The Silver Mountain Pagodas: Freedom & Contemplation

We all have our favourite spaces to go to when we need time to ourselves. If I get the chance I’ll always head up to the Silver Mountain pagodas. Found in Northern Beijing above the Changping District, the pagodas are all that remains of the ancient Yanshou Temple dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD). Up in the hills, hawks circle high above the evergreen and deciduous patchwork of colour as their song is carried across this once great site of Buddhist learning.

Back in the city, only when we look at our watches or the display on our phones do we consider time. As we join the multitude on the subway it’s usually the most immediate things that we live by, our heads perpetually locked up in a multitude of thoughts; most of them useless; many of them repetitive; some of them intrusive. In this sense we are lost. A true awareness of time is like a fleeting window that opens when it chooses.

At the Silver Mountain, time takes on a different meaning. An afternoon is over as quickly as a single inhaled and exhaled breath so prepare yourself to be in the moment as much as you are able. From the hill above the pagodas a rare opportunity to reflect will present itself if you stop and listen. Inside the hexagonal pavilion hangs a huge brass bell that can be struck from a heavy wood timber suspended horizontally by chains. The irresistible urge to sound the bell followed by its low ‘boooooooong’ resonates throughout the area making this present time and place the centre of all things.

An unexpected moment of deep introspection follows breaking my cluttered brain free. For once I can observe myself as I am absorbed by a strong connection of time. It all goes so fast! What have I done?

Have I done my best?

Time is not on our side. Our most precious and taken for granted of finite resources, we cannot get time back once it’s passed.

A time to stand back and lay a marker down on life’s expressway. I look forward and visualise myself in my perfect ideal moment. Now well away and having at last escaped the metropolis, I pull over to the side of the road. Swinging the door open I step out and take in the view savouring the beginning of months of the unknown.

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