Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Yuanyuan Folk Park (圆缘民俗园)

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Yuanyuan Folk Park, or also commonly known as Huanglongdong Yuanyuan Folk Park is one of the scenic and recreation spots in Hangzhou which is less crowded due to its lesser known reputation.
Off the beaten path, this is an attraction which reveals a unique and interesting find among the many other tourist spots in the city; being home to fascinating culture and religious faith.
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Home to the Temple of the Matchmaker God, or Yue Lao(月老) as he is more commonly known, the park also house unique landmarks representative of the Oriental cultures and mythical folklores.
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Yue Lao (月老), or also referred to as the Old Man under the moon, is believed to be the matchmaking god in the Taoist faith and his role is similar to that of the Western version of Cupid. Yue Lao plays matchmaking by tying red strings/red threads around the ankles of a man and a woman destined to be together, according to the book he carries of the destined lovers.
It is said that the red strings could stretch or even get entangled, but it would never break; signifying that those who are meant for each other will eventually be together in the end no matter the trials and tribulations they undergo.
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Most devotees and believers flock to Yue Lao temples all around the world to pray for a good spouse, if they are single and for those who are married, they pray for a good marriage and lasting romance.

There are red strips of paper hanging from a tree; which are believed to represent that of the red strings. The devotees write down their wishes/prayers and maybe, the names of their crushes and then hang it on this tree in the temple, waiting for their wishes to be fulfilled.
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The temple is beautifully designed with man made ponds, waterfalls and pebbled walkway through the naturally grown park.
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The surrounding of the temple forms the folk park which are adorned with Oriental elements such as intricately carved walls and stones, statues and sculptures representing the mythical figures from the folklore and legends.
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The beautifully landscaped garden is also one to be enjoyed, surrounded by trees and peace.
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There is a man made waterfall where water sprouts from a golden dragon head perched on top of the small hill which was a rather amazing sight.
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An ancient wedding palanquin can be found in the temple as well; a symbolism of the marriage ceremony and happy endings for lovers
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A few statues representing the local folk stories can be found around the park; for instance, Liu Hai and the Golden Toad
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This is a symbolism of luck, as the local folklore is believed.
A man who lived in the Five Dynasties Period, Liu Hai was the Prime Minister of the Yan Kingdom. He turned to study Taoism and his faith led him to ascend to celestial status; following which, he was worshipped by the local folks as the God of Wealth.
The Golden Toad, on the other hand, is believed to be an object of wealth and prosperity; or a magical treasure from the Heavenly realms and whoever gets it will be gaining wealth and luck.
Thus the joint image of Liu Hai and the Toad signifies access to wealth.
This combination is believed to be auspicious and in the ancient days, people used to hang paintings, pictures or even have the statues of these placed in their homes for luck and to pray for wealth in their lives.
It is said that it is a good thing to take a photo of and with this image, as who knows, it can bring one plenty of luck and of course, wealth!

Another auspicious sculpture to look at in the park is this; the Child-Wishing Dragon Angels
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Yet another image/statue of good luck, these angels are said to be worshipped by married women who wants to bear children.
The Child-wishing Dragon Angels are depicted by the four angle statues here; and they symbolize the healthy, flourish, fertility, and continuity/multiplication of the dragon descendants with their active statures.
Women who would like to conceive are to touch the buttocks of these angels and their wishes would be magically granted.
A folklore or truth, it is entirely something to one's belief.

I love being able to visit places off the beaten path, and enjoy moments of serenity free of the crowds and tourist stress to revel in the beauty of the place alone.
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This visit wraps up my tour-driven trip to Wuxi and Hangzhou; which although brief had been really fruitful, not to mention interesting and informative.

We headed back to Suzhou that night on bus, and it was a disappointing ride and experience with the tour company which had such unprofessional people.
We were dropped off in the middle of nowhere; which we believed to be an outskirt town of Suzhou when we were supposed be left at the main train/bus station.
In the end, we had to find our way through and it was not easy, with elderly folks and children with us.


I was quite disappointed, not to mention angered by the unethical tour guide team, who just did that so that they could leave for home earlier and for that, they ignored the welfare of their customers totally. Totally despicable, and needless to say, we informed the organizing tour company with which we booked the tour; though I didn't think anything was done.

It was a lovely trip, but a disappointing end.

Anyway, there is more to continue with attractions in Suzhou and Shanghai...

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