The Kaiyuan Temple in Quanzhou.
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Quanzhou was also reputed as a “Holy City.” The Kaiyuan Temple, first built in 686 during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), encompassing 33,350 square meters, is equally famous as the Guangji (Vast Succour) Temple in Beijing and the Lingyin (the Soul’s Retreat) Temple in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. It was first called the Lotus Flower Temple because of an ancient legend and got its present name in 738. The legend has it that there was once a wealthy landlord named Huang Shougong 黄守恭 who owned a vast field of mulberry field to building a temple.
Huang Shougong turned down, saying: “I won’t agree until the mulberry trees bear lotus flowers.” A few days later, the mulberry trees all bore huge, silvery lotus flowers. With a new respect for the power of Buddhism, Huang handled over his field. Nowadays, a mulberry tree more than 1,300 years old still shades the Kaiyuan Temple in Quanzhou. In 738, Emperor Xuanzong (reigned 713-756), a devout Buddhist, ordered every large city in China to name one of its temples “Kaiyuan,” the title of his reign. Originally measuring 260 meters from north to aouth and 300 meters from east to west, the Kaiyuan Temple is now only a fifth of its original size. At its prime in the Song and Yuan dynasties, the Temple had 120 temples attached to it, accommodating approximately 1,000 Buddhist monks. In 1962, the Fujian provincial government proclaimed the Temple one of the most important cultural spots in the province. Since then, the province and the state have invested in renovating and protecting it . If tourists visit the Kaiyuan Temple on the West Street of Quanzhou today, the first thing, tourists see, will be the Ziyun (Purple Cloud) Screen in front of the temple’s gate. Erected in 1574 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the screen symbolically separates the clean and fresh Buddhist sanctuary from the dusty world. Behind it is the Tianwang (Heavenly King) Hall, through which tourists enter the temple. Constructed in 687, the hall has two 4.5-meter sitting statues of Heavenly King, warrior attendants of Buddha in the mythological novel The Romance of Making Deification 封神榜， written in the 16th century, and these two figures commanded infinite power. Crossing the pavilion and the courtyard of Worship, tourists will stand in front of the Grand Precious Hall of the Great Hero—the main hall of a Buddhist temple, in which Sakyamuni is the central figure of a triad enthroned upon lotus pedestals, the two others being usually Ananda and Kasyapa, his two favourite disciples. First built in 686 during the Tang Dynasty, the hall was renovated many times during following dynasties, the present one being a relic from the Ming Dynasty. Twenty meters high, 32.5 meters wide and 42.7 meters long, the hall was called the “100Pillars Hall 百柱殿” because it had 100 thick stone columns supporting the roof. During renovations, six columns were moved to the roof, replacing large beams. Still audible in the hall is the echo of morning bells and dusk drums.
Enshrined in the front part of the Temple are five “Buddha of Five Directions,” 15 bodhisattvas and some celestial gods. Behind them sit the statues of Avalokitesvara (Goddess or Mercy) and the 18 arhats (male gods). The vivid arhats all differ in posture and expression, and no two are the same. Inside the hall, the stone pillars are painted with begonias, dragons, cylinders, squares and other shapes. Some rare pillars are made of diabase—basaltic rock—and engraved with the stories of ancient Indian gods. The brackets supporting the hall’s roof are especially attractive. The wooden structure is very strong despite the fact that not a single iron nail was used. The brackets are carved with 24 “Wonderful Sound Birds.” These flying Apsaras 飞天乐伎 have the upper body of a woman and the long tail of a bird. Their beautiful crowns support the beams and form part of the brackets. As well as musical instruments, these figures hold the “Four Treasures of a Scholar,” including paper, ink, brushes and ink stones. According to the Buddhist legend, whenever Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism, preached sutras, the wonderful Sound Birds would gather around him to listen. The 24 flying Apsaras also symbolize the 24 solar terms of the Chinese lunar calendar, starting from the Beginning of Spring and ending with the Greater Cold. The form and decoration of the brackets are rarely found in China and remain a treasure of China. This masterpiece ingeniously embodies the harmonious unity of mechanics, aesthetics, and Buddhism.
Next tourists will proceed to another unique place called the Sweet Dew Vowing Altar. There used to be a Sweet Dew well in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). In 1019, it became a sacred altar for monks to make vows to obey Buddhist doctrines. Destroyed in the late Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368),the altar was reconstructed in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and underwent many revamps. The present altar is an octagonal structure 22.6 meters wide and 36.3 meters long. Sitting on the top of the altar is the 1.8-meter-tall Supreme Buddha Losana. The second level of the altar is reserved for the Thousand-Hands Abvalokitesvara., Buddha Maitreya, four Bodhisattva attendants and eight warrior attendants of the Big Buddha. From the third to the fifth levels sit 64 small but exquisite statues guarding Buddhist doctrines. Historical records show that at the end of the Ming Dynasty, the Sweet Dew Vowing Altar of the Kaiyuan Templ in Quanzhou was one of the last three undamaged altars in China, the other two being in the Jietai Temple in Beijing and the Zhaoqing Temple in Hangzhou of Zhejiang Province.
Twin Pagodas 双塔
Built in 865, the East Pagoda is also known as the Guarding Nation Pagoda 镇国塔。Originally built of wood, the Pagoda once reached 13 storeys, but was twice destroyed by fire. In 1227, it was reconstructed in bricks with only seven storeys. The octagonal Pagoda currently only only has five pagoda, but it still stands at 48.24 meters. Buddhist monks from India and China are sculptured on the pagoda. On a spiral staircase inside, it is possible to climb to its top. A bronze gourd stands on the apex, shining through sun and rain for over 700 years. Also known as the Merits and Longevity Pagoda 仁寿塔, the West Pagoda was built in 916 with wood and reached seven storeys. In 1227, it was rebuilt in bricks after being burnt down by a fire. The present five-storey tower is 44.06 meters high. Without any modern equipment, ancient craftsmen piled earth to lay the heavy bricks on. In 1604, during the Ming Dynasty, there was massive earthquake—but the Twin Pagodas survived intact. The two pagodas contain a total of 160 relief sculptures. At the base of the East Pagoda are 39 such sculptures in a blue stone rarely Seen in China. They attribute to the story of how Sakyamuni founded Buddhism. Less exquisite than the East Pagoda, the West Pagoda also has relief sculptures of dragons, phoenix, lions, birds, and flowers. The long climb to the top of the pagodas is rewarded with a fine view over the distant sea and mountains on the horizon.
More About The Fujian Province
- Fuzhou Introduction
Fuzhou is an ancient city with a history of more than 2,100 years.
The and Their Earthen Buildings.
- Mazu Culture
Over 4.000 Mazu temples are found all over the world.
- Mount Wuyi
National Tourism Resort.
The Kaiyuan Temple in .
- Xiamen Introduction
Sub-tropically maritime in climate, Xiamen is warm with flowers blossoming year-roung.