Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kunming, China

The capital of Yunnan province is Kunming (say "kwin-ming").  Lucky Airlines flew us safely to the 4th largest airport in China.  The Flying Tigers in WWII actually landed in Kunming bringing supplies to aid the allied forces.  Kunming is a 'melting pot' of China where all 56 ethnic minorities are represented in its population.  The province of Yunnan has about 36 million people.  When we arrived, we went to a Muslim restaurant for lunch, but it was in a miserable part of town that was dirty and unattractive.  The food was okay, though, and they made a little bread roll that was unique and tasty.  We went to visit the Golden Temple, a Daoist temple built in 1671 AD from 250 tons of copper!  It is the largest copper temple in China, though very small compared to other temples, and it no longer has its golden color.
  The temple was commissioned by Wu San Gui, a worthy Chinese generalissimo.  His huge sword and spear were on display as well.  He was strong!
A good-looking man, Wu San Gui.

His concubine was said to be so beautiful that she would rival Helen of Troy.  Here she is.
The concubine is the statue in the pond--ha, ha!
Inside the temple, things look more golden.

3D dragon in the roof

Outside, the smell of incense fills the air and there are beautiful gates, sculpture and gardens around the temple.


So cute!

There are many replicas of bronze sculptures from all over China on display here.

The lions or dragons who stand sentinels in front of Chinese buildings to protect them from evil and bring luck and prosperity are male and female.  The male is on the right with a round ball under his paw representing the union of heaven and earth.  The female has a cub under her paw, usually upside down in a playful position.  She guards the cub just as she guards the building she's in front of.  I really liked this statue because the cub is not underneath her paw!  I think the other pose doesn't look as playful.  This is the only time I've seen one this way.

Also nearby was a 40-ton bronze bell in a large tower that dates from 1416AD and is the 4th largest in China.  Wish I could have rung it!  Maybe you would have heard it!!

Bell tower
 It's always part of the experience to do some "people watching".
Grandma and Granddaughter

Grandpa and Grandson playing cards
We drove through the crowded streets to another temple in the center of town.  The guide told us that 900 new cars PER DAY are registered in Kunming!  Before now, it was too difficult for people to own a car, but things are changing.  

Yuantong Temple is atypical because it is not on a mountaintop, and when going through the different halls, you go downhill instead of climbing up.  There were many beggars, mostly crippled, waiting for us out front.  Wish I could help them all.  Although small compared to what we've see elsewhere, Yuantong Temple is the largest Buddhist complex in Kunming and it is over 1000 years old.  There is a lot of renovation going on, but it has a much more intimate feel to it than most we've visited.  It is called a "Museum of Buddhism" because all the different factions of Buddhism are represented here.

This Buddha is holding his sword up in a defensive position.  That tells all traveling monks that this is not a place where they are welcome to eat and take lodging.  I guess because it was in a major population location, it overwhelmed them to have visitors.  I thought it was interesting that the statute gives that message.
There's a "moat" around this temple, but it's dry for renovations.

Wooden-carved dragons--sweet!

My offering of incense

Pretty stone bas relief

Another unusual thing about this temple complex was the animals we saw.  There was a flop-eared rabbit, a couple of cats, turtles, white doves, and of course, gold fish in the ponds.
The turtles are on a rock in the pond, with goldfish swimming around them.

My grandson, Luke, wants this bunny!
We went to a beautiful restaurant for our mushroom hot pot dinner.  It was actually pretty good.  The waiter comes to your table and prepares and serves it all.  At least it was different!

These are mushroom, but they also added chicken and other vegees.

In the lobby was this beautiful furniture, and a golden "yuan bao", the ancient Chinese coin.  Everyone's getting ready for Spring Festival.

The most entertainment we got all day was when the bus took us to our downtown hotel.  It was on the narrow intersection of a crowded street, and the bus just stopped kitty-corner in the middle of the intersection and we got off and unloaded our luggage from the bottom while the drivers all had to wait.  We had 42 people on our bus!  It was an "only in China" moment!
There's a driver in that white car, just waiting......

That's our hotel, The New Era Hotel, on the corner.

There was a beautiful stained glass window in our hotel lobby.  

Next stop:  Hanoi, Vietnam

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