Page:A Wayfarer in China.djvu/155

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113
ON THE MANDARIN ROAD

the slope, gay with pink azaleas, to a charming wooden bridge spanning the torrent. After a sharp pull through a fine forest, we came out in front of the temple, which was dedicated to Kuan Yin: by the way, it is rather significant that China's favourite deity is the Goddess of Mercy. The place seemed deserted, and we wandered about at will. Apparently extensive repairs were going on, and roofs and gods alike were being refurbished. After a time an old priest turned up, who took us through the timber-built monastery behind the temple. Here, he told us, well-to-do people of the neighbourhood often spent a few weeks in summer, to escape the damp heat of the valley. The practical Chinese do not hesitate to put their sacred places to use, and they serve in turn for schools, political gatherings, summer resorts.

I was half a mind to cry a halt, the place looked so attractive, and all the more when on stepping out of a door there opened before me a wonderful vision of heaven-kissing mountains. While we were inside the clouds had lifted, revealing the whole line of the great peaks that stand as sentinels at the eastern end of the vast Tibetan plateau. Westward from that snow-topped line there is no low land until you reach the plains of India. For a few minutes we stood spellbound, and then the clouds shut down again, leaving only a glorious memory to cheer the descent through a grey, dripping world.