Pagoda, Da Nang, Vietnam

Buddhist pagodas in Vietnam bear a resemblance to pagodas in China with one significant difference – the dragons decorating the roof tops. Virtually every pagoda in Vietnam has dragon decorations on the roof tops; they give Vietnamese pagodas their distinctive style. As far as I know, Buddhist temples elsewhere have nothing comparable. Late afternoon light on a crystal clear day has the roof top dragons at this small temple almost glowing. The Chinese characters say something like “golden hall of the ancestors”, but I am not sure of the Vietnamese name of this Da Nang pagoda.

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My Son Temple, Quang Nam, Vietnam

My Son Temple, Quang Nam, Vietnam

A friend visiting from Thailand and I took a day trip to My Son, a UNESCO world heritage site about 80 km south of Da Nang. My Son was an important temple complex of the Champa Kingdom that existed in central and southern Vietnam from roughly 300 to 1700 CE. The Cham civilization was Indianized and the temples at My Son celebrate Hindu deities. For many years the Cham and the Vietnamese moving south from the area surrounding modern Hanoi contested the central part of what is now Vietnam. The Vietnamese eventually prevailed and the Champa Kingdom disappeared. The Cham people were assimilated into Vietnamese society, influencing the development of Vietnamese culture in the process. The temple pictured is one of a group of structures built in the 11th to 13th centuries CE.

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Zhonglou (the Bell Tower), Beijing

Beijing Bell Tower in Summer

The view of the Bell Tower (钟楼 or Zhonglou) also used to be great from my friend’s deck where I took the photo of the Drum Tower that was my last post. Unfortunately, the city of Beijing recently built a tower for power lines that sits directly between the deck and the Bell Tower. Sort of spoils the view. Alas. This image was taken from ground level.

The Bell Tower sits across a small, open plaza from the Drum Tower. In this late afternoon photo, the sun is low in the sky and tourists have headed back to their hotels. The plaza becomes a comfortable place for neighborhood people to hang out and relax. Talk about sitting in the shadow of history!

The first Bell Tower was built in the 13th century, but the building was destroyed a few years later, as was the second tower built to replace it. The building now standing was completed in 1745 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing dynasty. Of all the monuments that remain of Beijing’s imperial past, this one may be my favorite.

 

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Gulou (the Drum Tower), Beijing

The Beijing Drum Tower (Gulou) was built in 1272 during the reign of Yuan Dynasty emperor Kublai Khan. It was refurbished by successor dynasties and stands today as a reminder of Beijing's imperial past.

I keep working through the pictures I took on my travels to China and Vietnam. I am not as prolific as some with the camera – my shooting habits are still not a lot different than they were back in the days of film – but I still got back to Thailand with somewhat more than two thousand images I took during the six week trip. I shot the equivalent of 58 rolls of 36 exposure 35mm film, some 1.4 rolls a day on average. About right for me. In any case, after a couple of weeks looking at Vietnam pictures, I have gone back to looking at China images and found some I want to post.

I have a friend in Beijing who is living in a ping fang (平房 or one story house) with a deck on the roof that overlooks Gulou (鼓楼, the Drum Tower). We sipped tea and visited on the deck on a near perfect, early autumn Beijing afternoon. The first drum tower was built in the 13th century during the reign of Kublai Khan of the Yuan dynasty. The building in the photo was originally built in the 15th century by the Ming dynasty Yongle Emperor. The drums inside the building, of which only one remains, were used to announce the official time.

 

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