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January 21, 2017
Quest For Harmony On The Pearl River Delta (Images, VIDEO)
Whether or not we identify it, all of us seek a steadiness between the transferring elements of our lives. We attempt for agreement between our physical and spiritual worlds. But, too typically we find ourselves incapable of summoning this state of being. Why
There is a place whose folks have been on a never-ending quest to realize a concord between life’s jagged puzzle pieces. And a few believe they’ve found its secrets and techniques.
Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong: three pearls in a single exquisite setting. Each distinct, yet bound collectively by a cultural veneration of harmony. Just as a wick wants a flame, some of us cannot dwell with out exploring our existence, and that i inevitably find myself turning to the East and the knowledge of the Ancients in quest of the roots of the human need for harmony.
Harmony implies balance and the power to combine different elements into a pleasing unity. It incorporates the Chinese idea of Yin and Yang, reverse forces that come together to kind a whole.
Chinese philosophers and religious leaders have lengthy honored harmony as an ideal. Confucius, the good Chinese thinker, spoke of “harmony without uniformity.” He taught that the world is filled with variations and contradictions, however that righteous people should try to steadiness them to attain a significant equilibrium.
Taoists imagine that by following practices that achieve steadiness in daily life, they acquire harmony with the universe. And the Buddha said that for the enlightened one, harmony is his joy, his delight and his love.
Leap to my video dispatch from the Pearl River Delta
In Hong Kong the rounded shoulders of tradition discover poise and meaning with the new and trendy. In Macau western sensibilities integrate with japanese aesthetics. And in Guangdong, many are rediscovering historic attitudes about integrating human workings with the pure world.
All three are inextricably linked as star players on China’s historic trade routes. Scoring the jap edge of the Pearl River Delta is Hong Kong. At its most genuine, Hong Kong tasks a vibrant duality, an ambition of opposites in concert, the particular substances of harmony. Right here, views of steel and glass pointing to the future relaxation towards low stone temples coiling with the incense of deeply rooted traditions.
Hong Kong’s fortunes are due in no small part to the deep, protected waters of its harbor. And no historical ship surpassed in measurement and technological prowess the Chinese “junk.” For almost two millennia, these ships harnessed the power of the wind to sail as far away as Japan and India.
Immediately, Hong Kong has emerged as one of the world’s busiest ports. Mixing water craft of all sizes and styles, the scene stirs a peculiar pot of harmony: the triumph of kinetic power over chaos.
No question the streets of Hong Kong are energizing. But instinctively we all know for our nicely-being we should each interact and withdraw.
And when the energy of downtown reaches a pitch, people retreat to the quiet and solitude of Hong Kong’s outlying islands.
On Lamma Island, the lines of tension soften. Lamma in Chinese means “the southern tree branch,” and it reaches like the limbs of a sapling into a mural of blue waves. There is a Chinese language idea often called “Double Happiness” that celebrates the symmetry and steadiness of love. And on Lamma, where no cars are allowed, the straightforward act of riding on two pedals or walking on two toes, seems to convey double the relaxation, twice the joy.
In relation to food, Hong Kong’s culinary choices are like Chinese language opera — rich, colorful, and hypnotic. Cantonese cuisine prizes freshness above all, and “wet markets” spill all through the town, unruly, individual, swelling with slithering, flopping, gyrating flavors. With hundreds and thousands of eateries, life in Hong Kong appears merely the interlude between meals.
A temple of a different sort might be reached by a glass-bottomed cable car that flies over Lantau, the biggest of Hong Kong’s 200 islands. It is the positioning of the Po Lin Monastery. Here, amid the plumes of incense, you can virtually inhale the spirituality. Buddhism was introduced into China from India almost 2,000 years in the past. And the Chinese language then mingled conventional beliefs, with Buddhist ideas of peace and mens stone island clearance acceptance.
The Po Lin temple is a place of meditation, a chance to acknowledge limitations and search enlightenment. Mysteries that perplex understanding seem to collect here: concepts about suffering and compassion, mindfulness and eternity.
Towering total, the large Buddha sits in blaring quietude. To stand in his shadow is to surrender the din of life’s chatter to moments of awe and silence.
Though a mere 40 miles from Hong Kong by ferry, Macau appears half a world away.
Some say it’s difficult to be two issues directly: playful and critical, homespun and refined, cosmopolitan and relaxed, sturdy and exquisitely wrought. Macau begs to differ.
