Monday, 5 October 2009

High Jinks in the Horse Temple

We had an amazing experience yesterday at Tumen, an old town on the Great Wall of China. We arrived in the late afternoon to be pounced on by an extremely over excited gentleman. Apparently an old Daoist temple was being rebuilt nearby, having been destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. There had previously been an ancient horse temple on the site and the new temple was also a place to revere the ‘horse ancestor’. It would bring good luck to take horses into the temple under construction, and the temple officials could not believe their luck when right on cue, horseback travellers turned up on the scene. Even more auspicious, our party included a lao wai or foreigner (me). Before you could say ‘Guangyu’ (one of the deities the temple is devoted to) we and the horses were decked in red silk scarves and paraded through the back streets of Tumen. We then led the horses into the temple yard, squeezing under the scaffolding and right into the space reserved for a building for worshipping the ‘ horse ancestor’ . All this to the accompaniment of firecrackers, while Bajiu, Zorbee and Shandan acted as if this was something they did every day and looked suitably bored.

After posing for photos , we led our horses out of the temple and rode off, not into the sunset, but back to our hotel where we were treated to a sumptuous meal washed down with Chinese wine which the over excited gentleman kept knocking over. Apparently the intention is to put our names on a plaque in the temple. So if you are walking along the Great Wall of China and come to Tumen, look out for the temple, which is down an alley to the north of the main street!
Here we all are in the horse temple. L to R The still very over excited gentleman, obligatory ancient 84year old retainer with straw hat, me, local dignitary, Ba Jiu, local calligrapher, Peng and Zorbee, Hua and Shandan.

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