|The Hall of Harmony and Peace at Yonghe Temple, Beijing. Picture:|
Continuing my recollections of the highlights of my visit to China (to visit Paul) in 2002, I will never forget my visit to the Yonghe Lamasery in Beijing.
Paul had gone to work, so I took a taxi into the temple, little realising that I was turning up in the middle of a major Buddhist new season festival, a kind of exorcism of evil spirits.
There was an hour of dancing by monks in freaky masks, in front of the chief Lama and his posse.
Then everyone paraded through the temple to the main gate, where was more banging of drums and cymbals, and stuff got burnt (which I couldn't see).
Then everyone paraded back to the main arena, had a team huddle and threw 'gifts of the gods' (ie. food) out into the crowd.
I got a peanut, then an old Chinese woman offered me a little orange, which I thanked her for.
After this people seemed to disperse, so I started to wander the temple grounds, and found the last temple, which holds a giant Buddha, where all the monks - and the locals - were praying.
All the other Westerners had vanished by now.
The monks were handing out sacred yogurt, which people were either storing in jam jars or rubbing into their hands and faces. I decided to go for the hand/face option with my dollop!
Outside of the temple I watched more Chinese saying their prayers and lighting joss sticks.
It was all very moving, and one more illustration of why the Buddhists have the coolest religion.