Travel in India – A Journey Called Life

To travel is to willfully leap into the unknown – to give up the secured confines of home and wander into the exigencies of the world. This is true whether one journeys from home to a nearby town to see an event, or lose oneself in the sights and smells of a ‘Mela’ (fair), or to another continent in search of work. Over time, the world and its moralities seep into our lives and into our hearts. In doing so we come closer, howsoever marginally; to becoming – as the Greek philosopher Diogenes first called himself – a “citizen of the world”.

Predictably, travel arouses a swirl of responses in us. The world can either repel or inspire us in its reflections. But for a majority of travelers, travel forces their minds to think, to adapt, to reevaluate the prejudices and to gauge the responses in ways far removed from what they have been perceived to view. Travel in short is learning while on the move.

For many like me, the journey is always the destination – the essence of the short trip or the long journey always lies in the million ‘Chai’ (Tea) stops, the smiles or gurgling laughter of a baby, those impromptu romances between co-teen travelers, a lazy cow lying in the middle of the road and refusing to move, or a sudden downpour that hits the window panes and reduces the visibility to just a thin streak of light of a vehicle in the distance, in watching the green canopy of trees that welcomes every thoroughfarer with their arch, in washing my face and feet at a small gushing stream, in watching the outline of a small hillock from the distance, and sometimes, in just doing and thinking nothing at all…

Predictably, the idea of India as a traveler’s paradise – whether as a geographical or cultural space – is increasingly distorted in the minds of many. Many perceive travelling as the kind they see in Bollywood movies while the more privileged know more about Dubai or Venice than they do say about Bhubaneshwar or Shillong. Many parts of India are virtually foreign to many young minds, though no real fault of theirs. Who wants to ‘think’ about a Nizamabad when there is a jet plane taking off to Singapore? Our collective consciousness is slowly getting fragmented along the comfortable lines of global travel than the rustic feel of one’s soil.

Should this matter? Yes.

In a heterogeneous democracy like ours, where resources and geographies are vastly varied, where peoples, cultures, food, language change with every district – it is paramount that we see past our immediate environs. Our collective challenge is then — how do we offer, to the generations of Indians to recognize our collective destiny? Our soil and its manifold beauties. Lester Pearson, the late Canadian Prime Minister, said in his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture: “How can there be peace without people understanding each other, and how can this be if they don’t know each other?” To him, and to all of us, knowledge of the other was to simplify, to get past the banal and to learn to treat each individual according to their character. And the best way to do this is to travel. To explicitly encourage personal explorations within India and make India more accessible.

Beijing Travel – Confucius Temple

Confucius is one of histories greatest philosophers and teachers and in the same league as famous western philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras and Socrates.

Born in 551BC, Confucius is China’s most influential philosopher and educator. The morals and principles of his philosophy are an integral part of values and ideology of modern Chinese society. He has been revered by the common people, emperors and leaders alike for thousands of years and a number of temples have been built all over China in his name.

The Confucian Temple in Beijing is the second largest Confucian temple in the world and only surpassed by a larger temple in Qufu, the home town of Confucius. Located near the center of Beijing, the Confucius Temple provides a marvellous insight into the world of Confucius and his influence on modern China.

History

Construction on the temple began in 1302, the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Dade of the Yuan Dynasty and was completed in 1306. The temple was enlarged, restored and rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty and again during the Ming Dynasty.

Grounds and Layout

The grounds of the Confucius Temple cover 22,000 square meters and are a made up of several courtyards and buildings laid out on a central axis. The main buildings on the central axis are the Xian Shi Gate, Da Cheng Gate, Da Cheng Hall and Chong Sheng Memorial Temple. There are also two rows of smaller buildings on the left and right side of the grounds.

Xian Shi Gate (Gate of the Master) – This gate houses the ticket office and the security checkpoint that tourist pass through to enter the temple.

Da Cheng Gate (Gate of Great Success) – This gate is also called the Halberd Gate because 24 of the ancient Halberd weapons that are displayed inside.

Da Cheng Hall (Hall of Great Success) – The main building in the temple and it is in this building that Confucius was enshrined and worshiped by China’s Emperors.

Chong Sheng Memorial Temple – This hall was not built until 1531 during the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty. The hall was used for offering sacrifices to five generations of Confucius’s ancestors. The Confucius Temple performances are given on the steps of this temple.

History of Confucius Display Room – This is a long narrow building on the right side of the second courtyard. The room displays extensive information on the life and history of Confucius, his family, his accomplishments and his back ground. I found a display of his family tree very interesting because it only shows male descendants. This simple omission says a lot about Confucian philosophy and values.

Development of Confucianism Display Room – On the left hand side of the second courtyard is a room displaying information on the development and state of Confucianism in China and around the world in past and present times. There is a lot of information on the importance in the modern world of the values and ideas taught by Confucius.

There were several congratulatory references to compliments and praise made by Nobel Prize winners to Confucianism. Very ironic considering the current status the 2011 Nobel Peace price winner has in China.

I saw at least three primary school groups in the Confucius Temple when I was there and over heard one teacher lecturing his students on the values of Confucius in their studies. The Chinese education system clearly places a lot of emphasis on a 2,500 year old philosophy and its teachings.

Classical Chinese Music House – This is a small building to the left of Da Cheng Hall that has been converted to a shop selling food, ornaments and jade furniture. I found a lovely jade table and chairs in the shop that would have been great to take back home.

Jin Shi Stone Tablets – Jin Shi is a name for scholars who successfully passed the examination system in Imperial China. The examinations were a prerequisite for work in the government’s vast bureaucracy and passing these exams was considered a great honour and accomplishment.

