After spending the day climbing around the mountain, exploring the gardens and hillsides, the sun was falling behind the distant mountain peaks and a 10-foot high door to a Daoist temple stood before us. The log laid horizontally on the door keeping it locked was lifted by a monk who let us look inside after Sascha peeked inside and asked politely in Sichuan dialect if we could pass through and have a look. Shocked that foreigners who speak Chinese had found their way to this temple, we were guided through the grounds and various courtyards by a monk who lived in the temple along with 10 others. I felt lucky just to be let inside, but the courtyards revealed an unbelievably well-kept location, lush with gardens and decorated by beautifully ornate statues, sculptures, and scriptures. The monk who guided us through the temple as we chatted provided a backstory to every detail – from the meaning of the enormous characters carved into the thick wall which we couldn’t decypher, the sculpture of the car-sized turtle which protects the monestary, to the intricate stone dragons which sit atop the buildings to ward off hostile spirits. He taught us the ying yang fist position which traditional Daoists practice and meditate with and ceremoniously beat the gong while we paid tribute in the great hall by kneeling in front of the brooding figure of the first emperor of the Shu Dynasty.

As we said our thanks and goodbyes as we stepped out, a light rain started to fall as the darkness set in and we began the 30 minute walk along the river which led to the road.