I took a friend of mine on a trip to a small temple to get spring water for brewing tea. He then became intent on taking me to a temple which he had visited twice when he was young. We rode the bus into the hills of Yongjia County but my friend had forgotten exactly where the temple was. We made one false attempt when the ticket collector on the bus told us there was no other temple on the bus route. Finally, the terrain was recognized and we started for the path up the mountain.
I was enchanted with the description of the place. When my friend visited the temple as a child, it was something of a headquarters for the Wenzhou calligraphy association. Many of the best calligraphers and painters in the city would cross the Ou River on Sundays and gather at this temple for a quiet day of painting and calligraphy. The building in front of the main hall had a garret on top of it with many small rooms used by the artists. Some would even rent out the rooms and live in isolation in the temple to devote all of their energy to their craft.
The temple is on a lonely hill which juts out of a landscape of rice fields. Approaching from the east the visitor is met by a cliff with a round promontory resembling a Buddha's head slightly inclined which appears to stare down benevolently at all who approach. The cliff is bare rock with many verdant patches of vines and lillies in crevases. The path up to the temple is paved with rocks and fruit trees as well as tea bushes line the path as the temple grows nearer.
Things have changed since my friend last visited the temple twenty years ago. Not only has the main hall been renovated (aparently with donations from Wenzhou and someone from New York as well) The Calligraphy society has moved out. There was no one on the premises when we arrived, and no one appeared while we stayed. The garret was still there, and there were traces of the works which once graced every vertical surface. Some unsigned works were left by the artists, and many were ripped and hanging. There were few complete specimens, most of these had been written directly on the walls or jambs, or had been fixed in place with lots of glue.
This is an unsigned quick rendition of a famous saying by a Qing dynasty scholar of the Qianlong reign period named Zheng Banqiao (郑板桥). Its literal translation is 'confusion is hard to achieve.' What it means is that life makes a body serious and logical, and its hard to achieve the serenity of a madman. 难得糊涂
This last one is part of a couplet, the other half of which was no longer visible. It is very simple, "The light of the full moon shines through the gaps in the pines." 明月松间照