Adventures in China (Part 4)


By Julianne Keskey

This is Part 4 in a 4 Part series. For Part 1, click here, for Part 2 click here and Part 3 click here.

women performers dress in vibrant red costumes at a park in zhengzhou china

Our day’s first stop was a park in Zheng-Zhou. These women were dressed up for a performance.

visitors fold gold fortune papers at a park in zhengzhou china

After walking around and exploring on our own I met a group of people folding pieces of shiny gold paper. We learned these were wishing papers, to be burned in a giant kiln, fulfilling the hopes and dreams of those who folded them.

visitors burn fortune papers in a kiln at a park in zhengzhou

I walked around for hours with my hair full of ashes. I couldn’t just brush them away, as they were there for luck. As we headed back to our bus I spotted a distant plot of unusually vibrant, flowering trees. Upon further inspection I noticed that these were fabric. This is a common practice at various historic places here. I love the idea of preserving history in as natural a state as possible. In China, they are not concerned with keeping the original façade intact but instead, holding onto the memory of its beauty.

fabric flowers adorn a group of trees at a park in zhengzhou

My excitement for the day began to build as soon as we left the park in Zhengzhou. For the rest of the afternoon and evening we would spend our time exploring the Shaolin Temple- home to kung-fu!

towering pagodas on a rainy day at the shaolin temple in china

Upon arrival we were piled into little commuter vehicles that would take us into the monastery. Walking was an option but, due to the rain (again), we all opted to save our feet. The start of the tour brought us to the Pagoda Forest. Each hand-built statue (some dating back to 791 AD) serves as a resting place for the monks that lived their life on the Shaolin Temple. The foggy skies were the perfect atmosphere for the occasion.

tourists buzz around the shaolin temple in china

The Shaolin Temple attracts many tourists. I dreamed of people-less photo-ops, but alas, this was my best shot. While prepping for my trip I looked forward to seeing this “original” landmark. Sadly, I learned that it was  a replica.

lotus tiles bring luck to whoever walks over seven at the shaolin temple in china

Once inside, I was pleasantly surprised to see that not everything was a reproduction. A pathway of these lotus stones lead up to another building. Good luck is promised to those who step on seven of them in a row. I made sure not to skip a beat.

a tree is scarred with holes from years of kung fu practice at the shaolin temple in china

This tree was one of my favorite sites at the temple. It was filled with pock marks from years of kung-fu practice- something you can’t reproduce!

a monk lights a lotus candle at the shaolin temple in china

brightly painted pagoda and red hanging lantern at the shaolin temple in china

incense are planted for past present and future wishes at the shaolin temple in china

Here I am, placing three incense sticks into the sand for my past, present and future.

enchanting light and musical performance at the shaolin temple in china

At the end of the day we were treated to a performance with grand light and sound. Sitting down for a two-hour show after the exhausting week  seemed almost painful but was so worth it! We were even able to rent huge, puffy winter coats stay warm on the benches.

After the performance we boarded the bus and headed back to Luoyang for our last night together in China. I had booked an extra day on my own but saying goodbye to everyone was bittersweet, I had made a small group of friends that helped to guide me through an experience that I was very new to and intimidated by. I’ll hold the experience close to my heart for the rest of my life.

view from a public transportation bus in xi'an china

I spent my last day in China alone without a guide of any kind. My goal for the day was to make it to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Army. That morning I woke up with a fever but was determined to not miss a beat that day. I made it – after a taxi ride, a high-speed train, figuring out the local bus system even though I couldn’t speak or read Mandarin, finding a bank that I could use the ATM to get more cash, getting back on a different bus, transferring to another bus at a different station and walking a few miles in between. It was, and still is, a top contender for the most empowering experiences I’ve ever had.

Once I arrived I hired a local guide to stay on schedule. I wanted to get through the whole thing in less than two hours. She thought I was a little crazy but she shoved her way through the crowd of people and filled me in on everything I needed to know.

rows of restored soldiers at the terracotta army pits in xi'an china

"soldier hospital" where statues are put back together at the terracotta army pits in xi'an china

terracotta soldiers being repaired at the terracotta army pits in xi'an china

Ever since I learned about the Terracotta Warriors in 7th Grade, I thought they were your average doll size. I was completely wrong… they are LIFE SIZE! All of the photographs I’d ever seen didn’t show these statues’ full scale. It was truly a remarkable site and a must-see if you are ever in Central China.

restored and regal terracotta warrior at the terracotta army pits in xi'an china

I decided to spend the last of the money I had to take a taxi back to the train station; I just couldn’t deal with the buses again. Once back at the hotel, I treated myself to a bubble bath and room service for dinner. It was the best way to unwind and spend my last evening.

a bubbling jaccuzi tub with room service dinner in luoyang china

My experience in China was empowering, magical, informative, eye-opening and just all-around wonderful. I saw things I never could have imagined. I tasted wonderful, delicious things plus other things that I wouldn’t care to taste again. If you ever have the opportunity to visit China, take it! Its people are hospitable and happy to show you the best there is to offer of the culture, heritage and centuries of rich, dynamic history.