In the morning, before leaving Xining, we stop to see the Taoist North Temple which is at the edge of this large and bustling city. We will then head north, with plans to have lunch in Datong along the way, and wind up in Zhangye by nightfall, for the first night of a two night stay there.
The North Temple is quite beautiful, but almost all of its cave paintings and sculptures are not open because the entire complex, built into a steep mountainside, has many parts which are on the verge of structural collapse.
Seeing the condition of this important and beautiful complex underscores the mammoth job facing the Provincial and National Chinese Governments in trying to preserve the many cave and temple complexes that all urgently need attention throughout the country.
The steep climb up hundreds of steps to panoramic views of the city of Xining, was worth it alone! Many of the most beautiful temples and monasteries on our trip so far have been in quite remote locations, away from the noise, traffic, and pollution of the cities. It’s refreshing to the lungs, heart and soul to journey to them, and be refreshed by the calm, clean air, and peacefulness that surrounds them.
The drive north, through the mountain chain and passes the Chinese call “Switzerland East,” to Zhangye was fantastic! Some of the best, most scenic snow-covered mountains and valleys I’ve ever seen. We ended up in Zhangye, a charming town which we’ll explore tomorrow.