February 17 Fonghuangshan, Shenzhen, China

Sunday again, and thus time for another hike in the Shenzhen area. We decided to go hike up Fonghuangshan, a small mountain that I had never gone up, although Jeff had hiked it before. This mountain is in a group of small mountain peaks near the Shenzhen airport. Kelly and Jim came with us.

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Ann and Jeff in front of the entrance rock of Fonghuangshan

Here is a photo of the Fonghuangshan entrance rock with the mountain name in Chinese characters carved on it. Fonghuangshan means Phoenix Mountain.

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Jeff in front of the Chinese New Year display at Fonghuangshan

The Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days every year. So most of these pretty New Year displays will get taken down after February 25 this year. So I am taking lots of photos of them now!

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Lots of people on the trail

The trails were crowded when we started going up the mountain. I thought that it was because everyone had returned back to the Shenzhen area from their homes.

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Jeff is standing in front of the Ming era tomb

This is a very large tomb site, so it was likely the tomb of an important official in the Ming era. But there was no explanation in either English or Chinese. The sign just said that it was about 400 years old. So I took a photo of it!

About one third of the way up Phoenix Mountain, we came to a Buddhist temple. The temple was crowded with people.

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Buddhist temple at Fonghuangshan

There was a Lion Dance taking place in the courtyard of the temple.

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Lion dance in the temple courtyard

There were many people crowded inside as well, giving offerings and prayers for the New Year.

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People inside the Buddhist temple, making offerings for the New Year

But I think this is the reason why everyone was up here at the temple. This sign says “place to set off fireworks” in Chinese characters.”

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This sign says “place to set off fireworks”

It was next to a two story deep pit in the temple courtyard. Inside the pit, men in hard hats and fire resistant shirts were opening a BIG box of firecrackers all strung together.

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Men in hard hats getting firecrackers out of a box

They would open the box, hook up the firecracker string to a metal chain on the pole, and pull the string to the top of the pole. The men would then retreat next to the wall of the pit. Then whoever purchased the firecrackers would light the firecracker at the bottom of the string, and back up next to the wall.

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Firecracker string being pulled up to the top of the pole

It would get very loud as the firecrackers exploded up the chain, until the fire reached the top. Then the big firecracker at the top would explode very, very loudly, sending up a big puff of smoke. Then a man would bring the three men in the pit another box of firecrackers, and the process would start all over again. Jeff asked around and told me why this was happening  Apparently, Shenzhen has banned setting off fireworks in front of homes and apartment buildings. So if you wanted to follow this traditional New Year custom  you can come up to the temple, give them a donation, and light your New Year’s fireworks here. I would venture that the temple makes a lot of money during this time of year, as the firecrackers were going off continuously during the time that we were here! This would also explain why the trails up to the temple were so crowded with people!

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10,000 turtle pond

There was also a turtle pond in the temple courtyard. It was supposed to have 10,000 live turtles in it, along with the large stone turtle.

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Close-up of turtles, with coins tossed into the pond

I am not sure if there were 10,000 of these turtles, but there were a lot of them. The noise from the continuously going off firecrackers did not seem to bother them. It was too loud for us, so we headed up the mountain after spending only a brief amount of time at the temple.

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Jeff on an empty trail going up the mountain

Once we left the Buddhist temple complex area, there was almost no one on the trails!

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Jeff pretending to hold up a very large rock along the trail!

There were many, many of these large rocks along the upper trails of Fonghuangshan Mountain. The story is told that they were originally eggs laid by phoenix birds that later turned to stone.

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Interesting bench!

This bench is supposed to look like it is held down by tree roots. These “tree roots” are actually made of concrete, just like the bench.

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Kelly and Jim at a viewpoint near the top of Fonghuangshan

You can see the Buddhist temple complex below them in the photo. We could still here the firecrackers going off, even way up here. This was definitely one of the louder hikes that I have been on!

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Ann and Jeff underneath a large rock on the trail

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Jeff near the top of Fonghuangshan

We did not take any photos of ourselves at the actual tower lookout on the top of Fonghuangshan because we were too busy snacking. We arrived at the top of the mountain at noon, and we were hungry. So we ate the snacks we were carrying in our backpacks instead of taking photos!

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Doves near the top of Fonghuangshan

These doves were probably released from the temple. I think that they were hanging around near us waiting to see if we would leave any food behind.  They will likely head home when it starts to get dark, and the Firecrackers stop going off..

Here is the China moment of this outing. Instead of using sprinklers or a standard hose attached to a faucet, this was the method they were using here to water the plants. This women is standing on the back of a water tanker truck, using a big fire hose to spray a high volume of water towards the plants as the truck slowly drove along the road.. The plants got watered, the sidewalk got watered, the road got watered, and so did anyone who did not get out of the way fast enough!

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Watering the plants, China style

This last photo was taken while we were eating lunch on the street that runs from Fonghuangshan back towards the highway. This street is known for its many places serving Taiwanese cuisine. We had a very good late lunch of Taiwanese food.

I believe that these people are in costumes to represent the three gods of wealth. On the 16th day of the 12th moon (the last month of the year), businessmen traditionally close their accounts and thank the three gods of wealth – Kuan Ti, Tusan Tan Shang Ti and Ts’ ai Shen – for a prosperous year (if it has indeed been one) and wish for another such year. Although we were already in the New Year (first month), I still think this is who they were representing. Anyway, they were parading up and down this street while we were eating.

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People in costume on the street

Businesses, apparently, are still allowed to set off fireworks in front of their stores during the New Year. This allows them to scare off any bad spirits that might ruin their business during the new business year, and let their customers know that they are open again. We have been listening to firecrackers going off since Thursday this week. You get used to the noise, especially since it means that most restaurants and stores near us are open again!

I found this site online. It offers a very good explanation of all of the Chinese New Year customs, in case you are interested.

http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/chinesenewyear/chinesenewyear.htm

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