A Memorable Excursion
I remember that it was a day in summer, 2006 before I came to the International Buddhist College (IBC). My best friend, Li Zhong Xing led Venerable Sheng Zhi and I together with a group of laities to Luodai, an ancient town of Sichuan province in China.
There are more than twenty of us in this unforgettable outing. We started our journey from various places but gathered at our local bus stop in Wuguiqiao. Those of us who set off from Aidao Tang, our temple were there later than the rest in the group. However, we all boarded another bus to our intended destiny happily.
Luodai, an eastern suburb of Chengdu City is situated in the north of Longguanyi district. Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan province, Southwest China. Luodai ancient township is praised as "luo" in "luo di sheng gen" which can mean "from a halt to settlement" and "dai" as in "generation" of the world, i.e. "permanent sojourn". It boasts of the largest community of ethnic Hakka in our southwest region according to the Sichuan Magazine. (PLEASE CONFIRM IF MY GUESS IS CORRECT HERE, THANX)
There are about 20,000 Hakkanese out of the 23,000 permanent residents in Luodai. They comprise more than 85% of the whole population in the town. The word 'Hakka' means 'guest' in English.
The early Hakka migrants were driven away from their birthplace by the Manchurian rulers during the Qing and Ming dynasties (COULD U PLS HELP TO FILL IN circa years). They had first settled in the Guangdong and Fujian provinces to avoid persecution in the south and east China respectively. A legion of these early migrants were naturalized and emigrated to Sichuan province subsequently. Today, the Hakka communities are scattered all over Southeast Asia.
The well-preserved ancient township of Luodai was established in the Han dynasty (circa 206 BC to 220). Legend has it that a jade belt of emperor Liu Chan, Shu Han kingdom (221-263) had fallen into an octagonal well nearby. Hence, the name 'luo dai', which literally means fallen belt here was derived and maintained until today. The legendary well is near the rear main gate of Shangxia Street, the stone-paved main street of the town.
We first paid homage to all the Buddha statues in both the Randeng and Jinlong temples respectively upon arrival. We then visited the Guongdong Guild-hall, the biggest commercial centre of Luodai Old Street. The Guongdong Guild-hall is believed to have been established way back in 1746 in honour of Grand Patriarch of Ch'an (Zen), Hui Neng. It is also named "Nanhua" (South China) Palace. The historic temples and Guild-hall visited are truly impressive, and so are the snacks and authentic Hakka specialties tasted.
The "dessert of broken hearted" - Shangxin Liangfen, just as its namesake had produced many a homesick tears with its typical taste and texture as prepared by the Hakka ethnic. There is also an aptly coined "happiness dessert" to counter the former sadness induced I supposed.
We also spent about three hours climbing the "Great Wall" in Luodai - The Golden Dragon, Jinlong. It imitates and appears to be a replica of the Great Wall in Beijing. The Jinlong wall is nevertheless as amazing as its original in its own way. One has to experience it to judge for oneself.
Luodai township architecture conservation is remarkable; the Jinlong Lake we visited is no less interesting to us, too. This memorable excursion is an eye-opener for me. It made me understand much more about the history and culture of the Hakka people. Luodai ancient town is unique and charming and I would add that I was spell-bound and fell under its special charm throughout the visit. I now look back with thankfulness and appreciation. It was a day well-spend and educational to all of us.
Edit by Ven. Zhen Man