Saturday, December 29, 2007

China's Sacred Sites

My aunt went to China about 20 years ago, and the photos and stories that she brought back fascinated me and instilled in me a strong desire to see that beautiful country. Books like China's Sacred Sites, by Nan Shunxun and Beverly Foit-Albert augment that desire. Just from the law of averages any area as large as China is bound to have a fair amount of lovely spots, but the Chinese seem to have an aptitude for combining amazing architecture with breathtaking natural settings. This book presents page after page of valleys, cliffs, caves, mountains and rivers, with each location graced with a beautifully ornamented temple, some of which are over 1,000 years old. The descriptions of the more elaborate complexes include floor plans and section maps so that the reader can truly appreciate the way the building has been adapted to the setting (often a vertical one). The authors also include a nice summary of the history and architectural high-points of each temple and a map showing its location in China (for those of us whose Chinese geography is a little shaky). The back of the book has a helpful glossary and timeline, a bibliography for further reading, and a map of China showing the location of all the sites in the book. Apparently, Shaanxi and Guizhou provinces are the places to go to see amazing temples. Now, where did I put that passport?

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