January 24, 2014 I helped lead a group of student to a temple in Dan Yang, a small town in Hubei province. We visited the Yu Quan (Pearl Spring) Temple. Translated, this temple's name refers to the bubbling spring found in the woods.
The temple also is a place of worship of the ancient folk legend Zhong Kui. The story goes that he was some sort of bad ass. He was sort of an awful character. He was stripped of an imperial degree because the emperor didn't care for cripples. So he killed himself by smashing his head against the palace gates. In hell, the overlord there saw potential in this soul. He was given the task of kidnapping and then killing or enslaving the ghosts--a task he was apparently quite good at.
Zhong Kui is thought to be a protective spirit by the Chinese. Small, meddlesome ghosts can be disruptive and so it is best to pray to a powerful ghost with a mandate from hell to keep order.
In the weeks leading up to the field trip, I taught a number of reading passages to the students so that they could give short oral presentations at the various monuments. The cool January morning was just beautiful and I was also sure to take lots of photos.
Throughout the morning I got some beautiful pictures of the light hitting the bare trees, the devoted burning incense, and of our students as they bonded.
We had lunch just outside of the temple, not far from small shops selling paper and incense to be burned in front of the temple door.
As everyone was coming out of the building to let their stomachs stretch, I caught the daughter of the shop owner kneeling in front of an opened and upturned umbrella.
Incense is the family business. She has seen many people pray and even at this early age has been taught how to do it. Left to play by herself as her parents mind the shop, she uses whatever toys he has to reenact the various sides of life. Some little girls take care of dolls. Others use the handle of an umbrella as an incense stick.
I was able to get 9 shots of this scene until I was satisfied. Now, as a more experienced photographer, I would not have shot this at ISO 800 and f/6.3. I know I was not expecting to come upon this scene. But, with my camera in hand, I was ready for it. As everyone was stretching after a big lunch, no one really thought much of the little girl while I watched in awe. Of the 10s of thousands of photos I have taken over the last 7 years, this one still stands as one of my absolute favorites.