Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Fengdu - The Ghost City and Ming Mountain
Name : Fengdu - The Ghost City and Ming Mountain
Located on the northern bank of the Yangtze River, Fengdu is located high on Ming Mountain around 170 kilometers from Chongqing, China.
According to local superstition and folklores, Fengdu is the place where the souls of the dead rest, and it is therefore called the "Ghost City". Having a history of nearly 2,000 years, Fengdu has formed a special culture of ghosts and the afterlife.
Fengdu got its name as the Ghost City in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Two officials from the imperial court Yin Changsheng and Wang Fangping decided to come to Ming Mountain to practice Taoist teachings. Through self-cultivation they became immortals. Combining their surnames produces the term "Yinwang" meaning the "king of hell." Later, during the Tang Dynasty, a stupendous temple was erected on Ming Mountain depicting life in hell. It displays demonic images and torture devices and reflects the notion that good people will be treated well in the afterlife and that bad people will be punished by going to hell.
In the Chinese vision of the afterlife, the dead (or ghosts) must undergo three major tests to enter the netherworld. These tests are taken at three locations - Nothing-To-Be-Done-Bridge; Ghost Torturing Pass and the Tianzi (son of heaven) Palace. These three locations are among many attractions in the Ghost City.
Built during the Ming Dynasty, the bridge connects the nether world with the real world and is a testing point for good and evil. According to legend, the Nothing-To-Be-Done-Bridge is composed on three identical stone arches. The middle arch is used for testing people. There are different protocols for crossing the bridge depending on your gender, age and marital status. Below the bridge are square-shaped pools of water. Virtuous people will pass over the bridge without obstacle; villainous people will fall into the pools below. The other two arches are called the golden and silver bridges respectively. When preparing to leave, visitors are encouraged to pass these two bridges because according to local superstition this will bring them good fortune.
Ghost Torturing Pass:
The Ghost Torturing Pass is the second test before entry into the nether world. It is said that this is the place where the dead report to the Yama, the King of Hell, for judgment. In front of the structure there are eighteen sculptures depicting ferocious demons. Each of these devils is quite lifelike creating a feeling of true eerieness.
Having over three hundred years' history the palace covers an area of nearly 2,908 square yards. It is composed of a temple gate (paifang) and the palace itself. The gate is an archway made of wood and stone rising to height of nearly 33 feet. The palace is the nerve center of the Ghost City and is the oldest and largest temple on Ming Mountain.
The third test to evade hell takes place at a large stone in front of the gate. The ghost must stand on the stone on one foot for three minutes. A good person will be able to do this while an evil one cannot and will be sent to hell.
One other ghostly attraction in Fengdu worth mentioning is the Last-Glance at Home Tower. This structure was built in 1985 and commemorates the site where spirits consigned to hell could take one last look at their families.
There are 75 Buddha and Tao temples in the town of Fengdu, most of them gathered on a famous hill named Ming Mountain.
Legends said that Ming Mountain is one of the 72 graveyards for Taoism. Tao believes when people die, their spirits will gather there (also called "spirit world"). All the temples on the hill were built at Western Jin period (265 ~ 420A.D.) and rebuilt in Ming and Ch'ing Dynasty (1386 ~ 1911A.D.)
Fengdu is the only ghost city in China. The temples are all over the mountain with many statues. In the "spirit world", there are series of super beings in the temples. They all have its own responsibility, they guard the spirit world.
Due to the construction of the 3 Gorges Dam, the ghostly city is underwater. However, a hill and dozens of temples remain in the big artificial lake behind the dam. So that part can still be visited.
The mountaintop temple complex dates back some 1,600 years and is dedicated to Yama, the king of hell. Combining elements of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, it’s a fascinating and very visual place.
The giant face seen in the pictures is called The Ghost King, and it holds a Guinness World Records title as the biggest sculpture carved on a rock. At 138 meters tall and about 217 meters wide, The Ghost King can be seen from all around the city.
Fengdu is where the devil lives, according to Chinese legend. They say that spirits go to heaven, and evil goes to Fengdu. The town was overlooked by Ming Shan Hill that was said to be the home of Tianzi, the King of the Dead. A temple on the top of the hill is dedicated to Tianzi. The whole place had an eerie feel to it with deserted streets, tower blocks, and empty shops before the lake rose. Now the city is underwater.
However, Ming Shan Hill is now an island. There are a lot of tombs and grave sites there because Fengdu was a large burial ground. It was and may still be one of the major Taoist burial grounds, where the people who don’t achieve immortality are buried. There are also scores of temples and shrines. There is a temple on top. To get to the temple, there is path that takes about 15 minutes to climb. There is also a cable car.
Next we climb 33 steps that represent the steps to heaven, which lead to a row of statues of ghosts that line the path toward the so-called ghost gate. We must pass through this arched gate without touching it, or we’ll be trapped there forever, our guide warns. Additional tests await visitors who have the time to take them: one challenges men to balance a heavy stone upon another stone, as proof that they’re good husbands. Another test, taken just before entering the temple of Yama, has me attempting to balance on a rock on one foot (my left foot since I’m male; females stand on their right). If you can avoid falling three seconds while looking at the entrance of the temple, then you’re innocent of sin and a good person; those who cannot topple over and are sent to hell (I escaped damnation by a split-second).
The main temple, painted in rich blue, is all about the fabled king of hell, Yama. At the foot of his imposing statue, you can buy a “passport” for ten yuan (just a little over a dollar), write a name of a loved one on it, and burn it in their memory. Two galleries alongside the main temple use statuettes to illustrate various after-death tortures that sinners may suffer. The demons have interesting characteristics and colors. There are three toed demons and blue demons, etc.
One of the fun activities at the temple is physical tests such as running up stairs while holding your breath or crossing a bridge in the fewest steps. These physical tests, though they might be considered fun now, actually stem from a Taoist tradition about how to enter the area in peculiar physical ways that would make people have good Taoist fortune.
Admission Fee: CNY 80
Cable Car: CNY 20 (round-trip); CNY 15 (one-way)
Opening Hours: 09:00 to 17:00
Whatever your beliefs, you are constantly reminded the "Good will be rewarded with good, and evil with evil."
Festivals & Fairs :
The days, from March 3 to 15th of the lunar month, are Fengdu peoples' lively temple fair days. During the days, there will be a lot of interesting "spirit shows" in the streets attracting many tourists and believers.