A Tourist in Ancient Country in a Dream
Author Bai Tu
Steps on Jianmen
The first place where Koji went directly was Jian’ge County. Along the way, he recited silently the verses of Perilous Journey to the Land of Shu, written by Li Bai (a poet of Tang Dynasty), “Don’t you see that forbidding Sword Pass? One defender there, and a whole army’s attack would be blocked.” Not knowing how many times he has recited during the three-hour-odd journey. Due to Yuan Fang’s absence, official Di drove in person (it’s said that official Di spent two years obtaining the driving license). Frightened as Koji was on the way, he overcame it by virtue of Libai’s lofty sentiments. On arriving at the county, they could see mighty mountains through the windows. Being from Bashu, they have seen many mountains. Mountains in other places seem to be far away, so it is natural to think of “being the other side of mountains”. The loft and towering mountains here are near at hand, giving us a feeling of pressure. No wonder that Li Bai exclaimed, “Alas! The height, the staggering height! Getting to Shu, so steep, steeper than heaven.”
However, Koji thought it too early to say so.
When driving into the Jian’ge County, there were always some people shouting at the cars cordially, “accommodation and meals”. At sight of this, official Di worn a mysterious smile. After the Tofu Feast, we walked out from the other side of the gate of Jian’ge, where there were high mountains and luxuriant bamboos. At the beginning, official Di and Koji climbed the mountains with full enthusiasm.
After covering a length of mountain roads, the majestic Jian’ge appeared in front of us. Koji thought the opening verse in Perilous Journey to the Land of Shu should be “Two cliffs erect to the sky, towering and majestic”.The plank road along the two cliffs is like a broken and conjoint python.
Hearing that there was a glass viewing platform at the crest of the hill, we immediately thought of the thrilling pictures taken by foreigners. We have been also eager to experience the breathtaking feeling as they did. Not feeling strange, official Di could always find something familiar, such as wooden bathroom, copper soldiers creeping for observation, a solid rattan rope, etc. He could also imagine and practice the Monkey King’s pleasure in acknowledging a master. However, he gradually felt like walking into Kafka’s Castle. We could always see the position of glass viewing platform on the signs, but it seemed that we could never approach it.
It was getting dark, so we didn't go to the viewing platform. Hearing that the bird's path was more breathtaking, we walked toward it. However, official Di was out of sight.Li Bai once said, "Mount Tai sitting to the west—a pass
Trying the birds' flight to Emei.". There was also such path in Jian’ge. Only those who have the flying abilities of birds can pass the bird's path. On one side is the narrow bird's path withiron stakes connecting at internals; on the other side isthe bold cliffs. If the viewing platform is breathtaking, then every step on the bird's path is alarmingly dangerous. It was really a pity that Koji couldn't take photos with his phoneout of charge.
Hearing that official Di went to visit the viewing tower, we went for it. With two wooden horizontal boards inscribed with “Impregnable Pass Under Heaven” and “Chang’an Under Eyes”, the viewing tower was patterned after that of Ming Dynasty after Wenchuan earthquake in 2009. Standing on the viewing tower, Koji recalled the old saying, “Having conquered the Jianmen Pass means taking charge of Sichuan”. We had no idea of whether official Di had climbed the viewing tower to see his previous mansion.
Behind the viewing tower are the statues of Zhu Geliang and Liu Bei, but Koji didn’t take much interest in seeing them. It was necessary to mention a viewing sign of “Divine Statue of Jiang Wei” along the road, but we hadn’t founded it. So we sportively thought that the “divinity” was embodied somewhere out of sight. Later, I found that Koji was ignorant and that divine statue of Jiang Wei wasn’t craved by the later generations as the previous ones but a natural landscape.
On the cliff of the strategic pass in the west of viewing tower stands a giant head which the local people call divine statue of Jiang Wei or head statue of a warrior. With a helmet on its head, the statue has a protruded nose, big eyes, dense eyebrows and thick lips, giving expression to a solemn manner and manhood. In the bottom right of the divine statue squats a monkey, facing the impregnable pass like a ravening tiger with a murderous look.
One legend holds that the stone statue was left over by five hercules to guard the Jianmen Pass when cutting into the mountain. Some people argue that it was the embodiment of Jiang Wei after his death. It is said that the stone monkey was the monkey king on the Jianmen Mountain, with other monkeys worshiping. When we walked out of the threshold, the moon almost faded away. The dark green mountains were so mighty and magnificent. It was like a dream, and I was further and further away from Jianmen Pass.
Heritage of Zhaohua
On the lonely road, I asked him whether he had seen his previous mansion, but he didn’t respond, only to take out a Marlboro. After lighting it, he went forward, but I didn’t know where he was going.
Official Di drove at a speed of kilometer, with which he was delighted. But, being about to stop, he complained, “who designed such a damn parking lot? It was like the Eight -Diagram tactics.” It didn’t occur to me that he spoke well in Chengdu dialect. Finally, he parked his car. Koji watched the highly hanging banner written the seal character “Liu” with seeming indignation of restoring our lost territories. After having a careful look, he found it the Ancient City of Zhaohua.
