Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chengdu, China

Patrick and Nicole Woo invited us to join with them for a weekend trip to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Chengdu is about a 2-1/2 hour flight south of Beijing. Our major reason for the trip was to see some Panda bears! We also saw the Grand Buddha at Leshan, the Qingyanggong Taoist Temple, and ate dinner on Ancient Street.

The lobby of the Sofitel Hotel where we stayed.

Leshan Grand Buddha

Friday after lunch we hired a taxi to take us to Le Shan to see the Great or Grand Buddha. It was about a 2 hour trip. This Buddha grandly measures 230 feet high. He is carved into the sandstone cliff over looking the river. Actually this part of the river is a convergence of three rivers and is apparently considered dangerous because in 713 AD monks thought to safeguard passing boats by creating this Great Buddha. The project wasn't completed until 803 AD. In devotion to deity it is comparable to the cathedrals of Europe.

Patrick, Nicole and Ruth at the beginning of the path to the temple.
The Chinese have a whimsical nature. This carving of a dragon has its head and claws emerging out of the face of the cliff, its body snakes along the path and then disappears into the mountain side. How fun is that? Is the dragon reaching out to grab unsuspecting travelers? Perhaps Ruth?
A tiger is also defending the approach to the Grand Buddha. We can't resist petting the pretty little thing.
This fat monk reminds us of the Happy Buddha.
Maybe a little extra weight isn't so bad?

The burning of incense and the lighting of
candles is a continual part of worship at all temples.
China is rich in luxurious foliage.
Ruth and Nicole at the top of the Buddha preparing for the decent downwards.
There is a narrow set of steps down to the toes of Buddha that is built against the side of the mountain. The staircase has nine turns from the top to the bottom.
Can you see the monk in a yellow robe climbing up the steps?
Ruth on a path along the river.
His noes measures 18 feet.
His ears are 23 feet.
His shoulders span 92 feet.

Looking up from Buddha's toes.
Standing at the feet of Buddha.

A view of Grand Buddha from the river.

Panda Breeding Center


We are so excited to see the Giant Panda's! We got up early so that we could be first in line. The wild panda population is thought to be around 1,200. Much effort is made to learn about panda, to breed them, and nurture them to adulthood. Also, there are some 120 panda's in zoos around the world. In Chengdu there is a panda research park and breeding center where panda specialist study the life cycle of panda's. The park is beautiful place, plenty of walkways, flowers, trees, and a lake. We stayed for hours and hours.
Our friends Nicole and Patrick Woo invited us to join with them for this trip. Patrick can speak and read Chinese, a most valuable benefit to our friendship especially in restaurants that didn't have pictures of their food for us to look at when ordering.
From time to time the path we walked on would lead through a bamboo tunnel. Bamboo is growing everywhere at the park, only the panda's living here don't seem to want to eat this bamboo, they will only eat bamboo grown at a higher altitude. These panda's are so loved that bamboo is trucked in daily from a distance of more than two hours away.
Nicole and Ruth venture off of the path for a picture.
This is a happy day, a perfect day.
Everyone in the park is happy. Panda's just make you want to smile and take pictures. They are a cute, lovable, content, and sometimes playful animal.
Opp's, this was suppose to be a picture of Nicole holding a baby panda. (I do not know how to erase pictures so you'll just have to enjoy this picture twice)
Aside from a few zoos world wide Sichuan Province in Southwest China is the only place to find pandas. At the breeding center only 20 people a day can hold a panda. (at least that is what our tour guide said.) The nursery tried to tell us that we couldn't hold the panda on this day, but Nicole persisted and got our name on the list. We had to pay 1,000 RMB each for this opportunity. We were happy to pay knowing that they money went to the center for the care of the pandas. Ruth is now one of a small percentage of people to hold a panda bear.
Once in awhile there would be a plaque in English telling the story of one of the panda's. This panda, Qi Zhen or Seven Stitches also had a movie made of her story. Panda's weigh only 3 1/2 ounces when they are born--compare that to the mother's weight of 440 pounds and you can see that it is a miracle when one of these tiny infants survives to childhood.
The park has several playgrounds for the young cubs to spend their days. The keepers will rotate the cubs around the different play yards so that they do not get bored. The cubs are playful. They seem to enjoy the companionship. In the wild adult panda are occasionally seen in family groups, but mostly they live a solitary life in clearly defined territories.
Telling secrets in a tree.
The rough-and-tumble of childhood.

Learning to climb up and over.

This is how pandas climb trees looking for the perfect spot for a nap.

Pandas spend 10 hours a day sleeping, 12 hours a day eating bamboo, leaving only 2 hours for exercise. From what we observed that exercise time is spent in walking over to the pile of bamboo for more to eat.

Looking for the perfect spot to nap.

Pandas have a happy talent for being comfortable and content.

Did we mention that this is a happy day? We feel truly blessed and grateful for life and love. God's creations are vast and amazing, a testimony of His goodness and glory.