In May, our Chief Instructor, Master Han Jin Song, led his 23rd Tai Chi Australia Tour to China. It was another unique China experience and enthusiastically enjoyed by all tour members.
There were many highlights. Among them was a visit to the 800+ years old ancient city of Dayan; the unique 200 million years old “fairyland” geological region of The Stone Forest, where masses of giant limestone rock needles thrust themselves into the sky; the Dongba Museum of Naxi Culture, which protects the ancient language and writing of the world’s only remaining hieroglyphic writing system; and the ‘roof of the world’ Tibet.
All tour members returned home tired but more knowledgeable and totally satisfied with the experience.
The Roof of the World
Snow-capped mountains. Crystal lakes. Hot springs. Grassy steppes.
Monasteries. Monks with I-phones. Monks without I-phones.
Gold Buddhas. Immense riches,
Candle lit shrines.
Pilgrims and prostrations.
Yaks. Yaks. And more yaks. Yak butter. Yak meat.
Steps. Steps. Steep steps.
Subsistence farming. Contented faces. Prayer wheels spinning.
Stupas. Prayer flags flapping. Painted rock shrines.
Market stalls. Hawkers. Scarves, thangkas and statues.
Local foods. Tea. Beer. Barley Wine
Tai chi in the parks. Tai chi in the courtyard.
Song. Dance. Traditional Costumes.
Foot Massage. Body Massage.
Firm hotel beds. Early starts. Lengthy bus rides.
And much, much more…
Our trip was an awe inspiring journey. Each day we had new experiences. We hope this condensed version will provide a snapshot of picturesque South West China and spiritual Tibet.
We started in South West China. Our first stop was Kunming and the Western Hill Forest Park. The Inuli walk and 300 steps led us up to the Dragon Gate to touch the Dragon Pearl, which brings good fortune. We continued to the Stone Forest, an eerie place where limestone two million years old has been pushed up from what was once the ocean floor.
An overnight train took us to Dali. After a stroll through the old town, we visited the Three Pagodas Temple. Built in the Ming dynasty, its beautiful gardens and pool reflecting the Three Pagodas provided great photo opportunities.
After more local activities, it was back on the bus for a three hour trip to Li Jiang and the Jin Hong Villa Hotel - Our home for three nights, it was clean and new and designed in a courtyard style that is typical of Yunnan. From the top floor we had a picture postcard view of Li Jiang, which was magical at night. The beautiful courtyard garden with orchids and a goldfish pond provided the perfect setting for our early morning tai chi practice.
There was much to see around Li Jiang, a special and fascinating place: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, White Water Pool, Jade Water Village, the ancient village of Shuhe, the Dong Ba Museum of Naxi Culture and a relaxing stroll through the old market square with plenty to entice shoppers.
We travelled on to Shangri La, which had spectacular views of the Himalayas and the Yangtze River. We visited the magnificent Leaping Tiger Gorge to experience the power of the Yangtze. Those who were fit enjoyed the challenging 500 steps climb down and another 500 steps up bartering with the hawkers on the way.
Next morning we boarded a flight to Lhasa, our base for our travels in Tibet. Our first stop was the magnificent Potala Palace, the former home of the Dalai Lama. What an amazing experience, a place many of us had dreamed of visiting since childhood. It was fascinating to stand in the assembly hall of a centuries old monastery and listen to the chants of the robed monks sitting cross-legged on their couches just as they have done since the religion began. As we explored the narrow alleys and steep stairways we saw and learnt about many significant Buddhas and cultural treasures contained in the palace. What immense wealth.
We then travelled to the famed Jokhang Monastery and the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace, Norbulingka.
From Lhasa we made the 420km trek east to Nyingchi, through the 5,020m high Bala Pass. We visited the Cypress Nature Reserve and viewed the giant 50m high sacred tree, said to be 2,500 years old. On the return trip we visited the Daksum Tho Lake and the Tsoden monastery on Ta Shi Island. where thirteen monks live. Awesome is the only way to describe the day.
Next day we travelled 359kms west to Shigatse, climbing through 38 hairpin bends to the Gambala Pass. We continued through sheep country sighting the magnificent Kurula Glacier in the distance and visiting the small city of Gyantse. Here we viewed the British built castle/fortress and the Kumbum monastery and Stupa where we watched monks making coloured sand Kamalas. Finally we reached Shigatse where we stayed the night. On our return trip to Lhasa we visited the Tashilhunpo Monastery, home of the Gelukpa or Yellow Hat sect where we observed monks-in-training; praying, studying and engaging in lively debate. We walked through the meeting hall and heard the monks’ chanting.
Next day we travelled to Sky Lake, the highest saltwater lake in the world and 82km in circumference. Nyinchenthongna Snow Mountain at 7200 metres towers over it. On the way we stopped at the Yangpachen Hot Springs, which is 4,400 metres above sea level. On our return trip we visited a nomad family’s tent. The men of the family were out tending the herds of yak and sheep. Yak from this area are prized for their quality.
Our last stop before heading home was for last minute shopping at the Jokhang Temple market.
Wonderful memories abound of a breathtaking journey with great travelling companions. We soon discovered that Tibet was not just snow capped mountains but huge lakes and gentle people as well.
Thank you, Song. It was a pleasure to travel with you again. We were all looked after with care and our meals well catered.
Until the next trip.
Judy Maynard, Sue Weber, Lai Fone and Kam
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