March 3 Xiao Wutongshan, Hongfa Temple, Xianhu Garden,Shenzhen

Another Sunday, another hike. This time, we went with the hiking group to Wutongshan National Park, which is east of the city of Shenzhen. This is their favorite local hiking spot, as it takes only about 30-40 minutes by bus to get there from Longhua.

At just over 900 meters (2700 feet), Wutongshan Mountain is the second tallest mountain in the Pearl River Delta after Hong Kong’s Taimoshan. As such, it draws many hikers and climbers. This has been a recognized beautiful place in southern China since the Ming Dynasty era. It was included in the Eight Great Views of Xin’an County and was celebrated in Chinese poetry.

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Jeff is standing in front of Wutongshan National Park  west gate in Shenzhen

There are several routes to the top of Wutongshan,  varying significantly in difficulty. There is a road that is a gentle climb up to the peak of (Lesser) Xiao Wutongshan. There are also steps which go up along a creek trail to the top of Xiao Wutongshan, and also steps that go up to Xiao Wutongshan from the  Xianhu Botanical Garden on the other side of the mountain, near the Hongfa Temple.

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Rhododendron blooming along the road up Xiao Wutongshan

There are two peaks, Xiao Wutongshan where the Shenzhen TV Company has its transmission tower, and (Greater) Da Wutongshan which is reached via the difficult Hao Han Slope from Xiao Wutongshan. Jeff and I have climbed  Da Wutongshan, and it took us most of the day, about 8 hours, to get to the summit and back down. For this outing, we were just going to be climbing up Xiao Wutongshan, about 480 meters (1340 feet) high. We took the easy way up, along the road, because we were only planning on spending the morning hiking up the mountain. We were going to spend the afternoon in Xianhu Botanical Garden on the other side of Xiao Wutongshan.

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Jeff is standing in front of the Shenzhen TV tower at the top of Xiao Wutongshan

Here we are at the platform next to the Shenzhen TV tower that overlooks the Xianhu Botanical Garden. Notice that we are both wearing jackets. it was very cool, about 50 degrees Farenheit, so it was perfect hiking weather!

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Ann and Jeff at the top of Xiao Wutongshan

This was a rather out-of-place looking cell phone tower that we saw on our hike. Palm trees just don’t grow on the tops of these coastal hills in this part of China. Maybe they just ran out of pine tree shaped cell phone towers and thought that no one would notice a very tall palm tree near the top of a hill in the park?

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Palm tree cell phone tower in Wutongshan park

Here is a view of Hongfa Temple from the steep, stair-step path going down the eastern side of Xiao Wutonshan.

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Built in 1985, Hongfa Temple has become the most popular and influential Buddhism Temple in Shenzhen. It faces the Fairy Lake, with its back against a steep cliff of Xiao Wutongshan (good feng shui) . It is different from other maintained or rebuilt temples which were damaged in the Cultural Revolution. It was the first totally new temple built after 1949 in China. At that time, the famous dignitary Benhuan Hoshang led his disciples here to recite the appropriate Buddhist doctrine for the foundation laying ceremony at the bidding of Shenzhen’s political leaders. It is the largest Buddhist temple in Shenzhen.

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Entrance monument of Hongfa Temple

As it was Sunday afternoon, there were a lot of people visiting the temple.

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Steps leading up to the buildings on the first level of Hongfa Temple

In order to protect the Xianhu Botanical Garden, where Hongfa Temple is located, no one is allowed to bring incense into the garden. So the temple hands incense sticks out for free to everyone who wants them when they enter the temple grounds. So nearly everyone we saw was carrying around sticks of incense.

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Ornate candle holder used to light incense sticks

This large, ornate structure held many burning candles that people could use to light their incense sticks. There were several of these structures on the temple grounds.

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People holding incense sticks and praying in front of one of the temple halls

You could see the beautiful statues inside the many halls on the temple grounds, but you could not go inside the halls. They all had locked gates, so people were holding incense sticks and praying outside of the temple halls.

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Flower offerings near the gated entrance to one of the temple halls

Flower offerings were also placed outside of the entrances to the gated temple halls.

There was one hall that we could go inside. It was the biggest hall, with golden statues of Buddha and other  Bodhisattvas. Although we were allowed to go inside, I noticed that most people were not doing so. They just stayed outside to pray.

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Golden Buddha and statues in a hall at Hongfa Temple

All of the temple halls had these roof decorations. I was confused as to what they signified. It looked to me like a person sitting on a chicken herding a bunch of animals.

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Roof decoration on a hall at Hongfa Temple

Jeff wondered about this, too. On Monday, he showed the photo to one of his PMs (project managers) and she asked around and came back with the answer. The carving is supposed to represent a holy man riding on a phoenix. These were put on temple roof tops to protect them from burning down. There was always a lot of incense and candles used in temple buildings, which were made of wood in the past. So even though most modern temples are built of concrete and brick, the tradition of the phoenix and holy man on the roof continues. (I still think it looks more like a chicken than a phoenix!)

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Close-up photo of a Hongfa Temple roof decoration

After we left the Hongfa Temple, we walked around the Xianhu Botanical Garden. Xianhu Botanical Garden was built in 1983, and is a renowned botanical garden and scenic area. It functions as a center for scientific research, education and tourism. There are more than 6,200 species of plants preserved in different divisions, such as International Conservation Center for Cycads, International Magnolia Garden, Rare and Endangered Trees Garden, Palm Garden, Cacti and Succulents Garden, Aquatic Plants Garden, Cryptogamic Garden, Gymnosperms Garden, Bamboos Garden, Medicinal Plants Garden, Shady Plants Garden, and Bonsai Garden.

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Jeff standing in front of some palm trees in the palm garden section next to Fairy Lake

The whole garden is separated into six major scenic areas, namely, the Heaven and Earth area, the Fairy Lake area, the HongfaTemple area, the Desert Landscape area, the Petrified Forest area and the Conifers and Azaleas area. There are many Chinese classic garden buildings are distributed randomly in these areas, like Jade Belt Bridge, Liangyi Pavilion, Longzhun Tower and Lansheng Pavilion. And the Paleontology Museum is also located inside the Petrified Forest area, exhibiting all kinds of fossils.

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Ann next to a sign near a banyan tree planted by Deng Xiaoping in 1983 near Fairy Lake

As you can probably tell from my description, it would take you all day to see the entire Xianhu Botanical Graden. As we only had about 4 hours in the afternoon, we had decided to see the Hongfa Temple and Fairy Lake areas. On our visit last year we had seen the Desert and Petrified  Forest areas, and also the Bonsai Garden.

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A view of a section of Fairy Lake in Xianhu Botanical Garden

I saw no “fairies” around Fairy Lake, but there were paddle boats on it, and kids playing in the water. It was very pretty, and beautifully landscaped!

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Blossoms on a tree in Xianhu Botanical Garden

Jeff is standing next to the very old Cycad Tree Grove. These trees are all supposed to be about 1,000 years old. They were very impressive!

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Jeff standing in the ancient Cycad Tree Grove in Xianhu Botanical Garden

Okay, now for the “only in China” moment. We saw this road sign in two different places in the Xianhu Botanical Garden. This is an exclamation point, not a Chinese character. Is it telling drivers to get excited? (That is probably not a good thing to do while you are driving!)

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Road sign in Xianhu Botanical Garden

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