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Travelers embrace local customs at China's top tourist areas

By Mei Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2023-10-23 06:07
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Sound therapy at the foot of Mount Emei, Sichuan province, includes bronze and quartz crystal singing bowls to echo Buddhist culture. [Photo by Mei Jia/China Daily]

In a silent and cozy room with dim lighting, there's only the sound of wind rustling across bamboo leaves outside the windows. A clinking sound of singing bowls flows in, followed by a succession of tinkles, dings and dongs, just like when a Buddhist monk chants sutras and sends out prayers of solace and good wishes.

Suddenly, the sound of ocean waves caressing the sand surges near, gently.

The room is then filled with ambient sounds and resonance, so that one easily feels the vibration of their heart, and breathes with it. Then after finishing with the sound of a bronze gong, all returns to silence and the lights come on.

"I was so relaxed during the therapy that I fell asleep," says a young woman from Mianyang, Sichuan province. She's visiting the Mount Emei resort in Sichuan during the National Day holiday. She rises from the yoga mat to see a set of bowls, mallets, and other percussion instruments in front of her.

Yu Hongxia, who leads the sound therapy, invites the woman to experience the bronze and crystal items, to find out which instruments produced what sounds during her meditation.

"The seashore waves are from something called an ocean drum, a flat drumlike instrument filled with small beads," Yu says. "And if we strike the bronze gong, we use the mallet to hit the place we call the belly, like on our own body, for the best soothing tone."

Yu says sound therapy is practiced widely, but when it comes as a treat for hotel guests visiting Mount Emei, it adds to the experience of Zen and echoes well with local features.

Mount Emei has nurtured Buddhist culture for centuries. With around 30 temples, the mountain was listed as a World Heritage Site in both cultural and natural categories in 1996, and is one of China's four Great Buddhist Mountains.

One signature Emei view is called the "Glory of the Golden Summit", a rare natural phenomenon known also as the Brocken specter. It can be observed, with luck, on the area's second-highest peak, at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters, where the world's tallest golden statue of Samantabhadra (Pu Xian, the Universal Worthy Bodhisattva) is located.

The hotel, at the foot of the mountain, is situated near the Baoguo Temple, a temple at the doorway to the mountain built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It's where many Buddhist ceremonies are traditionally held.

Singing bowls are derived from musical instruments used by monks during ceremonies. Made of bronze or quartz crystal for sound therapy, the bowls vary in size, thickness and weight to create different sounds, as well as rings and overtones. Tapping and rubbing the rims are two main ways to play.

"The sound frequencies of the bowls and the other instruments used are believed to send out sonic energy to help practitioners focus during meditation and induce bodily relaxation, thus rebuilding the body's balance," Yu says. "It's just like a sound bath."

The young woman from Mianyang city was also invited to do calligraphy, writing the Buddhist scripture The Heart Sutra.

Meanwhile, visitors to a hotel near the Huangguoshu Waterfall in Anshun, Guizhou province, encounter some of the region's ethnic attractions. Like Mount Emei, the waterfall is another major tourist attraction in China. One of the country's biggest, the waterfall is located in a BouyeiMiao autonomous county.

Its Bouyei concierges welcome new arrivals with handmade necklaces made in the Miao ethnic style, a combination of colored threads and small, silver leaves.

Here, Wu Xueli teaches wax dyeing at a workshop. Visitors can also experience making souvenirs such as handkerchiefs, T-shirts and fans.

"There are always enthusiastic participants who like to make multiple wax-dyed items, and they will come to the workshop every day during their stay in the hotel to work on them," Wu says.

Wu suggests tie-dyeing for starters, because through the simple steps of tying the pieces of cloth, and dipping them into the dyeing vat, indigo-white patterns will appear in unexpected ways.

"Wax-dyeing requires basic painting skills, because warm wax is applied with a paintbrush. It serves the same purpose as tying the cloth, separating the dye from the cloth in the vat," she adds.

"Sometimes, we combine the two skills in one piece."

The Miao people in Anshun, and many other places, have developed the techniques for over 2,000 years.

China generated approximately 753.4 billion yuan ($103.2 billion) in tourism revenue during the eight-day National Day holiday earlier this month, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism says that this represents a year-on-year increase of 129.5 percent, and a rise of 1.5 percent on the same period in 2019.

People made 826 million domestic trips during the eight days, the ministry says. Those returning home with cherished memories of local culture and traditions will have a better understanding of themselves and of their beautiful country.

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