The next few days
included a visit to the old Dutch school, well known to old China hands.
The highlight of my visit to Shanghai was my tour of the Forbidden City,
arranged by a grateful Chao Tung professor. While we were in this old
walled section of ancient Shanghai, we didnt see a single other
foreigner. I gathered they were wary about entering the place. We passed
many little dirt-floor workshops where people moved foot treadle looms
to make fabrics. Others used the hammer and chisel for designing wooden
chests, following exactly the ancient patterns handed down through generations.
It was in the Forbidden City that I saw the inside of an ancient Chinese
Buddhist Temple. Around the walls just above eye level was a gallery
of 49 Buddhas, all carved from mahogany. Forty-nine represented the
seven standard Buddhas for each of the seven stages of life, from youth
to old age. There was a Buddha for each year of a persons life.
At the year 50, you started over again at Buddha number one.
In one side of the temple there were a half-dozen medium-size pits,
side by side, depicting different forms of hell. I remember one was
a colony of ants swarming over a person, another included a collection
of reptiles twined around the victim, and, in one, I believe, the victim
was buried in mud, almost up to his nose. When I later read Dantes
Inferno, his seven layers of hell reminded me of these graphic torture
The Buddha monks in the temple have a serenity of expression resembling
the Buddha figures themselves, all on the verge of smiling, exuding
an inner joy.