Photo Friday: Guan Yin and the Solar Eclipse

Posted by Ted on Jul 28, 2011 in Events, Photography, Space, Travel

The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century has already happened, just two years ago on July 22, 2009. Totality could be seen from eastern India, through China, and across the Pacific – a swath of darkness 1000s of miles long and only 160 miles wide. We chose to watch this cosmic event at the feet of Guan Yin, on the island of Putuoshan, in the South China Sea, near Shanghai. The island is named for the mountain at its heart, one of the four sacred mountains of Buddhism, and which is the earthly home of Guan Yin, the bodhimanda of Avalokiteśvara.

This longest eclipse of the century had much anticipation for many eclipse chasers. This was our first, and we had no expectations, but we did hope to actually see the eclipse. As our luck would have it, the day was thick with cloud cover. Very few in our corner of China were able to actually see the event itself.

That said, it was no less magical or spiritual. For over six minutes, what had been daylight a few minutes ago was now darkness. The Goddess was suddenly glowing gold against a night sky.

(Related pictures can be found here.)

(Read more about the Total Solar Eclipse in 2009.)

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China – Eclipse Day

Posted by Ted on Jul 21, 2009 in Travel

Another truism about pilgrimages is that one never knows what lessons they will learn along the way. A few that we learn again and again are to forego expectation, meet setbacks with creativity and grace, and to be content with what one is given.

We woke early this morning to an overcast sky. We ate a leisurely breakfast of congee, hard boiled eggs, and steamed buns, and walked out to the 100 Step Beach, and then along a beautiful walkway down to the southern tip of the island to the foot of the 33-meter high statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy to whom the island is devoted.

There was quite a crowd gathered in anticipation, wearing sun viewing glasses and burning large amounts of incense. We hooked up with a fellow eclipse-chaser from California and his family, and joined the assembled in sharing the special moment in a place of spiritual significance and serene beauty. The clouds remained thick, but allowed the occasional glimpse of a blazing crescent. Totality itself was completely obscured, but was no less magical. The world turned truly dark as night, the Bodhisattva illuminated from below. True to Chinese mythology, a Dragon came and ate the sun, only to be scared away by the beats of drums. While it may have been the longest eclipse of the century, the five and a half minutes were over all too quickly, and the world brightened again. While we saw none of the totality, the experience was well worth the expense and effort.

Afterwards, we explored the temple and monastary, relaxing and enjoying the ocean breeze. We walked back up the eastern path, past the purple bamboo forest, and stopped for lunch just as the first torential rain of the day fell outside. When it abated, we left and walked through the grounds surrounding Puji Temple and to the local hospital where we barely negotiated the prescribing of Chinese herbs to help with my insomnia, only to get stuck waiting out another torrent of rain.

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