Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Pass at Caradras, Part Three

The last portion of our Taiyuan Temple excursion is the Tian Bo, the Heavenly Dragon Mountain. It is decidedly heavenly; it takes nearly a half hour to climb in a van, on a narrow two-lane road. At one point we pass a massive compound and ask what it is. “A cemetery,” Niu Yun replies. That’s right: in China, you cannot be buried on the ground, but you can be buried on the side of a mountain. It’s like being taken straight to heaven!

When we arrive at the top, we are surrounded by junk. Junky restaurants, junky stores filled with, well, junk. There is no sage at the top of the mountain, only capitalists. I am disappointed; even I enjoy places where the market does not exist, even if I am impressed by its invasiveness.

There is a temple. We enter. It is calm, serene. There is no market here; it ends at the door. A division between the sacred and the secular. I look out to the proprietors of the junky little shops. They do an extraordinary job, to run junk shops at the edge of civilization.* I bow nine times to Guan Yin and return to the world.

* The edge of civilization is still in civilization. Dave sees two cell phone towers at the top of the mountain.

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