that on the Song Dynasty pagoda I shot at Kaiyuan Temple in Quanzhou a few days ago.

(16) A charcoal-cutter had just been working next to this bike, cutting some sticks to deliver inside. I shot this before he returned.

(17) I haven't found out who's in the "Tongue Mirror Pagoda" (舌镜塔; intriguing name, isn't it?) But will find out eventually. It's directly behind the Patriarch's Hall, outside of the main compound. I had seen several of the tank-shaped pagodas in northern Fujian in October.

(18) Detail of a painted flower carved on the "Tongue Mirror Pagoda."

(19) This new building at the back of the gardens is also some kind of patriarchs' hall. The sun came out for just a moment--the only time today--and I ran to the front of the hall, hastily asking some kids to hang on before walking into the shot. When they realized what I was doing, and why, they lined up next to me with their phone and cameras! Minutes later, it was dreary again.

(20) I think this cat is facing the wrong way; you're supposed to kneel toward the hall!

(21) So I finish with the temple, and I start the slog back out to the main road to flag down a bus. I get to the south side of the reservoir and walk out on the dam to take this shot. And then I see it: a pagoda above the temple (see it?). DANG! It's only 4pm. What should I do? So yes, I slogged back up, and climbed the hillside, only to be mildly disappointed...

(22) Near the pagoda is this pretty little pavilion with a sign reading "Nine Dragon Spring." And in front of it, a half-moon pond full of stagnant water, with plastic bottles floating in it. Trash all around, including a scattered deck of playing cards. Disappointment #1...

(23) Then I get to the pagoda itself. Cinder block! Looks like it was made yesterday, and on a budget. Disappointment #2.

(24) Again, it may not be fair to compare modern work with that of the past, but come on--look at this. Maybe this one will look better in a few hundred years?

(25) I kept bumping into these kids all day. (I was surprised that almost everyone I saw was under 40, and many under 25; temples are usually crowded with older folk). Anyway, I saw them coming up the pagoda steps and yelled "Hi!" with a camera to my face, and they waved obligingly.

(26) Also seen from the pagoda steps.

(27) Finally headed out toward the main road. This is a stone-cutter's yard, complete with work area, a shack to live in, and a chained-up dog.

(28) And some more industry: the area south of the reservoir is given over to farms. These guys were having a good chat as they tended their crop.


An easy bus out of there and I was back in Shantou in a little over an hour. Getting home is always easier than getting out there! (Well, not always...)

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Last Updated August 11, 2019

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