Like A Prayer: China... Chengdu, Hong Kong & Macau!

Like a prayer, life in China so far has allowed me to soak up new experiences like never before! From Chengdu's Wenshu Monastery to Macau's A-Ma Temple, those houses of god have schooled me like something different! I'm not religious but China really has helped me centre my mind, embracing life and learning to open my mind. Heaven sent, China has taken me higher! 

Temples and tea gardens are both a heavenly combination, stopping by China's Sichuan capital served something beautiful. Chengdu had that mellow vibe, during China's National Day holiday 2015. Those pandas were my main motivation for me to visit Chengdu, would a certain folk street reach me? Getting my life together, I found the perfect green tea infusion within the boundaries of Wenshu Monastery. During the first day spent in Chengdu, I needed some solace because that high speed train experience from Chongqing had me running from place to place! Tianfu Square allowed me to meet Chengdu's Metro in the middle, my online search took me to Wenshu Folk Street, that's where I found the tea garden! Set aside from a lovely historic neighbourhood with many touristy things to see, I was transported to a quieter side once I stepped into the temple grounds. With Wenshu Monastery dating back as far as the Tang and Song Dynasties, the Thousand Buddha Pagoda proved to be a hot-spot! Chengdu, I'm a sinner?! 

I'm a what? I'll leave that confessional out for the time being because I had to keep my cool to get a less crazy photo of the temple! Being my first temple experience outside of Wuhan allowed me to broaden my spiritual horizons. I was learning very fast that a plethora of breathtaking places of worship stood waiting for me to explore outside my Wuhan comfort zone. Chengdu knew that I had a plan to get scandalous once the sun did its nightly disappearing act, those temple vibes and green tea meetings at Wenshu Monastery had me recharged with an added hall-pass from a higher power. Chengdu served many delights, some were from the wonderment of the monastery but others were sent from another planet! In many respects, Chengdu took me to heaven and back again without me needing to apologise! Getting those prayers offered up, I was able to leave Chengdu behind without any issues of another kind. Let me express my gratitude to Wenshu Monastery, I knew a heavenly presence kept me from catching feelings, C! 

Since moving to China in June 2015, I have been fortunate enough to visit at least six temples thus far! During 2016s Chinese Spring Festival, I crossed the borderline from Shenzhen over to Hong Kong with much anticipation. Did I need to say a little prayer? That question was something of a mystery to me! With my independent day in Hong Kong going well, I consulted the MTR Underground Station at Shueng Wan. The colourful attraction list had me looking for inspiration because even divine intervention wasn't going to bring me a Wi-Fi connection! Heaven needed to help me out! Attracted by the bright colours of Fung Ying Seen Koon Temple in the Hong Kong's New Territories, I boarded my LoWu Border Checkpoint bound MTR with that HK house of worship in mind. The dreary almost British weather had me captivated by the bold and bright colours of the temple, I needed some colour injected back into the day. Genuinely, I was excited to remove myself from the noise of Hong Kong's city core. HK, 祈禱吧! 

Mother did not raise any fool here, I knew full well that Hong Kong had once being a British Colony up until the handover to China in 1997. Being formerly part of the British Empire, Hong Kong did serve a slice of a Western religion to me during the previous day that was of a Christian nature. St. John's Cathedral will be featured in a future 'Like A Prayer' blog instalment but in the here and now, I'll put that relic of the past to bed. The MTR stopped dead in Fanling for me to alight, of course those Maltesers at Mannings needed to be bought the second that I saw them! With a lush mountainous backdrop, Fanling Station stood in the shadows of host of HK tower blocks that towered up to the heavens. Those Hong Kong guys, they were looking heaven sent, seriously I was being blessed with those views. Swiping my Octopus Card at the temples entrance allowed me to jump into another world entirely. Fung Ying Seen Koon took me by the hand, I explored the temple grounds with no time limit. It was a journey, HK was so blessed!

Giving Macau its name, the A-Ma Temple stands as one of the oldest Taoist temples in Macau. Built in 1488 this Taoist house of worship was dedicated to Matsu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen. Giving me a little history lesson, when I read the UNESCO World Heritage Site sign it told me that when the Portuguese sailors docked, they asked the local people what the land was called? The local people told the European seamen, their destination was called 'A-Ma-Gau'. As a Portuguese Overseas Territory until 1999, 'A-Ma-Gau' had a name change to 'Macao'. Built 528 years ago, I will say that I'm not religious but I couldn't deny I was feeling moved. Standing within 澳门半岛 (Macau Peninsula) the style of the A-Ma Temple acted as quite the contrast as it was sandwiched between the protected historic Portuguese buildings. Taking my time once again, that slice of pre-Portuguese Macau allowed me to see something similar to the Mainland. From 1488 to 2016, the A-Ma Temple looked great! Da próxima vez, São Paulo! Deus me ajude!

Don't blame it on the edit because both Hong Kong and Macau served another kind of 'Religious Realness!' Those former Overseas Territories from British and also Portuguese rule meant that I saw other sights with a godly presence during my 2016 Chinese Spring Festival trips. Once I get myself back to those current Special Administrative Regions, that double return will enable me to pay attention to the Christian churches in Hong Kong and the Macao houses of worship, which also share the same Jesus like energy. No, no, no, mister Jesus Christ didn't get in my way, neither did those Buddhism or Taoist vibes because I gave each divine interpretation the same time and acknowledgment. Keep the same energy, J.C! Chengdu, Hong Kong and Macau have collectively allowed me to bring this new blog concept to life, I definitely intend to bring another 'Like A Prayer' but only when the time is right! My religion is love, my place of worship is dance-floor but mostly definitely I'll take a glass or two of that sacred red wine! 爱是光! 好吧? 

Like A Prayer!

Joseph Harrison 

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