Leap into Qingdao's historic beauty

Leap into Qingdao's historic beauty
LIVING LEGACY: A Taoist follower practises martial arts at Taiqinggong temple, which was founded in 140BC.
PHOTO: China Daily/ANN

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 neighbour - 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 has and 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 140BC 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, 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, with the number three represents eternity in Taoist thought.

A different living legacy of Taiqinggong's first pilgrims is that the temple still functions as a religious establishment. Monks' chants reverberate through the forests.

Near the temple, visitors can eat farm-fresh meals, seated on ancient kang beds in stone village houses on Laoshan, while gazing at the sparkling sea.

Another shoreline rock structure is the Old Stone Man, a formation named for its shape and its folklore.

The fable says that the Dragon King abducted a farm girl as his concubine. Her father was so distressed that he sat gazing at the whitecaps, awaiting her return, until he fossilised. His daughter was so distraught that she committed suicide.

Incidentally, Tiananmen's Monument to the People's Heroes is sculpted from Laoshan rock.

While Laoshan is the most famous mountain fringing Qingdao, downtown's Xiaoyu (Small Fish) Mount offers the most panoramic view of the city.

The 18m-high tower atop the hill offers vistas of red roofs, green trees and blue skies and seas.

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