Snapshot Yangzhou: the bright temple

Of all the temples I visited across China--Daoist, Buddhist, old, new, or a combination of all these--this one was my favorite. I cannot even remember its name, but it was just outside Yangzhou and was surrounded by squared off rice patties. In the farther distance stood the growing cityscape, extending out towards the temple with its threatening cranes on the horizon. We visited the temple on a hot June afternoon, and my camera worked overtime as the countless collection of bright yellow buildings enchanted and inspired me. The meandering buildings were open and breezy, most of them without doors entirely, and they seemed never-ending as we climbed and climbed through their layers.

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I love that the sun has soaked the yellow of the buildings in this picture, making the day seem much darker than it really was, and giving it a bit of the mysterious, magical character that it has in real life. I was also very excited to get this shot without anyone on this staircase or at its landing, because there were actually a ton of visitors and tourists. But you'd never know it here.

Squared off farms surrounded the temple and the city loomed farther off on the horizon. The rich red visible at the right edge in the railings added the exact pop that ketchup adds to mustard-- an amazing combination when done right. These colors were stunning.

One of the things that makes China such a lovely place is its cracks, and also its ability to bashfully apologize for and brazenly display its imperfections--simultaneously. Plenty was published on the nation's effort to clean itself up in preparation for the Beijing Olympics, and more is being said now on Shanghai's world image as it hosts the Shanghai Expo; but really, in this temple, the neglected backside of a building and its collection of multicolored bottles and trash made me like it even more. Not for the egocentric point-and-stare comparisons that may be common of a westerner visiting the Far East, nor for the oh-how-tragic condescension that others might dump on sites like this one. No; just for its juxtaposition, no strings attached. This was something I discovered daily in my time there, and I am certainly not the first or last visitor to appreciate this relationship, this side-by-side existence of development the Chinese way, remnants of the pasts both imperial and communist, and the realistic underbelly of a huge population combined with breathtaking economic growth. I cannot explain this properly, nor do I plan to, because I do not claim to have any brilliant insight into the complexity of China and its people. I can claim a tiny bit of knowledge, and the two months I spent observing this place.

(Photos 2007)