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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bagan Temples,Burma,Myanmar

Bagan is a plain that covers an area of about 16 squares miles alongside the Ayeyarwaddy’s east bank. The temples and Pagodas of Bagan that are now decaying were constructed mainly between the 11th and 13th centuries A.D., which was during the time that Bagan was the Myanmar dynasty seat. Local chronicles have carried tradition that says that 55 kings ruled over the Bagan kingdom over twelve centuries.
The Bagan temples are known as “gu” and were inspiration from the Buddhist rock caves. These were big multi-story buildings that the people could enter and were places where people went to worship, with the interior having richly frescoed corridors and sacred images and shrines that would be worshiped. The temples are often massively built oblong or square structures with terraces on the outside to represent Mount Meru, which was a symbolic home for the gods. The Bagan temples would also be surrounded by a wall made to be thick so that it would separate the sacred realm from the world outside.
The pagodas of Bagan are funerary monuments that have acquired a Buddhism cosmic symbolism. The Bagan pagodas also contain relics that are associated with Buddha. Some of the monuments were constructed in honor of a notable person, being built to bring lasting memories for important families as well. These structures are built in the shape of a bell that is set on an octagonal or square base, and they usually stand to a tapering peak covered with jewels and metal, with a sacred decoration shaped like a parasol (called “hti”) on the top.
Name of the few Bagan temples:
Ananda Temple- This temple was completed in 1091 A.D. by King Kyanzittha. It is modeled after the legendary Nandamula cave in the Himalaya mountains. Soaring to 51 meters, it received its golden gilding in 1990 in commemeration of the 900th anniversary of its construction. Contained within the temple are four great statues of the Buddhas of the four ages. Kakusandha faces north, Konagamana faces east, Kassapa faces south, and Guatama, the most recent Buddha, faces west.
Gawdawpalin, built in the 12th century by King Narapatisithu, the 60 meter temple was badly damaged in a 1975 earthquake but has been completely reconstructed.
Dhammayangyi, the largest temple in Bagan, it was built by King Narathu who reigned from 1167 to 1170.
Shwesandaw, built in 1057 by King Anawahta, the stupa enshrines hairs of the Buddha. It is sometimes called the Ganesh Temple after the elephant headed Hindu god whose images once stood at corners of each of the five terraces.
Mahabodhi, this temple is an exact, though smaller, replica of the famous Bodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, India (where the Buddha attained enlightenment beneath the Bodhi tree). It was built during the reign of King Nantaungmya (1210-1234) and is completely covered with niches containing seated Buddha figures.
Shwezigon, this pagoda was built as the most important reliquary shrine in Bagan. Begun by King Anawrahta and completed by King Kyanzittha in 1089, it contains several bones and hairs of the Buddha. Pilgrims from throughout Burma journey to Shwezigon each year for a great festival during the Burmese month of Nadaw, which falls in the November-December period. This festival is hugely popular because elements of pre-Buddhist Nat worship (Nats are pagan anamistic spirits) were combined with Buddhist themes in the pagoda’s construction. Shwezigon is thus a center of pilgrimage for both the archaic shamanic culture of Burma and the newer religion of Buddhism.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Roussanou monastery, Greece

Rousannou  Monastery was founded around 1545 by Maximos and Ioasaph of Ioannina. The reason for the monastery's name is not known - it is actually dedicated to St. Barbara - but may reflect the name of a hermit who occupied the rock. It soon declined and became subject to Varlaam Monastery by 1614.
The monastery once again fell into disrepair for the two centuries prior to the 1940s, when it was damaged in World War II then plundered by the Germans. It was later repaired by the regional archaeological service and since 1988 it has been occupied by a small community of 13 nuns.
Rousannou Monastery stands on a low rock and is easily accessible by a bridge built of wood in 1868 and replaced by more solid material in 1930. Despite this, its situation is still quite dramatic, with the rock dropping off sharply on all sides.
The monastery covers the entire surface of the rock and consists of three levels: the church and cells occupy the ground floor, while the two upper floors house the guest quarters, reception halls, an exhibition room, and more cells.
The frescoes in Rousannou's Church of the Transfiguration of Christ, which is essentially a smaller version of Varlaam's church, date from 1560. The narthex is decorated primarily with gruesome scenes of martyrdom, as at other Meteora monasteries.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hanging Monastery (Xuankong Si)-China

