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  • Writer's pictureJohnny

Arriving at Er Zu Temple

Narrow Mountain Road

The trip from Shanghai to Anhui felt like it took forever. Waking up at five in the morning to get a taxi to the train station. I groggily waded through the crowds of people wanting to board their trains. An hour I waited until the gates opened for my train, to which people flooded the entryway. Not wanting to miss their ride.


Cab 15. Seat 8F. That would be my home for the next five hours. As the train lurched forward, my eyes became heavy. Sleep overcame me. The next hours flew by. Interrupted only a few times by the announcements. I'd open my eyes and look around. A woman next to me. An empty seat. An old man. Again, an empty seat. Who knows how many people got on and off the train as I slept the hours away. Catching glimpses of the outside turning from tall never ending skyscrapers to lush rural farmland.


Eventually, An Qing was called. My stop. Stomach empty and mouth filling with a vile taste, I emerged from the train to a new land. I had never been to Anhui, but my first impression was, it was chilly. Lugging two bags, I followed the foreign exit signs leading out of the train station into the world.


I messaged my supposed contact. A taxi driver who would lead me to the temple. I was told to wait in front of a restaurant and that he'd be there in an hour. So, I went out into the streets. My eyes quickly picked up the bold white characters on dark green background making up the restaurant's sign. So I waited. Refusing other taxi drivers and watching as little kids snuck glances at me. My face needed a shave and I needed a shower. The hour went by as fast as an hour usually goes. Seeing the big white van with a taxi logo stamped to the side, me and a few other Chinese locals hopped aboard.


I sat in the very back, not knowing when I'd be getting off. In front of me was a young student and sitting behind the driver was a chubby man fast asleep. As the taxi went off, we quickly went on to the highway, zipping this way and that. Passing schools, stores, apartments and factories. Eventually, we took an exit which led us onto a narrow mountain road.


Winding this way and that. Going in and out of cave tunnels. Through mountainside villages and forests. The taxi kept on driving. The lull of the car put the other passengers to sleep. I was soon to follow. Jolting to a stop, I was woken up by the clammer of Chinese. An hour had gone by and it was the young student's stop. Watching closely, it still wasn't my time to get off. So as the taxi started back up, I soon fell asleep. This same pattern followed with the other passenger, who had been sleeping since the beginning. Two hours into the ride and it still wasn't my turn to get off. Had the taxi driver forgotten me?


My worries were put aside as almost an hour later, we pulled up the winding road to my destination. Er Zu Temple.


Er Zu Temple, Mountains of Anhui, China.

Magnificent Temple

Getting out of the taxi, the driver gave me a thumbs up and drove off. Soon, I was led to my room by the temple's translator, Cindy. I was told that the students were currently training and if I wanted to join them. Of course I did. That is what I came all this way for. A quick change of clothes and a signature later, I was guided to the outside training grounds where the students were training.


It was just like the movies. Entering a courtyard in the middle of a building, the students trained in their monk garb. Canes were being swung, staves were being spun, and fists were striking the air. A quick introduction was done between "Master Zhang" and I, then I was instructed to train on my own. Watch other students. And just "warm up".


As I began to review some old forms, the master came over to correct me on a few things.

"练用心,用无心"

The feeling of training under someone with so much experience was... relieving. It felt like all those months working odd jobs had paid off, even if it was for just a short amount of time. As I took in "Master Zhang's" advice, and tried to put it into practice... the time went by quickly. Soon, class was over and it was time to do some boring paperwork.


Walking around, the scenery and architecture of the temple felt like it was plucked straight from my dreams. Trees of various shapes and sizes dotted the land. Rocks and Buddhas lay hidden among the grass. No matter where you looked, the mountains were always in the background. Their peaks jutting into the clouds. Its was... it was a magnificent temple. A temple that brought back memories of all the magnificent places I've been.


Standing atop mountains of Big Buddha in Phuket and Hong Kong. To smelling the caramel trees of California atop a snow peaked mountain. Looking over the Dead Horse Desert from a large collection of boulders. The ancient Buddha cave of Chiang Mai. Each with their own uniqueness.


The simple fact that this place brought out these memories made me know I had come to the right place.


📿Johnny



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