Cultural riviera

Updated: 2015-11-09 08:01

By Erik Nilsson(China Daily)

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Cultural riviera

Zhanqiao Pier, built in 1891, is among the major attractions in coastal Qingdao.[Liu Yonglai/Zhang Yan/Bo Keguo/China Daily]

The city has grown as a sailing hub since its designation as the 2008 Olympics maritime-sports venue, but it also draws visitors with its history, and colonial-era architecture. Erik Nilsson reports in Qingdao.

The ancient Taoist leapt through the wall.

He could-because he was sinless.

He was pure of heart during his studies at Taiqinggong (Supreme Purity) temple.

But when he tried the trick again upon returning to his hometown, this time to rob a rich neighbor-splat!

Thus, people today stand before the temple wall in Qingdao city's Laoshan Mountains-where the follower made his leap of faith-as a reminder that few, if any, of us are pure enough to pass through it.

(Nobody since has.)

Let's face it. Even if we believed in metaphysics, we wouldn't dare.

The wall becomes a mirror reflecting our consciences.

The temple founded in 140 BC by Zhang Lianfu, an official who renounced his title to devote himself to piety, peaked in the 10th century. It continues to occupy a prominent place among the pantheon of Taoist sites.

Legend has it that Buddhists and Taoists hoped to set up camp in Laoshan because of its feng shui. (Pine-crested mountains flank three sides, sealing out cold, dry northern winds, while the ocean laps the east.)

Their respective leaders debated. The Taoist won.

The Buddhists headed for other hills.

Taiqinggong's early legacy lives on-literally, as many of the trees planted in the temple's formative days continue to grow.

And they jut skyward as main attractions.

One served as the inspiration for the fairy trapped in a tree in author Pu Songling's (1640-1715) story about his star-crossed love with a human.

Pu lived in the temple for two years.

Visitors also "pet" the 1,200-year-old Dragon Head Tree-anthropomorphically named after its shape-for good luck.

Another tree, twice as old, is actually three species that have twisted together over two millennia. (Three represents eternity in Taoist thought.)

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