Atlantis of the East

Interesting underwater photos here and here.

Often called the “Atlantis of the East” by travellers, the underwater city of Shicheng is a magnificent, mysterious time capsule of Imperial China. Stone architecture dating to the Ming and Qing dynasties (which ruled from 1368 to 1912) stands perfectly preserved 40m under Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang province, 400km south of Shanghai.

Unlike the mythical Atlantis, Shicheng – which means Lion City in Mandarin – was purposely flooded in 1959 to make way for the Xin’an Dam and its adjoining hydroelectric station. Nearly 300,000 people were relocated for the project, some of whom had families that had lived in the city for centuries.

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A church without God?

Well, there are probably plenty of those out there, but this “church” in Nashville doesn’t even pretend to worship God.

Viewed from the outside, the pointy-roofed building in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee deep in the heart of America’s Bible Belt, looks very much like a church.

And stepping inside, where a congregation is swaying along to music, listening to sermons and discussing ways to help their local community, it sounds very much like a church too.

There is, however, one rather fundamental missing ingredient that sets this congregation apart from the hundreds of others turning out to worship this Sunday morning in Nashville: this is a church without God.

Started in London in January 2013 by a pair of British stand-up comedians, Sunday Assembly offers a church experience but without the “God part” and, according to organisers, it is starting to catch on in America.

Separation from God leaves an empty place inside every person, which we have tried to fill with all manner of things; a church without God will be no more satisfying than anything else. These folks are looking for something, but do not realize they are leaving out Him for whom they seek.

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Things fall apart…

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

–William Butler Yeats

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