Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Purple Mountain and the Chinese Lantern Festival

Last Monday was the 15th and final day of the Chinese New Year, also known as the Lantern Festival. On the night of the 15th day Chinese families set floating lanterns on the river in order to guide recently deceased family members back to their homes to bless those who are still living. But more on that later.

Monday morning Kevin, Brendan, Walter, Kleaver and I decided to hike up Purple Mountain again, this time from the opposite direction. Of course we woke up Monday to discover that it was raining, but that wasn't something to derail our plans! Instead we bundled up, packed some snacks, and headed off to the bus station.

We got to the foot of the mountain and climbed up the slippery steps, occasionally stopping for snack/water breaks (and to catch our breath, man those stairs just go on and on!). When we made it to the top, we discovered that the rain had blanketed the mountain in a thick fog, so thick that it was difficult to see a few yards ahead. We lost each other a time or two, but as we were some of the few people on the mountain top that day, found each other again and decided to trek down the un-staired path (which eventually led to another stepped path which led down to the lake, see previous Purple Mountain post). This proved to be difficult. The rain combined with fallen leaves made the terrain a little trecherous, especially for those without proper hiking boots. I'm glad my dad taught me how to trek down a slippery path, looking for rocks firmly embedded in the ground and holding on to tree branches, so that when I slipped I didn't go far and never landed on my butt ;)

We made it to the stairs (which were almost as slippery as the ground), and found our way down and off the mountain. After visiting a few of the sites around the mountain we headed home to rest a bit and get ready to go to the Confucian temple for the festival later that night.

At 6:30 Kevin, Brendan, Brandon (who had just gotten back from Taiwan), Walter, Kleaver, Jason, Edan (who had just gotten in from UO) and I all met up at the subway station to make our way to the festival. The festival gets several thousand visitors a year and because of that the subway station closest to the temple is closed from 6:20 through the night (smart move, China). So we made our way one stop from the temple, just flowing along with the stream of Chinese people headed in the same direction we were. It's amazing how you don't really realize how large Nanjing is (I think the last count was around 5 million) until the holidays arrive. Before it was the fireworks, now it's just the massive amounts of people.

The cops certainly were ready. 2 blocks to the temple the roads were blocked off, there was at least one SWAT truck in addition to numerous fire trucks, and there were teams (one policeman, one army man, and one fireman) of guys on almost every corner. And it certainly was a good thing that they were all there. SO MANY PEOPLE WERE AT THIS THING! We went with the crowd and didn't realize how much of a flow everything had to it until were were crossing the bridge and dumped outside the temple again! All streets inside the temple were one-way, and we didn't really want to try the ride again (there were a handful of us, and we didn't want to get lost).

So after admiring the lights, people, and hawkers (it kind of seemed like Halloween, with costumes and masks) we decided to get some bubble tea and head home. Fireworks were going off and children were running around, and while we didn't actually see any floating lanterns (you had to pay 40 rmb to get into the temple itself) it was a neat night.

The train back home was almost empty, as most everyone was heading to the festival rather than away from it. Good end to a good festival.

Happy Spring Festival!

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