Thou shalt build more stairs

I think that in the course of building nearly every major temple and palace in ancient China, a conversation like this took place.

Architect: “It looks great, but there’s something missing.”

Lead foreman: “What is it boss?”

Architect: “I just can’t put my finger on it … .”

Lead foreman: “Bigger Lions? Higher walls to keep the bad guys out?”

Architect: “No, that’s not it … I know! More stairs! We need more stairs. Immediately assemble 100 of your fastest working men and add an additional 1,000 stairs to every entrance of this temple.”

Lead foreman: (Sigh). Yes sir.

As beautiful as the Three Pagodas in Dali is – set against the dark green vegetation of Cangshan Mountain and crystal clear blue skies it’s a stunning sight – by the time I reached the last temple, I was ready to go. I had already climbed hundreds of stairs and all I wanted to do was sit and drool on myself.

I love history, but despise the StairMaster. Touring just about any ancient temple in China is like having an hour-long date with the StairMaster, and not the kind where it buys you flowers or gives you a peck on the cheek. I don’t know what century China’s love affair with stairs began, but it’s safe to say that’s it’s been passed down at least a dozen or so generations.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t visit all of these places. Just make sure you train, bring plenty of water and have a good doctor on speed dial.

The Three Pagodas were originally built in the mid-9th century by engineers from Xi'an, according to Lonely Planet.

The Three Pagodas were originally built in the mid-9th century by engineers from Xi’an, according to Lonely Planet.

The tallest of the Three Pagodas is 70 meters high.

The tallest of the Three Pagodas is 70 meters high.

Beautiful, but what a workout.

Beautiful, but what a workout.

Oh, those dreaded stairs.

Oh, those dreaded stairs.

Typical Chinese tour group. Huge heard of people following someone dressed in ethnic attire.

Typical Chinese tour group. Huge herd of people following someone dressed in ethnic attire.

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It was refreshing to see some clear ponds and streams of water in Dali. I'm not used to that in Beijing.

It was refreshing to see some clear ponds and streams of water in Dali. I’m not used to that in Beijing.

View of Erhai Lake from one of the temples.

View of Erhai Lake from one of the temples.

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6 thoughts on “Thou shalt build more stairs

  1. Mexico’s Mayan and Aztec temples are like that as well. On one, in Mexico City, my husband gave up halfway and and our guide and I went to the top — where (of course) he pulled out a cellphone to tell his wife!

  2. Very stunning photos. The sky and the clouds are a perfect backdrop to the photos. Oh, and the stairs cannot possibly be worse than the un-restored section of the great wall that you climbed. I know that from first hand experience.

    rindge

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