This week was the celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival in China. Most businesses shut down for the national holiday including the TCM hospital. This provided me with the opportunity to get away from Kunming for two days and enjoy time with some friends. We went to Fuxian Lake which is about 50 kilometers southwest of the city in Chengjiang County. It is the deepest lake in Yunnan and one of the few that is still clear of pollution. The lake also hides some mysterious secrets as an ancient city lies more than four hundred feet below the surface.
After arriving at around 8PM, Tuesday night, we enjoyed a local dinner of fresh 抗浪鱼 (kanglang fish) caught from the lakes. We then spent the rest of the night on the sandy beach, playing traditional games and lighting fireworks in celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival. Some people were also lighting 孔明灯 (Kongming deng) or sky lanterns for good luck. It was magical to watch these glowing orbs float up into the night sky and drift off into the distance.
The next morning, we all got up, had a quick breakfast and prepared for a day on the lake. In the light of day, the lake’s beauty was illuminated. Surrounded by mountains, valleys, and plateaus, the crystal blue lake was one of the most amazing places that I have ever been. In the center of the lake is a small island called 孤山 (Gu Shan) or Solitude Hill and at the top of its cliffs sits an ancient Taoist and Buddhist temple.
At the Sunshine Coast beach area, we decided to rent a paddle boat to investigate the island. Instead of paying the fee at the front entrance, we planned to steer our boat around the backside of the island and find a different way up. However, the winds picked up making it difficult to paddle across the lake. Struggling against strong winds and choppy waters under an intense Yunnan sun, we worked as a team to force our way forward. Finally were able to reach the island. There was no available site to dock our boat so I swam to shore and scaled the cliff to the top where I got to see the temple up close. My efforts were well worth it and the island was enchanting. I was surprised that there was almost nobody there.
On the quiet east side of the island, I discovered the temple. Cooling off in the shade of its shadow, I thought of the ancients and imagined when they first discovered the island. It is not surprising to me that these people followed classical Chinese belief that asserts that life has an intimate relationship with nature. Interestingly, much of the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine derives from the same philosophy that also informs both Taoist and Buddhist thought.
When we got back, it was dinner time and we got to enjoy our meal while watching the sun set over the island. Three meals, a night in a hotel, and day boat rental cost us about $17 a person. The moonlit drive back brought us weaving through the mountains where we passed by old farming villages and long rice terraces until we hit the outskirts of the city and the beginning of modern society.