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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Found in the Henan Province in China, the most rural part of the country, the Longmen Grottoes are declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of China’s 38.  The largest sculpture carved out of the stone sits at 56.23 feet tall, and is a statue of the Vairocana Buddha, considered to be the highest and most trancendental buddha in the Kegon school.

Overall, the Longmen Grottoes contain more than 100,000 statues situated among 2100 “niches”, or small caves.  These caves were originally carved during the reign of the Northern Wei Dynasty, beginning in AD 493, when Emperor Xiaowen moved the capital to the nearby city of Luoyang.  They were built by monks and craftsmen as part of a tradition the Northern Wei Dynasty had for building stone temples (as seen at the Yungang Grottoes, constructed earlier), as a way to pay tribute to various emperors and Buddhist deities.

Each cave appears to tell a separate story.  The Middle Binyang Cave, one of a series of three caves whose construction lasted 24 years, contains statues which the Emperor Xuanwu built to release the souls of his parents from purgatory.  The Yaofang Cave, built beginning in AD 520 during the late years of the reign of Emperor Xiaoming, contains 30 statues and was not completed until the reign of Emperor Wenxuan of the Northern Qi Dynasty, 500 years later.  The Wanfo Cave, built during the Tang Dynasty, contains 15,000 sitting statues of bodhisattva Maitreya, and was built because the Empress Wu Zetian believed she was Maitreya reincarnated from heaven.

The tradition continued into the Tang Dynasty, not halting until 705 AD.

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Do you think you’ve really seen all there is to see in the city or town that you live in?  For instance, if you’re living in Washington, you could say that it bores you because you are already familiar with every museum at the smithsonian, and the exhibits are all the same every time you go there.

I discovered a website that allows you to take a different look at your city through taking what I call a “subject trip”.  By doing so, you might discover new features and interesting tidbits about your city or town that you never thought existed before.

Go to the website http://www.waymarking.com and click on the “categories” tab in the upper right hand corner of the page.  It will present you with a list of vague categories to choose from, such as “Signs” or “History/Culture”.   Click on your subject of interest for the day, and it will bring you to a list of more specific subjects based on the category you chose.

As an example, if you click on “Signs” and then “Border Crossings”, the website will present images based around state and country borders.  You will see signs such as “Welcome to Arkansas” and the US/Mexican border at Laredo, Texas.

To find border crossings specific to your city/region, type your zip code or address into the window at the top of the page where it says “Filter:  All Waymarks”.  Now naturally for the Washington, DC area, State of Maryland signs seen on the side of the highway are not that exciting to the common sight-seer.  But this is the beauty of waymarking.com.  You might type in a subject that pertains more to your liking, and actually find something that you never thought you would have seen before.

My personal favorite categories so far are “used bookstores” and “roadside america”.  Not only can I appreciate the used bookstores themselves for what they contain, such as that rare find of a free Life Magazine from the 1960’s showing Richard Nixon’s inauguration, but I can also appreciate each store’s unique interior layout and exterior facade as well.  And I don’t even have to have been there:  someone else has managed to take a picture of their local bookstore in San Diego, California, and placed it online for me out of the goodness of their own heart.

One more thing:  if you don’t see a Waymarking category there of a subject that interests you, you can create it yourself.  And if you only have 2 or 3 pictures of that category to share, don’t worry, because that is the beauty of Waymarking.com:  other people can contribute to your category.  Over a small period of time, the category you create could become a true collaborative effort that is an effective piece of research/fun/learning for many others out there in internet-land.

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