we are building a temple

Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan province, May 2008

Considered the world’s deepest river canyon (or one of them, depending on your definition), legend has it that the gorge is so very narrow, a tiger had leapt across it.

It’s a popular hike that usually takes three days and is broken up by hamlets with tourist-ready guesthouses. Hikers walk on the sides of mountains. To your right, a stunning view and a steep fall down the gorge. To your left, the mountain. At times, you have to (very) gingerly step across small waterfalls that splash down the trail.

I came across two young men (one pictured here) building a temple along the path. There was already a tiny temple several steps further in the mountain, but they were expanding it. I honestly can’t recall who the temple was dedicated to, but the population in the area are mostly the Naxi, one of the 56 official Chinese minorities.

You can tell from the mountains wreathed in clouds behind the man’s head that we’re pretty high up. It was a rainy day, so there was a perpetual parade of misty clouds to our right. With their permission I poked around the tiny temple and saw colorful, mismatched quilts all rolled up next to a large water bottle, so I assume they slept on site. That’s often the case across China, construction workers living where they build before inhabitants move in.


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