第一步 - 坐在台階上
第二步 - 伸展你的雙腳，然後把它們放到下一個台階上
第三步 - 把身體移到下一個台階上
第四步 - 重複以上的動作
This account is about our excursion to the Great Wall, a part of an important and historic trip that DRBA made to China, from September 4 to September 18, 2006. On September 9, we visited the Great Wall in Beijing.
I would like to provide a brief background of the Great Wall of China. It was built around 214 B.C.E. during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.E.), for the purpose of protecting China from invaders. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the wall was strengthened and raised in height to about 33 feet. During that time, observation platforms, towers, gates, new defense methods, and service structures were also added to form an architectural complex that was militarily and administratively useful.
The Great Wall of China was built by soldiers, civilians, farmers and prisoners, primarily during three dynasties: the Qin, the Han, and the Ming. Each dynasty’s building style added its own flavor and advanced the techniques learned from the previous.
The wall now extends about 5,500 miles, making it the longest man-made structure in the world, and can be seen from the Moon, depending on weather conditions. In 1987, UNESCO declared the Great Wall a World Heritage site.
Returning from our diversion, I must first mention that my Mom and I both suffer from acrophobia or fear of heights. My acrophobia is so beyond control that riding up an escalator to the third story of a building feels like scaling a cliff.
The story begins when we got off the bus. I took a look at the Great Wall and said to my Mom that it did not seem very high. I was wrong indeed!
My courageous mind, however, spurred the decision that we were going to climb to our ‘mission’ tower – please refer to the picture on last page.
My Mom and I began our climb. Commendable progress thus far. By the time we were halfway toward our ‘mission’ tower, I began to feel extremely scared. We were now in high country. It didn’t help when the step that I placed my foot on crumbled under my weight. I could see that way ahead of me, some members of our group, including about three Dharma Masters, were almost atop the ‘mission’ tower. I wondered how they could climb so fast. Of all things, I looked over the ledge to my right. Talk about “curiosity killing a cat”... well, this time, curiosity allowed the sight of an alarmingly steep drop, with my courageous mind and everything else dropping along. I was no longer sure I could climb. We had planned to meet the group at that tower, with mission accomplished and all.
Suddenly, I felt someone touch my back. I screamed bloody murder! The steepness of the steps made me feel that I might hurl over with even a featherweight of a touch. At this precise moment, thoughts of the numerous people who died building the Great Wall also came flooding in my mind – their bones were lying under my feet. I totally freaked out! (By the way, it was not until I had returned home and was doing light research for this article that I unearthed the fact that bones of the perished were not buried under the walls - the decomposed bodies would have weakened the construction.)
Back to the story... I glanced warily upward toward the rest of the group who were already enjoying a panoramic view of the surroundings. I had difficulty continuing.
Much to my delight, I saw some members beginning to descend. That’s all the support I needed. My Mom and I instantly made a happy decision of descending along with them. We waited for them. It seemed like ages. Full of fear, I sat down. When they passed us by, we tried very hard to follow. They were too fast. Descending felt just as impossible as ascending. Fear gripped me all over again. I had to devise this method to hasten my movements. It went like this:
Step 1 – sit down on the step
Step 2 – stretch your legs and place them on the second step below
Step 3 – lower yourself onto the step below you
Step 4 – repeat
In short, picture a caterpillar inching slowly downward.
It was like this all the way to altitudes low enough where I could stand and walk normally. You see, I had harbored hopes that climbing the Great Wall would heal my acrophobia, to an extent that I could comfortably ride an escalator to the third story of any building – it did not.
In retrospect, even though my fear of heights has not diminished, traveling to China, especially with DRBA’s Dharma Masters, and being part of the delegation at large, has brought forth a sense of unparalleled pride and deepest appreciation, that will forever last.