Steve's China Blog

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Day trip to NiuJiaoZhai

On Friday I went to a place called NiuJiaoZhai with Mario (my driver) and his wife, daughter, and niece. NiuJiaoZhai is about 60 or so kilometers outside of ChengDu and is not really a tourist spot, but it was very nice to see. To get there we had to take some narrow winding roads up into the mountains.

A view during the drive up the mountain

The town is like a small farming village and when we drove through the town it was morning, so most of the people in town were out shopping or selling food. The sidewalks are all full of vendors, so most people walked on the street, which was only a single lane wide, and it took a long time to drive through because there were so many people on the street. I wish I had used my camera to make a video of that.

The first place we went to was outside of town and has a lot of Buddhist statues and carvings. In the middle is a huge bust portrait of Buddha Maitreya, which is 15.85 meters tall and 11 meters wide.

A stairway up to the big Buddha statue

Up at the base of the statue

Symbolic burning of money for ancestors

Lighting some really big incense

All around the area there are 40 niches with more than 2000 figures. These sculptures were finished in the Tang Dynasty(AD618-907).

Buddhist carvings

Some more Buddhist carvings

When you look at the figures you will see that they were all defaced, probably during the cultural revolution.

Close up of one of the carvings that was defaced

A white jade Buddha in one of the temples on the mountain

After visiting all the Buddhist statues, carvings, and little temples we went back to town to have lunch at Mario's brother's farm. They grow pears and beans mostly, as well as some vegetables for their meals. The farm house is bigger inside then it looks, and seemed to be divided into two parts... the common area and the family area.

A view of the farm from the farmhouse roof

The common areas are on the ground floor and up on the roof, and include rooms such as the kitchen, bathroom, storage areas, a place to smoke meat, play area, etc... There was even a little area for some chickens. Most of the common area was not heated, but it was only a little chilly outside. I did not go into the family area, but it looked nice. Big living room that looked like the living room in my apartment with a big screen TV and stereo. I did not see the bedrooms.

The kitchen is built around a large wok and has a space under it for burning wood. The whole room is filled with smoke from the fire and the scents of food and spices. It smelled much better than it sounds.

Mario's wife and sister-in-law cooking lunch

For lunch we had a variety of dishes that included chicken, fish, pork, and assorted vegetables. Mario's brother brought out a bottle of Chinese champagne that I helped open. I don't usually drink champagne since it gives me a headache, but I wanted to try this. I think he got ripped off, and actually bought Sprite in a champagne bottle. I didn't tell him that though. Oh well, it was a really great meal.

Mario's niece and brother during lunch

The afternoon was spent eating, sitting around talking, setting off firecrackers, and watching the kids play. I think there was about 15 people there total. Mario's family, his father and mother, his brother and his family, as well as another group of in-laws. Later in the afternoon we headed back to ChengDu. I had a great time.


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