The Hanging Temple Xuankong Si is situated near the sacred Dacist Mountain, Hengshan, sticking to it 75 meters above ground. It is located in the Hunyuan County, in China’s Shanxi province and it is believed to have been built more than 1500 years ago, at the end of the Northern Wei Dynasty by only one monk named Liao Ron. The hanging religious edifice covers an area of 152,5 square meters; this half construction half excavation building containing 40 well balanced chambers connected by corridors, bridges and boardwalks. The major construction weighting at least 10 tones follows a unique mechanical theory regarding the framework; the crossbeams were half inserted into the rock as the foundation. Xuankong Si does not have a square shape like most Asian temples but it incorporates all the traditional structures: main gate, bell and drum towers, roof with ridges.
The reason Xuankong Si was built so high above the ground may be one of practicality – defense against marauders or protection from floods.  The more romantic version is that the Monks were dedicated to silence and so high above the ground they might achieve this ideal.  It is said that they were forbidden to hear the barking of dog, the wailing of a child or even the sound of a rooster crowing as it welcomed the dawn. It is now largely a tourist attraction but caretakers are said to still live in its caves and halls.
Nominated one of the world’s 10 most dangerous architectures, the Hanging Temple in China is considered one great cultural achievement combining an extraordinary location with a unique mechanical theory and a harmonic mixture of three world renowned religions. The legend behind this dramatic sight appearing to defy gravity tells that the Hanging Temple was built to suppress the monsters that caused the nearby river to flood often. Nowadays, this peculiar architectural wonder represents a symbol of unity among the Chinese people achieved through the combination of the three major religions: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.

Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada, USA

Beautiful Lake Tahoe lies in the Sierra Nevada mountain range along the border of California and Nevada in the United States. With 496 square kilometers (192 sq miles) of surface area and lovely mountain scenery, the lake is a major tourist destination year round. There are over 12 ski resorts at Lake Tahoe and visitors can find all manner of winter activities here including snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, snow tubing, and more. Many water sports are also enjoyed here, such as swimming, boating, water skiing, and scuba diving. A large variety of accommodation can be found on the lake, from ritzy expensive resorts to backpacker style hostels.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lotus Lake, Kaoshiung, Taiwan

The city of Kaoshiung in southwestern Taiwan is home to the stunning man-made Lotus Lake. The lake is a popular tourist destination famous for its many temples and its large statue of the Emperor of the Dark Heaven, a Taoist God. The most popular temples are the Spring and Autumn Pavilions, the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, and the Confucian Temple. As its name suggests, Lotus Lake is famous for the many beautiful pink lotus flowers blooming around the rim of the lake. Lotus Lake is easy to get to by train from Kaoshiung city center, and the sights are best explored on foot.
Getting To Lotus Lake from Kaohsiung, Taiwan
The fastest way to Zuoying and Lotus Lake is to catch a train from Kaohsiung station. They leave every fifteen minutes and the ride only takes about 5 minutes; NT$15.
When you exit Zuoying station, cross the avenue and head north on Shengli Rd - you'll see the lake on your right after about 200 meters.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mono Lake, California, USA

Mono Lake has no outlet to the ocean, and has become very salty and alkaline. In Mono County, California, just Northeast of Yosemite National Park, lies a fascinating 760,000 year old saline lake.The most notable feature of Mono Lake is it strange tufa formations, giving the lake an other worldly or moon-like quality. The tufa at Mono Lake are limestone formations that were once underwater but have slowly been exposed as the lake’s water evaporated. Tufa deposits are also found at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Glacier National Park, Montana, USA

Glacier National Park is located in the US state of Montana. The park is massively large, encompassing over 1,000,000 acres (4,000 square km). In the mid 1800s the park was named for its roughly 150 glaciers, though only 25 remain today and it’s estimated that all the glaciers will have melted by 2030. With over 130 lakes, two mountain ranges, over 700 miles of hiking trails, and many miles of scenic road, the park is a popular hiking, camping, and scenic driving destination for all manner of tourist. The nearest airport is in Kalispell, Montana, and the Amtrak train line stops at East.

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