Leaving behind the sparkling high rises, traffic-packed streets, and the frenetic energy of downtown Qingdao, we walked down a solemn cobblestone path towards inner peace. With mid-December temperatures falling, the charcoal sky felt tragic and misty. Behind the worn out streets and shivering cracked buildings, Zhanshan Temple gently came out to greet us.
Unlike many colorful temples I’ve seen in China, she was mournful and modest. Her concrete brick exterior and dark stone interior reminded me of a cemetery. But unlike a cemetery, Zhanshan temple was warm and consoling, gently coaxing me into a contemplative state of mind.
I strolled around each of the temples and lit candles in honor of my loved ones that have passed away. The intense smell of burning incense, the echoing sound of footsteps, and the desperate sounds of despair screamed quietly. Spats of color from the crimson doors, pink candles, golden monk cloaks, and intricately painted blue borders lovingly soothed me.
Passing the medicine tower, I watched The Believers walk in circles countless times.
The colorful prayer flags clung to the tangled branches as they flapped against the brutal wind.
Walking down the stone path, Zhanshan opened her golden iron gate and benevolently nodded goodbye.
The fortune tellers outside her gate promised wisdom and clarity as they achingly crouched forward on their stubby wooden stools.
No matter your cultural or religious beliefs, Zhanshan temple tempers buried memories, comforts nostalgia, and quiets the soul. I promise to visit soon, Zhanshan. ‘Til next time.
**photo credit to Renee Dustman