mandag 20. mai 2019

The Hermit Culture Living On in China’s Misty Mountains

On a misty winter’s afternoon, about an hour’s drive from the ancient city of Xi’an and a muddy 30-minute trek through the Zhongnan Mountains, we finally reach the secluded Beiji Temple.

The building has clearly seen better days. Beiji Temple was constructed during the Ming dynasty, but most of the original temple was destroyed during the violence of the Cultural Revolution and only the main hall remains today, its tiled rooftop covered with weeds. “On rainy days, mud falls from the ceiling,” says Zhang Shiquan, one of the three Taoist devotees currently residing at the temple.

Not that Zhang’s complaining. Last year, feeling jaded by city life and experiencing heart and weight problems, the nature-loving former salesman came to seek solace at Beiji Temple. There, he met a hermitlike Taoist adept — “a soft speaker and a great listener,” Zhang says — and decided to stay for good.