Caleb Kostreva is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A public policy and civic leadership; social science (global studies emphasis) major at Howard Payne University, he is studying abroad in Shanghai this term.
In this week's post, Caleb takes us along on a CAPA Shanghai trip to Hangzhou.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Hangzhou. Situated just over an hour away from Shanghai by high-speed train, Hangzhou is a small metropolis with a magical beauty to it. Our CAPA group was only there for a very short day and a half, but I could have easily spent at least a week there.
After settling into our hotel and grabbing lunch at a family-style restaurant, we walked to West Lake, the replica of which is located at the Summer Palace in Beijing. As we strolled along the boardwalk by the lake, I began to realize some very stark differences between Hangzhou and Shanghai. Perhaps it was because of the slower pace of the city, or maybe it was the absence of looming towers posing as the backdrop for every street as it is in Shanghai. But Hangzhou felt like it is a city that was designed to be lived in. Shanghai seems like a city designed for business and traffic. Shanghai has life, there is no doubting that, but I’ve found it difficult to see it as a livable city.
In Shanghai, you can find elderly people dancing in the parks, but in Hangzhou, there were community gatherings all over the place, and especially on the West Lake boardwalk. There were people of all ages strolling around, dances, small groups of people singing – the street entertainment was endless, and the onlookers even more so.
Our second day there was mainly focused on visiting Lingyin Temple. Known for its large collection of Buddhas, Lingyin Temple is nestled low in the mountains a short drive from Hangzhou. As a mountain-loving person, I felt right at home, although these mountains have few actual similarities to the mountains of my home state, Colorado.
On the mountain face opposing the temple, there is a long stretch of Buddha reliefs carved into the rock face. There are countless of them, each unique and astonishingly well-preserved.
Lingyin Temple is the largest temple I have visited since I arrived in China three months ago, and its magnificence was equaled by its beauty. Upon entering the complex, I immediately noticed the smell of burning incense wafting through the air, and the faint haze floating across the courtyards and dissolving into the sky. Many of the people in the temple area were not tourists, but there was also a large number of locals who went to the temple to pray. Facing the back of the most prominent building in the complex, I found a wall covered to the ceiling of Buddhas in a story-telling relief. Looking at the individual faces of the Buddhas fascinated me!
As I have been forced to come to terms with the end of this semester, I have fallen in love with China all the more. At some points in the semester, I wondered if traveling around the world was worth it if it meant that I had to see more people than I already see in the United States being treated as sub-human, while at other times I resolved I was going to stay here forever. I’ve swung all across that scale, but this weekend was definitely one of those times where I was in a sort of heaven in China. If I were to pick any place in China (that I’ve been to so far) to move to, I would without hesitation choose Hangzhou.
Caleb's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.