Chengdu (pop. 4,000,000), the capital of Sichuan Province, is a sprawling city, covering an area of 3861 km2, of which 50 km2 is urban. It is home to the Chengdu University of Technology, which made all the logistical arraignments in China and Tibet. Before departure there was an opportunity to tour some of the sights, including the Jewel Light Monastery. A huge statue of Mao Zedong towers over the downtown area surrounded by capitalist advertising (right).
Chengdu University of Technology was founded in 1956 as the Chengdu College of Geology. It changed its name in 1993 to Chengdu Institute of Technology (CDIT), which was the name during our visit. It is now is called the Chengdu University of Technology. The university grants masters and doctoral degrees. In the center of campus is an extensive garden with ponds and streams (left); the library is built out over a reflecting pool. We are greeted by Associate Professor He Dashun, Foreign Affairs Director, who has undertaken all the logistics for the long trip ahead. With him are Professor Lin Maobing and Associate Professor Wang Wenbin, who will accompany us on the trip. There are some additional campus images at the CDUT overseas alumni site, including the Foreign Expert Residential Building, where we stayed.
The Jewel Light Monastery (Baoguang Si), located about 18 km north of Chengdu, is home to about 500 Buddhist monks. The name may also be translated as monastery of "precious light" or "divine light." The monastery, originally built during the Han Dynasty (A.D. 25 - 220), has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times. The temple complex was not damaged during the Cultural Revolution; Red Guards were prevented from damaging the monastery by military troops sent by Zhou Enlai in 1967.
The monastery is a complex of temple halls and over a dozen courtyards. The main courtyard is dominated by the towering Sheli Pagoda (right). The pagoda is not plumb; the upper eight levels are set slightly off center and twisted relative to the lower part of the tower. The stonework at the base is ornately carved. The whitewashed walls of each level have small glassed niches that contain small gilded statues of Buddha. In 881, at the end of the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Xizong fled here from the rebellious troops of Huang Chao from Chang'an. The pagoda is the repository for relics of Buddha that were discovered during his exile in Sichuan.
There is a nice collection of photographs of the monastery at: http://photo.justlog.me/JewelLightMonastery?by=110482623352846281692. The associate text appears to be mine!