Like Hong Kong, Macau is a Particular Administrative Area inside China, giving it a excessive degree of autonomy. But its history takes a special twist. Lengthy before Hong Kong was born, fisherman and farmers found this spot on the mouth of the Pearl River a strategic fix to set up store. And whereas Hong Kong’s commerce historical past was certain up with England’s, Macau’s has links that stretch to southern Europe, with the mercantile explorers of Portugal.
For centuries, Macau was a strategic stopping level for Silk Highway traders, who hauled goods from close by Guangdong province onto ships certain for eager consumers in the West.
Within the 16th century, Portuguese brokers bought the go-ahead from mandarins in Guangdong to take management of this delta gateway. Those Westerners ferried shiploads of their tradition right here, a lot of which survives as we speak. Mediterranean sensibilities blended effortlessly with the native Chinese language tradition, dignifying a sort of harmony that became not solely agreeable, but irresistible.
A few miles from the historic heart, the A-Ma Temple is one among the town’s oldest shrines, and it draws worshippers from all the foremost Chinese language religions. Like so much of the structure right here, this temple has a duality of function: It’s both a beacon to sailors and a warning to evil spirits.
The temple honors A-Ma, the seafarers’ goddess, and is the inspiration for the name Macau.
Legend tells that a poor lady was in search of passage to the higher Pearl River Delta, however not one of the wealthy boatmen would help her. When a lowly fisherman lastly provided her a ride, a huge storm swept in, sinking all of the boats besides the one holding the lady. When she landed in Macau, she vanished, solely to reappear here, in the form of the goddess A-Ma.
With the perception of historical past, we are able to distinguish the strands that came collectively to type this city, yet who may have predicted the weavings, the wealthy tapestries of its fortunes immediately
A drive across the Macau-Taipa Bridge transports to the islands of Taipa and Coloane, cradling concrete and crystal that herald the long run, in addition to hand-hewn villages that summon the previous.
The drowsy village of Coloane, once a haven for pirates, echoes with tokens of its maritime legacy. On the waterfront, rows of dried fish hang in anticipation of passing buyers. The baroque church of St. Francis Xaviar still waits patiently for its missionary namesake, who died of fever on his means here.
Ok, this is a private advice of harmonic taste: the Portuguese egg tarts in Lord Stow’s Bakery. Lord Stowe, a Brit dwelling in Macau, was not a lord, however his clients known as him that for the noble tarts he invented, an authentic variation of these served in dim sum eating places and European bakeries. His model is, I must say, even more decadent than those, with its wickedly rich custard filling in buttery pastry shells. First concocted in 1989, Lord Stow’s Bakeries now promote about 3,000 egg tarts a day.
The individuals of Macau have at all times looked beyond for his or her livelihood: first to the sea, and immediately to visitors who flock here for the resorts, shows, gaming homes, eateries and historical past.
Like its inspiration, Las Vegas, the Cotai strip is a dazzling parade of casinos and excessive-end inns, built on reclaimed land, a mirage wavering right into a fashionable oasis.
A simulation celebration of the splendor of Outdated Europe, the Venetian Macau is huge enough to hold ninety Boeing 747s. With three,000 rooms, greater than 30 restaurants and a million square toes of outlets, this is where easterners and westerners alike come to wine and dine, keep and play. Operating by means of the guts of the lodge is a recreation of Venice’s Grand Canal, where gondoliers serenade passengers previous the Italianate facades. Giant-scale replicas of famed Venice landmarks, such because the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Square, float seductively by. It is the old riff come true: If you wish to see how lovely my child, you have to see her picture.
Spread along the southernmost tip of the mainland and rimmed by greater than two thousand miles of coastline, Guangdong Province has long served because the threshold to northern China and its window to the outside world.
As an important stretch of the historic Silk Road, this was once a primary path for international merchants venturing to commerce with China. Simply as in centuries previous, when goods flowed by means of this province feeding the port cities of Macau and Hong Kong, Guangdong’s role as a nerve middle of commerce continues right this moment. The capital metropolis Guangzhou, once recognized to westerners as “Canton,” is the third largest metropolis in China and reigns over Pearl River commerce. It’s also a springboard to some of essentially the most stunning pure surroundings in China.
A number of hours north of Guangzhou, near town of Shaoguan, lie the nuanced curves of Nan Hua Temple and the extreme landscapes of Danxia Mountain Park.
