“Now, friends, we are going to the Stupid Pagodas in Dali!” exclaimed our new tour guide through the screeching microphone system as we depart from the Dali Airport. I thought to myself, it’s Stupor Pagodas! as the bus jerked while the driver shifted gears. It was day 5 of our China CYTS Yunan tour, which included Kunming, Stone Forest, Juixiang, Dali, and Lijiang. Of the many different family trips to China, this was by far the most interesting! On our first night in Kunming’s Bank Hotel, which is a marvelous five-star hotel, at 3:00AM, I managed to cause a blackout in our room when I tried to use my hairdryer I brought from home. On the second night in Kunming, the regional delicacy, a noodle soup with a thick layer of oil at the surface, left my sister and I sick to our stomachs. Exhausted from two full days of hiking, jetlag, and lack of sleep, I was beginning to feel a bit unenthusiastic.
With another jerk, the bus came to a screeching halt and I was awakened by the force of my head slamming into the window. My mother told me to grab my sunscreen and an umbrella, but still groggy from the 5:00AM flight, I stumbled down the bus with neither. The tour of the Three Pagodas began, and after the entrance gates, I began to walk in a trance as I realized how vast the park was. The stone-paved ground stretched around me, and I stood before the Three Pagodas, representing Buddha’s past, present, and future. The guide lead us around the back of the pagodas and the breath-taking view of the morning sun hitting the “Present” Pagoda left me with wonder and appreciation for the beauty in the world. We admired the infamous scenery with the Pagodas being reflected off the reflection pool. Our tour guide then released us into the grand park, allowing freedom to roam and explore.
While my mother and sister rested, my father and I climbed the steps leading to the temple that housed Buddha statues. We admired the structures that stood before us, behind us, beside us, and under us because all were built by the hands of monastery monks hundreds of thousands of years ago. When I stepped into the temple, the gold Buddha welcomed me, tranquilly seated upon a golden lotus with his index finger raised. I notice that people were using an ancient Chinese fortune-telling art where one shakes a single dagger from a vase while kneeling to the Buddha. At the time, I was recovering from a busy school year and was struggling to clear my mind of all worries, ranging from romantic prospects to school to social problems. In a silent cry for spiritual guidance, I stepped up to the kneeling pillow and shook the bamboo vase. As I shook, I felt my emotional burdens expelling from my heavy heart and liberation wrapping over my soul. Finally, “The Ninethieth Dagger,” dropped onto the tiles. My father dropped a ten-yen donation into the charity box and we walked out to retrieve my fortune.
My father translated, “Give your best in everything and you will succeed. A loved one will be waiting in a boat to guide you to prosperity.” It was not much, but it was a ray of hope that shone into my dark room. As our exploration commenced, we walked with Gary and his dermatologist son, Dr. Brian Toy, back to the gates. While the adults exchanged their commentary about the park, I thought to myself, Huh, I have reached enlightenment at the Stupid Pagodas…
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