Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wenshu Temple

On Sunday December 20th we visited the Wenshu Temple, the largest and best preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu according to Lonely Planet, it also happens to be walking distance from our apartment. Unfortunately it turned out to be our weekend for misdirection. Once again we set out the wrong way! The problem this time at least made sense: our apartment address is on Ren Min Zhong Lu and we were under the impression so was the building entrance. It turns out the building entrance is on the street perpendicular to Ren Min Zhong Lu so we set of 90 degrees off-course. Luckily we discovered this reasonably rapidly and headed back in the right direction. Soon we started to see the outside walls of the temple!

Inside the temple was a fairly large grounds with nice Buddhist paraphernalia. However we were cold and we've seen a LOT of Buddhist stuff lately so it didn't seem as novel as it might have otherwise. The main building highlight is the narrow pagoda structure somewhat east of the entrance.

Somewhat more interesting are the teahouses and vegetarian restaurant along the side of the temple. The teahouses are *stuffed* with locals playing mahjong and cards. The vegetarian restaurant serves tons of meat dishes made with vegetable substitutes. In fact their menu is so full of this it is almost difficult to order straight-up vegetables. The best things we tried were bamboo shoots and a plate of peppers. Hot peppers. VERY hot peppers in some cases. In an amusing role reversal Pavan couldn't take the heat! Rod ate most of them and then expressed concern over the slowly increasing burning sensation.

After a very nice brunch we started wandering around the temple grounds. Most of it was fairly standard Chinese Buddhist stuff. One neat highlight was a large building from which chants were emanating. We walked over and discovered that as advertised Wenshu is a functioning Buddhist temple; long lines of people were walking in a fairly complex wavy line chanting.

After Wenshu we decided to try to get some supplies for the week. We'd heard a french grocery store carrefour and figured it might be relatively decent so we headed over to it. It was a rathole. Perhaps it was french in as much as it was populated by smokers with attitudes. Their bread selection was slightly better than most Chinese stores but the appeal was diminished dramatically by the numerous people pawing at the un-bagged bread bare-handed. For bonus points carrefour Chengdu also features crowding, general dirtiness, and poor organization. We grabbed a few items and beat it for the exit only to be confronted by shopping carts piled high with raw meat!! A lot of things in China are a little different but somehow lining up behind a dude with two shopping carts packed with raw meat was a particularly alien moment.

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