A few days after my arrival in Shijiazhuang, once Andy and I had finished taking care of the basic necessities for me to function in China, we called up his private driver for a quick trip out to Zhengding, nicknamed the town of nine towers, four pagods, eight great temples, and 24 golden archways.
My first real day of Chinese tourism.
Zhengding just happened to be the town where my mom went to study Chinese medicine before visiting me in Japan in 2005 (discussed here). Andy was blown away at the coincidence. I guess Zhengding isn’t the most foreigner-frequented place in the world.
I dusted off my D40 and the afternoon was soon underway. Regrettably, numerous other commitments have been causing my once-hobby of photography to fade behind many others – so an afternoon of shooting with a buddy turned out to be very, very refreshing.
…Although I do have to admit, I hardly felt like even an amateur photographer next to Andy’s massive EOS 5D, complete with pro-grade lenses, multiple flashes, and pile of extra batteries 😛
Since we arrived relatively late in the day there was only time for two of the town’s temple complexes, but the second was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe that despite all of its magnificent displays, and particularly considering their scale, it wasn’t more well-known.
But again – China is a vast, vast country.
Sadly, no photography was allowed inside any of the most impressive halls – the Pavilion of Great Mercy, housing a bronze colossus of Guanyin; the unusual two-faced Buddha from the Ming dynasty; the remarkable revolving octagonal wooden bookcase; and the 3-story tall multi-armed Bodhisattva. But take my word for it – this complex was as incredible as I’ve seen anywhere in Japan…And I’d never even heard its name.
Just as we were feeling ready to wrap up the day, the temple offered one more very unusual surprise. In the back, behind one of the prayer halls, stood a row of targets and a pile of crossbows. Okay, seems like a strange thing to find in a temple.
But that wasn’t the strangest part.
Beyond the last target paced a single chicken, its leg tied to a post. Andy knew immediately what it was for. I didn’t even think of it. Apparently I haven’t been in China long enough.
“If you manage to kill the chicken,” the woman told us, “It becomes yours. You take it home for dinner. $1 per shot.”
Neither of us had the guts to give it a try.