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On the Huhehot tourist trail

by Bernard H. Wood on December 28, 2012

Trips and Tales (part 94): Trans-Siberian Offshoots #5

Well, here is where I round off the offshoots with a few sights and highlights of Huhehot, and then it’s back on the main line again.

Five Pagoda Temple: This seems like a great place to start, though probably a little difficult for the untrained Western eye to effectively date. It looks almost medieval, but it’s five year construction concluded in 1732 with the inclusion of a remarkable 1563 individual representations of the Buddha carved into the building’s walls. Visitors place offerings, principally coins, within the sculpted nooks and crannies of the outer relief, no doubt as tokens of respect or to seek favour from the Buddha himself.

Although the regimented, patterned exterior bristles with these miniature snapshots in relief, it also belies a colourful, pictographic interior resplendent with a bewildering array of murals, statues and such delights as a rare Mongolian map of the cosmos.

Curiously, the temple is also known as the “Precious Pagoda of the Buddhist Relics of the Diamond Throne” which may look a little more elegant in written Chinese. “Five Pagodas” will do just fine.

The Da Zhao Temple: Especially impressive for several reasons: not least this monastary’s survival since 1579, the 10ft tall silver Buddha statue and a shrine to the 17th Century Emporer Kangxi. If that’s not enough, consider the exhibits of musical instruments, the dragon sculptures and the temple’s commemorative murals. Buddhist festivals are also held here throughout the year

The Five Pagoda Temple The Inner Mongolia Museum: Established in 1957, this facility now contains in excess of 44,000 exhibits taken from the history and culture of the Mongolian people. A veritable cornucopia. Not surprisingly Genghis Khan features prominently, across the entire upper floor apparently. An impressive added bonus are the prehistoric fossils and other remains of the region’s monstrous former denizens.

The Wang Zhaojun Tomb: This will mean more to the numerous Chinese visitors than those of Western origin. But first things first: it may not be a tomb at all – there is no assurance of a body within the 33 metre mound – but it is at least a memorial to a beautiful 1st Century BC Han woman who married the supreme ruler of an ancient nomadic tribe to secure peace.

That’s a Xiongnu (the tribes-people) Chanyu (Emperor/supreme-leader). The ultimate fate of Zhaojun and the whereabouts of her mortal remains is unknown, she may even have committed suicide at the prospect of never being able to return home after her husband’s death.

The Xilitu Zhao Buddhist Temple and The Great Mosque: Two impressive seats of their respective faiths.

(And by way of contrast) Music Bars: Of two main flavours: you either just listen or, in the case of KTV bars, you listen and/or take part. That’s Karaoke Television in case you were wondering. Well, it’s an East-Asian thing predominantly: they are mad for it in a way that we just don’t get. That’s outside of beery UK pub nights and a perceived novelty value of course.

More next time.

[Photo by derikz]


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