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Current and historical attempts to chronicle my life and thoughts
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Saturday, July 15, 2006

July 15: Arrival and Introductions

My "Biggest Fan" and meeting the monks

In the morning we had a nice breakfast, and I met the owner of the hotel--a friend from Mr. Wu's hometown. This was to be a theme: "He is from our hometown," Diego said again and again throughout the trip. Indeed, Mr. Wu's devotion to his hometown runs deep: The town's name is Shouning, and the character for "Shou" in that name is the same as the last character of Mr. Wu's name, Wu Xian Shou. (He also has a hometown friend named Chen Shou, also using the same character.)

After a couple of hours on country roads, some of them quite rough, we reached Hua Yan Temple, 820 meters (almost 2700 feet) up Zhiti Mountain (which is itself over 1200 meters, I'm told--over 3900 feet.) I will say more about the mountain and its name when the Temple Guy pages are finished.

With "my biggest fan" at my birthday
party (Photo by Diego)

A funny thing happened on the way into the temple: We were in a procession towards our rooms, carrying bags, accompanied by monks and lay people, when we passed a group of kids. One of them thrust a package of crackers out to me, and gave me a big grin. To this day, I don't know his name, because thereafter Diego and I only referred to him as "My biggest fan." Apparently what Diego describes as "a naughty boy," he glued himself to my side for a few days. Quite a character.

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We had lunch with Venerable Hui Jing, the temple administrator, and several young monks with whom I became friends over the next few days. (All meals, of course, were strictly vegetarian, with not even dairy in sight. Dining was usually Chinese style, with a "lazy Susan" bearing dishes, and a bowl of rice or rice gruel. The monks, including Venerable Hui Jing, often served me; it was embarrassing!) After lunch, Venerable Hui Jing took us on a tour of the temple (in slightly rainy weather) and after exploring more on my own I later joined the monks, Mr. Wu, and Diego for tea, and again later for dinner. After dinner was a Dharma service that involved both chanting of the name "Amitofo" (Amitabha Buddha) and some sitting Chan (Zen).

This became my routine. It consisted of: taking pictures; participating in (or, usually, listening from the outside to) ceremonies; tea with the monks, where many of the conversations that generated these entries to the Journal took place; meals; playing with the kids who were attending the summer camp; and plenty of naps. In the remaining posts, I will leave out most of these details, adding only the highlights.

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