The red carpet has been rolled out. Our man in China, V.Mahesh gives you 15 reasons for visiting the land instantly.

1.    Shaolin Monks

The pagoda renews itself

A very long double-kick, in fact, is from India to China.

One of China’s most famous artistries – Shaolin Kung Fu – originated in Indian monks in between the 2th and 5th centuries: Bada and Bodhidharma. Their contribution became known at Zhongsan, Honan for the way Kung Fu is practiced nowadays. It represents for a reinvention of an art associating with Chinese-grown philosophies.

Regarding other aspects, well-known Shaolin monks are renovating themselves by running the temple as a business. Money from tourists helps to maintain the temple; monks show marvelous Kung Fu performances to attract travellers around the world. You can even learn some tricks in Kung Fu class.


Insider’s advice

Near Louyang, there is a memorial to ancient civilized connections between India and China: Baimasi (White Horse Temple), the first Buddhist temple of China, for honoring two India monks who propagated Buddhism in China. Shaolin Temple and Baimasi are evidences of the fact that cultural and spiritual effects did climb across Great Wall of China to find audiences who easily comprehended.

Description: A Shaolin monk

A Shaolin monk

2.    Terracotta army of Qui Shi Huang

The immortal troops in one of the world’s oldest cities

As a token of pride, the army in Xi’an is unconquerable. China’s first emperor, Qui Shi Huang, was obviously so obsessed by the immortality that he deployed his own terracotta army of troops, horses and chariots to protect him even in afterworld. Apparently, they seem assembled in mass in a modern Shenzen’s factory but the terracotta troops look differential – none of them bears similar – and imposing as well.

Xi’an, one of the world’s oldest cities, situated in the center of Chinese history and geography: here starts the tale of China since Qui Shi Huang united and standardized Chinese writing and currency. Xi’an also commemorated the return of Tang Sanzang in 17th century (he obtained some invaluable memoirs from the ancient university of Nalanda: Buddhist documents translated from Sanskrit into Chinese by himself and used to spread Buddhism around China).

Insider’s advice

The city is also the start of Silk Road, from which brigades carried silks, teas and gems to Western Caribbean. There is a prosperous restaurant, Muslim Quarter, near Drum Tower where you can enjoy grilled lamb kebab. You should watch performances at Drum Tower and nearby Bell Tower. Then relax at Huaquing hot spring. Climb onto the city wall’s peak in the night. Attend singing choir. Xi’an is such that place.

Description: Qui Shi Huang’s terra cotta army

Qui Shi Huang’s terra cotta army

3.    Gansu prairie

A hundred-mile grassland

To experience fantastic open spaces (with a Tibetan unaffected by time), just visit Xiahe, in Kansu province, home of Labrang Monastery which is one of Tibet’s greatest temples. A recent wave of suicide committed by monks at Greater Tibetan area (outside Gansu) – with purpose against China’s suppression – has created a horrible story, yet it gives enough motives for tourists to visit: who knows how long these peaceful cultures will last? From Xiahe, distant from 1-day driving, is worth your effort to have a playtime in the immensity of grass and wild flowers as if you’re just a Tibetan calf. Old Tibetans, free nomads, have been gathered by a governmental program to be relocated and work for tourism. However, a chance of interacting with kindhearted hosts will restore your faith in humanity.

Insider’s advice

There’s not much visitors in Ganja grassland but a bit farther, nearly 30km distant from Xiahe, is Upper Sangke prairie which is nearer and easier to approach.

Description: Gansu prairie

Gansu prairie

4.    Mogao caves

Ajanta arts in the desert

A few kilometers distant form Dunuang, an oasis at Kansu, are Magao caves which retain one of the most beautiful collections of Buddha sculptures – no less significant than Ajanta and Ellora but much large in scale. The caves have been carved from a cliff for centuries and they feature the center of study and worship. Most of this art, and even several painters, came from India so we could see clearly the Indian influence. Only 20 caves are now opened for visit to preserve the culture but they may often be closed. However, based on any luck and restriction of travelling across desert to view art under such an ethereal light, it is simply a journey improving your spirit.

Description: Magao caves

Magao caves

5.    Lhasa

The capital city of Karma

Passport to Tibet is limited very much (especially for Indians), according to the security which has been enhanced due to monks’ suicides. But if your karma keeps you safe, a trip to Lhasa is good for your yin-yang balance. The rest of China may be urgent of going ahead but in the land of Tibet’s Buddhist center, the wheel of time is marked by slowly circles of prayers.

There are many way to get to Lhasa, but travelling by train is the most interesting. The latest railway was inaugurated in 2006. The service is available in 6 cities ( I did catch a train from Lanzhou (in Kansu), famous for beef noodles, from here I spent 29 hours travelling and enjoying fascinating sightings.

At Lhasa, dilute air can make you hard to breathe, though in another perspective, spiritual waves that you are flowing within can extraordinarily relax your mind. Inside and outside Potala palace, home of Dalai Lama until he went for India in 1959, shriveled-faced Tibetans are kneeling in silence to honor their god. In Jokhang, the smell of cow fat, used in oil lamps, creates a dizzy feeling. Meanwhile, Chinese armed guards are monitoring closely, seriously touch their new stuff: portable fire extinguisher. The karma might be very cruel…

Description: Lhasa


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