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Notes on the Geography of China: Tian Long

A road snakes back and forth up the mountain behind Jinci. It comes over the top and drops down into a valley that's worth the detour.

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China: Tian Long picture 1

This is Tian Long Shan, Heavenly Dragon Mountain, and the road from Jinci comes over the top about where those power poles are on the skyline. Up there, you can't see what the fuss is, but continue on down to the bottom and you see Sheng Shou ("Imperial Longivity") Temple and some odd buildings on the cliff in the background.

China: Tian Long picture 2

New but old. The Sheng Shou temple was built in the 6th Century but destroyed in 1947. It was rebuilt in the 1980s.

China: Tian Long picture 3

About the only thing left from the past is this statue of a protective deity.

China: Tian Long picture 4

But look more closely at the cliff.

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There are steps up to the top (there also are steps down from the top). Perhaps you can make out the grottoes cut into the stone.

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And here's one of those pavilions. Tea house?

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Another angle. Figure it out yet?

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Right! Or wrong, as the case may be. The structure, the Manshan Pavilion, is a protective envelope added during the Ming Dynasty to the carvings, made much earlier, during the Tang. The figures here include a 33-foot Maitreya, the future Buddha. He sits behind Avalokiteshvara, the Compassionate Buddha, around whose head are 10 subsidiary heads, suggesting that he sees everything.

China: Tian Long picture 9

Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Practice, rides an elephant.

China: Tian Long picture 10

Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, rides a lion.

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Farther along the cliff face, the images are much smaller.

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Some are set back in rooms carved like those of Petra, in Jordan.

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A detail.

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The view across the valley, with a companion tower on the far side.


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