Wednesday, November 24, 2010

To score in exams you must go up Dragon Gate

On the first day of my visit to Yunnan, we stayed in Kun Ming. We reached Kun Ming at 2.00 p.m. Then we set foot on Dragon Gate - a famous site for scholars in the past. According to Mr Hu, our tourist guide, all scholars had to reach this gate to be able to score in public exams held by the royal palace.

To go up the Dragon Gate, we had to climb up a flight of stairs whose numbers are fixed for auspicious reasons. We passed by two temples on the way up. I was attracted by the stone sculpture of a tortoise whose body was coiled by a snake. Mr Hu then told us the history of this stone carving. It seemed that one day, a tortoise and a snake went to attend the feast held by the Jade Emperor. They were not allowed to attend the function as they did not bring any present. Suddenly, an idea flashed through their minds. The tortoise allowed the snake to coil round it. The the tortoise would tell the Jade Emperor that his present is the snake and the snake would tell the Jade Emperor that his present is the tortoise. In this way, they were able to be part of the guests. The Jade Emperor the considered the 'present' as pricelss.

Then we caught sight of the stone sculputure of a cow. In front of it was a well. By the side of the well was a calf. Here again, there was a story to this scene. It was said that farmer had a cow and one day he wanted to kill the cow for meat. Upon learning this bad news, the calf quietly hid the chopper. When the farmer finally found his chopper it was with the calf. All at once, it dawned on the farmer that the calf was very filial to his mother. At that moment, he was very touched by this act of filial piety and cancelled his plan of slaugtering the cow. The two cows then started to dig the ground with their horns until water was sprouting from the ground. By this act, it saved the farmer two hours per for having to fetch water from below.

Finally we reached the renowned 'Dragon Gate'. There is a saying here which goes, 'Yi Teng Long Men, Shen Jia Bai Bei' (Once you reach the Dragon Gate your worth is many folds'.

When I looked up I could see beautiful carvings of dragons and phoenix. How could you carve things on the ceiling? Well, it was done through 'blind carving', that is the person who did this job was blindfolded while doing the carving. This art is no longer practised as no one has the skill anymore.

As with most temples, there will always be a wishing well in front of the temple. You can throw coins inside it while saying your wishes in your mind.

So much for a visit to the Dragon Gate.

Entrance at Western Hill

Souvenir Stall at Dragon Gate

Steps leading to Dragon Gate

One temple at Dragon Gate

Zhen Wu Tian Temple

A priceless 'present'

Mother cow was to be killed

Filial-cow Well (The young cow hid the chopper)

Blind carving on the ceiling

Dragon Gate at Western Hill

A wishing well outside a temple

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