Like A Prayer: China... Kunming, Harbin & Hangzhou!

I'm not down for religion as such but I don't judge someone else's beliefs, shelving those holy scriptures to one side I do love discovering new places of worship, whatever the chosen religious flex! China has once again shown me a series of inspiring houses of religion, giving me a history lesson! Sure, I left with a calm and centred mind. St. Sophia acted crazy but she wasn't sinning!

I want to take this opportunity to rewind back to December 2016 during my Christmas holiday within Southwest China's Yunnan province. Touching down into Kunming Changshui International Airport I didn't really have a set plan for my two days in China's spring city. With burnout from the long working week, I half knew that the Yuantong Temple was in my sights. I wasn't reading into the history behind Kunming's city centre temple because it was so pleasing to the eye. During that lunchtime hour, I was taken away to another world. Getting my incense sticks and candles from the approved temple shop that stood at the foot of the temples entrance I was good to go. Stepping into the temples entrance allowed the calm and serene feelings of the grounds to take over my soul. Absolutely, that Yuantong Temple in Kunming already knew what I needed in my life! Originally built during the 8th and 9th century, Yuantong Temple ensured that I respectfully soaked up the Tang Dynasty period. Yunnan was like a prayer, fate sealed it! 

Those monks were dressed so fresh, I had myself looking on TaoBao to hook myself up with a garment similar to theirs! Honestly, I was feeling the moment and loving every single second of clarity that found me once again. Lighting those incense and candles had to be done, offering those offerings to a higher power, I wanted nothing but love and light to guide me through that Christmas 2016 trip. The shallow pond in the middle of the temple grounds set a peaceful tone to my visit and added to the atmosphere, no stress or tiredness could be found in my life in that moment. Yuantong Temple had me centred and focussed with the placid and kicked back nature from the water in the ponds. Kunming ensured as my first stop for that trip ahead that Yuantong Temple would realign those chakras of mine, ensuring the trip went smoothly. Spanning 1,200 years since its opening in 817 AD, I didn't notice any major fatigue, she's still looking good! Yes, I'm taking anti-ageing tips from Yuantong's nature! I was spirited away to a Kunming mindset. 

China's bitterly cold Far Northeast showed me a slice of Moscow within China's border! During the days of the Russian Empire, Harbin was visited by the Russian's during the early 1900s. Harbin saw a sense a Russian flare being bought to Heilongjiang's provincial city! Transforming that freezing city into an Eastern Moscow of sorts, well I wanted to see! Completed in 1907, St. Sophia Cathedral still stands to this day with a fair amount of its European Orthodox design. I was attracted to Harbin due to the ice festival but I would have been a liar to say it was the only reason! Yes, I dealt with the below freezing weather conditions. Nowadays, St. Sophia's goes by the name 'Harbin Architectural Art Galley' stripped back, the congregation don't come to pray, they want to see how Harbin looked back during those Russian days. From the outside the revival of this former Orthodox cathedral looked in great shape considering its turbulent past. St. Sophia had a plan, even a revolution wouldn't deter people from gazing at her beauty! Да, H!

The train came from where? St. Sophia became quite the 'Red Square' icon with that 'Russian Revival architecture' because 100,000 of Harbin's overall population were Russian! People kept talking about the style St. Sophia's possessed, a sense of European cathedral Realness was being said she set the tone at? Yes! 100,000? Yes, out of the 300,000 strong population in Harbin during the early 1900s, Harbin's Russian contingent grew larger after the completion of the 'Trans-Siberian Railway' that connected China's Heilongjiang with Russia'a Vladivostok city! From the photos that I saw within the modern day 'Harbin Architectural Art Gallery' the category was very much 'European Muscovite Life!' St. Sophia's history has been colourful, her prayers are offered up in a very different way during Harbin's modern time. Religion isn't my thing but I am willing to brush past certain things as I maintain to have a sense of consciousness. Harbin, St. Sophia's Cathedral still looks great and whatever her function, I am here for it all, H!

Buddhism and Taoism seems to be prominent faiths in the China of today, making up the main focus in prayer within the temples on the Chinese Mainland. Like a prayer, we all have our own sense of what faith means to us as individuals and in China that pretty much works just like so. I have been in China for a few years now, even though some of my fellow countrymen maintain that after seeing one temple they all look the same? I know, that claim is something that I will rebuke until my last day spent in this wondrous continent like country! During my pre-trip research, I live for those places of worship to crop up because I want to challenge those confused and basic Westerners. I won't have my fellow countrymen making me look like I can't see a temple like a person, each person deserves the time of day to see what their personality is. Like people, all temples matter and they aren't all the same like us people! Where was I? This section is all about that 2017 moment! Hangzhou, Zhejiang brought me solace. Feilai had fairies? HGH?

The city of Hangzhou had attracted me firstly because of West Lake but something more was meant for that first day of exploration. I learnt that the Lingyin Temple had been designed and built by an Indian monk named 'Huili' around 328 AD. Intrigued to the max, I had to see this temple for myself! The main hall of the Lingyin Temple caught my attention the most, I got confused about the names of the halls but the bright colours pleased my senses to no end. Those yellow, gold and red tones stood out for me the most and the burning of incense had me breathing in all kinds of calmness. Moving away from the temple itself, I went forth to find the enchanted stones of the Feilai Park area. Beautifully formed of jagged rocks, the Feilai Park-side was separated by a winding creek. Of course, in that moment I loved my whole life at Hangzhou's Lingyin Temple. Did I love it all? Absolutely! Did it change my life? In a way, it did! Would I return to Hangzhou because of the delights and spiritual sights? Try and stop me, HZ!

Life's A Mystery? 

Joseph Harrison 


  1. I am a Christian. I have learned over the years to respect other people's religion, while staying true toy own. Thank for sharing your experiences.

    1. Thank you for your comment!

      Absolutely, we can learn a lot from each other...



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