Nan Hua Temple was built in honor of a monk named Hui Neng, the founding father of the southern sect of Zen Buddhism in China and a revered figure in Chinese history. As a poor illiterate peasant boy, Hui Neng achieved enlightenment when he heard a man reciting a line from Hindu scripture. The road he heard was, “Relying upon nothing, you must discover your individual thoughts.”
Chinese Buddhist temples are different from these in India, Japan or different Buddhist countries. They’re generally modeled after the Chinese language imperial palaces, with a entrance hall, great corridor and back corridor, every holding totally different representations of the Buddha — and all built-in with one another and with the natural surroundings.
The belly of the earth has bulged, wrenched and kinked in Danxia Mountain Park. There are spirits clad in emerald forest and crimson stone. A part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the nearly 70,000 acres of the park are nature’s nice sculpture garden. This otherworldly landscape, wanting more just like the contours of the moon than an earthbound park, is enveloped by a warm, humid climate, which helps conserve great stretches of sub-tropical forest. Within this sanctuary greater than four hundred uncommon or threatened plant and animal species thrive in evergreen safety.
A scattering of websites fan out round Shaoguan, virtually unknown to westerners, however deeply rewarding to those who search them out. There’s historic Zhuji Lane to the northeast, and the Historical Buddha Rock to the northwest.
A thousand years ago, Historical Zhuji Lane grew to become affluent as a consequence of its prime location on a trading route between China’s central plains and the south. No footstep ever fell in the fallacious place right here. The cobblestone highway is lined with ancestral halls, relic properties and historical temples. Based on folklore, the Zhang Chang household lived collectively here for seven generations and received a particular award from the Tang Emperor for showing such great respect for household.
Big numbers of Chinese who emigrated overseas came from southern China. And because so a lot of their descendants hint their roots to Zhuji Lane, it is turn into recognized because the “hometown of the Cantonese.”
The marvels of the physical and spiritual worlds merge in the Historical Buddha Rock and within the cave system that sprawls under. I was a passionate caver when young, probing the limestone recesses of America’s Japanese Seaboard, however I am unprepared for depth of awe this huge grotto evokes. It was formed over a whole bunch of tens of millions of years, increasing into a collection of linking rooms and corridors that stretch for thirteen,000 sq. feet. Whereas above the summer heat swelters near one hundred degrees Fahrenheit, here the year-round temperature hangs at a cushty 67 levels. Limestone caves are formed by pure acid in rain that seeps by way of the bottom. The acidic water reacts chemically with limestone bedrock, step by step resulting in this wonderwork of flowing stone: nature’s personal house of quiet veneration.
Many in search of enlightenment via compassion journey to the Buddhist temple carved within the cavern rim. It is devoted to Guanyin or the “Goddess of Mercy.”
The Goddess’ full title translates to: “Observing the Cries of the World.” Her followers believe that she quells suffering and brings harmony and peace to all in her gaze. Some Buddhists consider when they die, Guanyin locations them in the heart of a lotus flower and sends them off to the “Land of Bliss.”
Sheer sandstone partitions claw to the clouds from Guangdong’s Grand Canyon. At nearly a thousand toes deep and 9 miles long, that is for me a gaping call to journey. The canyon’s diadem of glory is the Chengtou Waterfall, which fonts from a high ravine like an unleashed dragon.
This implies quite a bit to me. For seven seasons I was a information by way of America’s Grand Canyon, and now any place that shares that name, calls mine. It’s a present to be able to hunt a friendship between perception and place, a soothing of the tensions between the curves and straight traces of our lives.
Greater than 1,300 stone steps, educated out of the savagery of the craggy cliffs, form a stairway for these keen to check their mortal might and descend into the darkish canyon depths. How can I resist This appears a natural place to replicate on life’s grand questions, as Taoists do, by inner meditation and outer statement.
“Above all, prize harmony,” taught Confucius. And Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong supply tantalizing clues to the knowledge of the ancients and sign posts away from confusion. Whether or not it is the aesthetic magnificence reflected in art, the easy rhythms of every day life or the equilibrium found in nature, it’s the power to search out balance that makes life full.
Whether or not consciously or not, all of us long for a harmony that will quietly return us to ourselves.
In accordance with the Tao Te Ching: “The sage wouldn’t management the world; he’s in harmony with the world.”
Watch the brand new PBS particular, “Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Function: The Pearl River Delta-Quest for Harmony” airing now nationally. Test native listings.