198 stone tablets have been erected at the front and rear of the temple’s entrance courtyard that list examination results of 51,624 Jin Shi from the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Interestingly this examination and selection process continued until 1905.

Stone Stele Pavilions – 14 pavilions have been built in the temple’s first and second courtyards that house stone steles (tablets) recording historical information on ancient China. Some examples of these records are the successful suppression of a riot in Qinghai in 1725 and the completion of a renovation in the Confucius Temple in 1769.

Performances

Performances are often held in the front of the Chong Cheng Memorial Temple that last for around 20 minutes. I’m not sure what relationship if any the performances have with the teachings or life of Confucius but they are enjoyable to watch and the period costumes are very cute.

Unlike most travel spots in Beijing, the performances are not shown at regular times to all tourists. The performances are only held for large tour groups who purchase VIP tickets to the Confucius Temple. If you are keen on watching a performance, I suggest you discretely tag long with a large tour group when they enter the Chong Cheng Memorial Hall. This is how I accidentally crashed a performance.

Getting There

Take the subway to Yonghegong station which is at the intersection of subway lines 5 and lines 2. Leave the station using the C exit, turn left and walk several hundred meters. You will know if you have gone to far if you reach the entrance of Lama Temple.

After several hundred meters you will see a road on the right called Guozijian street. Go down that road and the temple will be on the right had side. If you have trouble finding the temple, ask a local where the “kong miao” is. You will have no problem finding people who will point you in the right direction.

Tickets and Times

The tickets are 30rmb each and the opening times are 8:30 to 6:00pm with no tickets sold after 5:30pm.

San Francisco Travel – Discover the Mission District’s Colorful Murals

With over 600 murals, San Francisco streets are a parade of vibrant and radiant
murals that are painted on building walls and facades, fences, garage doors and
more. The colorful Mission District is the epicenter of San Francisco murals with the
greatest concentration of murals in San Francisco. Discovering
the murals of the San Francisco Mission District is discovering the hopes and
passions, joys and tribulations of the people.

The San Francisco Mission neighborhood’s love affair with murals stems from the
Mexican roots of the Mission District community. The Latino community began to
move into in the Mission neighborhood in the 1950s and 60s. Early in the 1970s,
resident muralists started following the traditions of the great muralists of the
1920s and 30s, perhaps the most famous of which was Diego Rivera.

The Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center (located at 2981 24th Street) is a
great place to begin your exploration of the murals in the San Francisco Mission
neighborhood. The Precita Eyes visitors center offers three guided mural tours on
Saturday and Sunday for between $10 and $12 for an adult. You can arrange private
group mural tours in advance. In addition, the Precita Eyes Visitors Center has a
Mission mural map of nearly 90 murals that you can use to explore the
neighborhood on your own.

At Precita Eyes, you can purchase mural-themed items, such as post cards, candles,
posters and books. Precita Eyes also sells mural arts supplies in case your are
inspired to paint your own personal mural on your living room wall. For more
information, contact Precita Eyes at http://www.precitaeyes.org/ or (415)
285-2287.

Located a block from Precita Eyes between Treat Avenue and Harrison Street, Balmy
Alley has a concentration of more than 30 vivid murals painted on fences, building
walls and garage doors. In the neighborhood densely packed with murals, Balmy
Alley is at the center of it all. Muralists began working in San Francisco’s Balmy Alley
as early as 1971. Many of the original murals are still there as well as many murals
that have been painted over the intervening years.

The Balmy Alley murals are very diverse both stylistically and in the subject matter.
Some of the murals feature cartoon-like illustrations that playful and juvenile. Other
murals along Balmy Alley grapple with difficult subjects, such as a memorial to
people who have died from AIDS or depictions of political strife and war in Latin
America. Another mural honors the great muralist Diego Rivera and his wife, the
painter Frida Kahlo. And another is a tribute to women muralists of the Mission
District. One colorless mural, depicts two men and a woman jumping through a
barbed-wire fence lined with keys. The woman has her hand held high, making the
peace sign.

Elsewhere in the Mission District on Harrison at 19th Street, mixed among blocks of
warehouses and running along a wall for nearly a block in San Francisco’s Mission
neighborhood is a mural titled “Carnaval.” As the name implies, the Carnaval mural
is a representation of the Carnaval celebration, a multicultural dance and music
festival that has its roots in Latin America and the Caribbean. The San Francisco
Mission District has been hosting a Carnaval Festival since 1978. Created in 1994 by
Joshua Sarantitis, Emmanuel Montoya, Carlos Loarca and others, the radiant
Carnaval mural is as dynamic and colorful as the festival that it portrays.

The Women’s Building (located at 3543 18th Street) boasts two walls of a dramatic
mural that pays homage to women. Created by a team of seven women muralists,
the “Maestrapeace” mural portrays women and feminine archetypes of multiple
world origins. The Goddess of Light and Creativity adorns the top of the 18th Street
facade with the waters of life flowing beneath her and transforming into fabric
designs from around the world.

The mural features such notable women as Georgia O’Keefe (an innovative American
artist) and Rigoberta Menchu (a Guatemalan of Mayan decent and Nobel prize-
winning activist). The names of many more famous women are inscribed in the
mural’s colorful patterns. The mural is meant to be inspiration and educational,
illustrating the contributions women have made to human history and society.

The Women’s Building provides resources and services to organizations that support
women and girls from multi-ethnic and multi-cultural backgrounds. For an
informational key to the mural, step inside the Women’s Building or contact them at
http://
http://www.womensbuilding.org/ or (415) 431-1180.