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[The whole series of blogs can be read here]

The Shaolin Temple is the most famous site in Chinese Buddhism. China is a Communist country, which in theory means religion is outlawed. However, reform president Deng Xiaopeng allowed the open practice of religion in the 1970’s. Religion and superstition had never gone away, just underground.

To westerners, Shaolin Temple served as the backdrop for the 1970’s David Carradine TV show Kung Fu, as the martial art was created here.

Kung Fu, baby

Kung Fu, baby

The Shaolin Temple is a series of nested temples. One walks though a courtyard, into and through a temple, only to emerge into another courtyard with another temple before you.

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The lotus flower road - walk on 7 for luck

The lotus flower road – walk on 7 for luck

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Touch the dragon for luck, head, neck, bath, teeth

Touch the dragon for luck; head, neck, back, teeth

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A gift from the Emperor, only he was allowed to use these steps. Only he was allowed to use the symbol of the dragon.

A gift from the Emperor, only he was allowed to use these steps. He was also the only person allowed to use the symbol of the dragon.

Look close, the dips in the floor were from thousands of students of kung fu practicing their precise moves, stomping the same piece of floor over and over and over until it collapsed

Look close: the dips in the floor were from thousands of students of kung fu practicing their precise moves, stomping the same piece of floor over and over and over, for a thousand years, until the dirt underneath it collapsed

The Pagoda Garden, the cemetery for the cremated remains of the monks who led the temple. The 7 levels of the pagoda signify monks of the highest order.

The Pagoda Garden, the cemetery for the cremated remains of the monks who led the temple. The 7 levels of the pagoda signify monks of the highest order.

It’s beautiful. It’s amazing.

It’s also sort of Disney-esque. There was a fire at the temple 20 years ago, and there appears to be a touristy veneer to everything. Actually, there appears to be a touristy veneer to everything in China. See, they’re just like Americans!

From the temple, our driver takes us into the mountains for a vegetarian dinner at a restaurant run by Buddhist nuns.

But it’s the trip back that makes the day. A 2 1/2 hour drive back to Zhengzhou.

Our driver is insane. If he’s not, then he acts like he’s imitating a crazy person. Or a NASCAR driver, just not a very good one. He’s driving nearly 100 mph, down steep 2-lane roads at dusk. He’s flashing his high beams as a warning to get out of the way to other drivers who clearly don’t care and don’t move.

That’s not the biggest problem. As the top of the post says, “yellow lines are approximate guides for which side of the road you might want to theoretically be on”. I know this because, our driver, Ricky Bobby (apparent star of Luoyang Nights), solves the “nobody’s moving problem” by PASSING OVER THE YELLOW LINE WHILE CRESTING A BLIND HILL.

REPEATEDLY.

He also makes ample use of the shoulder and exit ramps, whether or not anyone is in them. For 2 1/2 hours.

The ladies fall asleep; it had been an exhausting day. Mike and I decided to keep each other awake by talking, often about nothing. It’s not that we wanted to stay awake, it was that, as I told him, I prefer to see whatever is going to kill me. I want to see it coming.

It was that bad.

On we go, flashing high beams at drivers who never moved. Where it became really interesting was the 15 minutes when he was driving in darkness with no headlights on. Still flashing his high beams, just no headlights.

This is China.

[The whole series of blogs can be read here]

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