Getting old, official Di couldn’t forget the ancient walls and houses, because they could remind him of his childhood. Driving the whole day, feeling very fatigue and nostalgic made him more distracted. To their amazement, there was an inn called “Gu Compound” where they could take a good rest and calm down. Looking around, official Di made himself at home, forgetting the unpleasant things.
Official Di had had the habit of waking up in the noon before, but he got up early in the morning next day to see the sunrise on the top of the city wall in order to stir up his poetics. He said that he hadn’t composed a poem for a long time, but he had already lost his poetry when deciding to be a poet. “Isn’t the sunset as beautiful as the sunrise?” I asked. “The setting sun seems so sublime, but it is near its dying time,” he answered.
The ancient streets paved with slabstones were stepped with sounds. Every family was decorated with red lanterns. The commercial atmosphere was very strong, while tourists were few. Street grocery stores were everywhere. Many people made and sold glutinous rice cakes. Official Di experienced the pleasure of labor himself, so the taste seemed to be more yummy.
We happened to pass by a restaurant named “Sanjiang Fish Restaurant”, which was the very one that we targeted online in the morning. The meal time passed, and we found the restaurant quite clean with few customers. People often say that thirty percent depend on the taste while seventy percent on the emotion. We ordered a two-kilo-odd catfish and asked the waitress to make a mild spicy hot-pot. It may be because we were so hungry that nothing was left after a while.
Zhaohua county has many remarkable spots. The ancient houses near the river with stream flowing looked exquisite and gentle. The long and narrow streets were hidden under the green pines and verdant cypresses. The street was desolate with few tourists, while shops were open widely. When stepping on the street paved with blue slabstones, we could feel its long history and rich cultural deposits. The ancient buildings shows strong historic atmosphere, while the old cypress in the Town God’s Temple displays its annual ring with its strong body and proves its eternal being with towering branches.
The ancient city has been preserved well. As a witness of history, the whole city wall has been used to defend enemies and protect this pure land. Standing on the city wall, we can see its vicissitudes hard to be concealed by its beauty. Walking on the ancient street, Koji seemed to come back to thousands of years ago when there were bustling bazaars, people in ancient costumes and the youth in black clothes. When looking back, the vendors’ s peddling still rang ears. Going ahead, we saw a white jade archway still standing in the centre of the alley. The Chinese character meaning “chaste and undefiled” on the archway proves a woman’s lofty and pure spirits, which also reflects the pure and honest folk customs of Zhaohua.
Waking along an alameda, we arrived at the well-known Jubai Ferry (a convergence of Bailong River and Jialing River). The county magistrate He Yiyu held that men-in-the-street would raise silkworms if they didn’t plough, so their time of producing couldn’t be deprived. Thus, he served as a labor force personally, which left behind the fantastic story of “County Magistrate Pull Boats”. There was even a story that the emperor of Ming Dynasty passed Jubai Ferry. Zhaohua was an important military town in the Three Kingdoms period, and the ferry was the door of rise and fall, so many outstanding figures staged tragicomedy scenes here. The ferry now still maintains the exchanges between the villagers on both sides of the Bailong River, displaying its vitality and vigor.
Before leaving, official Di couldn’t not help but once again walking towards the Linqing gate, in front of which their unequal heights of shadows were dragged longer by sunshine. The wind blew Di’s beard, and sounds were suddenly drifted—When departing from Sichuan, heart was broken. This regret shall last for evermore. The sound of cuckoos can be heard at anytime as if the spring will last a year.
Chengdu—Jianmen Pass—the Ancient City of Zhaohua—Chengdu
Self-driving: Start from Chengdu, drive on Beijing-Kunming expressway and then out from Jiange exit. Drive about 2km to arrive at the scenic spot of Jianmen Pass; after the visit, leave for the Ancient City of Zhaohua along Beijing-Kunming expressway for about 6km.
Bus: Take a bus in Chengdu Zhaojue Temple station to Jiange with a ticket of 90 yuan, then transfer to the scenic spot of Jianmen Pass; after the visit, take a bus in the new county of Jiange to Baolun town and then head for the Ancient City of Zhaohua
Lunch: Tofu feast of Jianmen pass contains Jianmen tofu, Bear’s paw with bean curd, pregnant tofu, tofu pancake, etc.
Dinner: Set meals can be offered but not be ordered in the Gu compound. Cooks prepare dishes according to the menu and the number of people on that day. Reference price: 128 yuan every four persons
Accommodation: Gu compound in the Ancient City of Zhaohua. Reference price: 200-400 yuan each room
Self-driving: Start from the Ancient City of Zhaohua and drive back to Chengdu along the Beijing-Kunming expressway
Bus: Take a bus in the Ancient City of Zhaohua to Baolun station and then to Chengdu
Lunch: You can taste eco-fish of Jialing River, preserved meat, native chicken and local snacks, such as sticky candies, dried bean curds, sliced walnuts, etc., in the Ancient City of Zhaohua.