Climbing the Great Wall is high on the wish list for many visitors to China, but not everyone realizes just how much of a climb it really is. China loves its stairs, and the Great Wall is no exception. However, these stairs are notoriously uneven, with small steps dispersed amongst giant steps, and plenty of steps that are sagging in places from the wear of millions of feet.
The surface of the wall isn’t the same rock that was there over two thousand years ago – it has been rebuilt multiple times, most famously during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century, right on top of the crumbling ruins of the older sections of the wall. While scaling the wall today, it is hard to imagine how difficult it would have been for ancient Chinese troops to patrol up and down the mountain.
The climb, although not for the faint of heart, is very rewarding (and for more than the “I Climbed the Great Wall” t-shirts sold halfway up the mountain). The views are spectacular, as is the sense of accomplishment. Visitors aiming to reach “the top” are often surprised to discover that upon reaching what they thought was the highest point, that the wall really continues up and up beyond what they had previously been able to see. But all the little old ladies zooming past the young “in shape” tourists probably aren’t laughing at them (too much).
At dusk along the northern shore of West Lake in Hangzhou China there is a beautiful water show lit up by an array of colored lights. Right at the waterline there are dozens of little fountain heads that shoot the water high into the air – sometimes 50 feet or more. The fountains of water change angles as well in a coordinated fashion, making the mist seem to dance across the lake.
Hangzhou is one of my favorite cities in China. It’s a city that has modernized quite eloquently without loosing its charm or cultural heritage, and while still upholding the beautiful natural landscape that surrounds the city. Even when venturing into the main parts of the city, Hangzhou never quite feels like the large metropolis of over 8 million people that it is – which is part of why I like it. After spending the day peacefully meandering around West Lake, or exploring temples, tea fields, and museums, the light show is a nice finale. I easily become memorized by pretty lights.
On a rainy day in central China, a snail scooted along an ancient stone wall. The snail moved with a great sense of purpose, and amazingly fast for a snail.
Even on gloomy “days” of our lives, we need to keep moving forward as best as we are able. This snail didn’t let the weather get it down – on the contrary, the moisture probably made it easier to move across the wet surface of the stone. Perhaps that was the silver lining for the snail.
How can you best utilize the day’s circumstances to move forward in your life?
High on a mountain top overlooking Chiang Mai, Thailand, a the allure of a golden temple inspires many people to hike up to it. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep (วัดพระธาตุดอยสุเทพ) is a dazzling sight to behold – full of light and color. A line of golden buddhas (standing, laying, and sitting in lotus position) shimmer in front of a reflective wall, showing a clear image of the temple in the reflection.
The illusion of this image is that what is “beyond” is really just behind the viewer. The “beyond” is not always as far off as it appears, or even where it appears to be, but rather is influenced by our perception of it.
What in your life once seemed beyond you at the time, that you later realized was accessible?
Not far from the mists of West Lake in Hangzhou, China, clouds of rising incense fill Lingyin Temple (灵隐寺). As Buddhist pilgrims meander through the hilly terrain, a young woman burning incense lifts her gaze with an intense focus and a sense of hope.
Having hope, especially in the midst of dark times, requires a focus on that inner light. Illumination from a Buddhist perspective also comes from within – the inner Buddha-nature of all sentient beings. Although she may gaze towards the luminous heavens, the light she sees is a reflection of her inner being.
How does hope illuminate your life?
Want to see the photo-editing magic that illuminated this once-dark photo? Check out my tutorial here!
mugs and more
Available at my Inner Bodhisattva Zazzle store – (due to Zazzle policies not allowing photographs of people, the image has been cropped and retitled “Incense Ascending”).
A few shout-outs to some other Illumination entries that I liked:
mikehardisty has two stunning photos and a great discussion of color balancing in both natural and artificial light
timetobeinspired shows multiple photos from different churches featuring different kinds of lights, my favorites being the candles, the chandler, and the church at sunset
sherrygaley has a beautifully lite photo with starbursts, with a corresponding poem
skww brings a peaceful Stockholm night a-glow with life with beautifully vivid colors
milnersblog used long exposures to capture the path of the International Space Station
museandsparrow shares night photos full of many bright colors that really pop against the black backgrounds
adayinthelifeofjennay shows a variety of different photos, my favorite being the soft glow of the autumn leaf
The gentle afternoon sun filters through the trees, setting the garden suddenly ablaze with light and color. The luminous glow of the sunrays is almost surreal as it shimmers across the rocks, bamboo, trees, and other plants – even on the cute little bird peeking out between the rocks.
I was actually working on a different photo shoot when the sun suddenly started peeking through the trees at just the right angle and lit up the whole area with this heavenly glow. It was a nice change from getting sprinkled on just a few minutes before, but perhaps that was part of why the remaining moisture in the atmosphere seemed to catch the light so beautifully.
Candlescape Reflections by Seas Reflecting Starlight
A vast landscape in miniature, this red candle has towering piles of brightly colored wax surrounding a still pool of molten wax with a very clear reflection. This photograph was taken at Daci Buddhist Monastery (大慈寺) in Chengdu, China, where eminent monk Xuanzang (玄奘, also known as Tripitaka) of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) was initiated.
The reflection in the peaceful pool in the middle of the candle mirrors one common type of use of candles in monasteries and temples: meditation and inner reflection. Just as the candle literally reflects the monastery’s sleepy little retreat away from the hustle of the streets of Chengdu, it can also reflect a search for that same kind of peace within the eye of the beholder.
I also created a tiled version of this photo,which reflects this week’s theme of reflection, in that each candle is a reflection of the others:
Candlescape Reflections tiles by Seas Reflecting Starlight
There are multiple ways to create such tiled effects using photo editing programs like GIMP.
To prepare the image:
Make sure that the image content is close to the center, and that there aren’t any important details around the outer rim of the image. Details not in the center may be lost or obscured.
Method 1 (used above): Using GIMP, go to Filters > Map > Make Seamless
Method 2 (does not work well for all images): Using GIMP, go to Filters > Blur > Tileable Blur – set the blur radius to something that is relatively large in comparison to the size of your image for the most seamless results.
After using either method, there are multiples ways to make copies of the image in a tiled pattern:/li>
Option 1: Using GIMP, go to Filters > Map > Tile – make sure the height and width are linked, set the units to “%”, and input multiples of 100 for best results
Option 2: Using GIMP, go to Filters > Map > Small Tiles – this will shrink the size of your tiles to fit within the boundaries of the current image, but includes the ability to flip alternating tiles