Six Banyan Temple
The Six Banyan Temple and the Flowery Pagoda.
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With a history of more than 1,400 years, and noted for its stately pagoda, luxuriant trees and many Buddhist relics, the Six Banyan Temple is one of the famous historical sites in Guangzhou. Master Xiao Yu萧裕法师first built the Precious Solemnity Temple宝藏严寺in 537during the Liang Dynasty (502-557) and a Pagoda here upon the edict of Emperor Liang Wu, but they were destroyed by fire in the 10th century. When the Temple was rebuilt in 989, it was renamed the Purificatory Wisdom Temple because the then monks here worshipped Hui Neng慧能 (638-713), the sixth patriarch of Zen禅宗六祖 (a Buddhist sect, which believes that the ultimate truth is grater than words and is therefore not to be wholly found in the sacred writings, but must be sought through the “inner light” and self-mastery. It originated in the 6th century in China.), for the Buddhist cause of purification. When the Pagoda in the Purificatory Wisdom Temple was reconstructed in 1907,it was called the “Thousand Buddha Pagoda” as there were one thousand Buddha figurines kept in the pagoda. In 1100, Su Dongpo (1037-1101), the celebrated literati and calligrapher of the Northern Song Dynasty came to visit the Temple and he was amazed with the six Banyan trees planted at the courtyard of the temple. With a sudden inspiration, he wrote with pleasure two big Chinese characters “Six Banyans” named the Six Banyan Temple. The magnificent Pagoda stands in the middle of the courtyard. To its west is the rear door of the Temple and on its left side is a veranda with a storage of the over ten stone tablets. The tablets record all the ups and downs of the Temple and the pagoda, and two of them are engraved with the image of Su Dongpo and his writing “Six Banyans.” To its south is the 6th patriarch’s shrine with Hui Neng’s bronze statue placed inside for worship. In front of the shrine are planted with luxuriant Banyan and bo trees (Pali)—the sacred tree (pipal) of Buddhism: Gautama (Siddhartha Gautama, a religious philosopher and teacher who lived in India 565-486 BC, 624-544 BC or 623-543 BC, and was the founder of Buddhism : the name is a title applied by Buddhists to someone regarded as embodying divine Wisdom and virtue) is believed to have got heavenly inspiration under such a tree—which there is a fine-looking square, pavilion, and a stone tablet carved with the “Song of Righteousness” written by Su Dongpo.
The Flowery Pagoda in the Temple is an old tower-like Pagoda of wood and brick structure. This magnificent pagoda, 57 meters in height and octagonal in shape, resembles to have only 9 storeys on the outside, but it actually has 17 storeys inside. With its blue glazed-tiles, vermilion beams, painted wall and red pillars all in good match, it resembles a huge Flowery column. According to historical records, there is Sarira (Buddhist relics or Shelizi舍利子 Sarira refers to the remains of a monk. This title is only used for the remains of a monk with virtue), a copper mirror, a sword, a tripod and some other historical relics buried under the foundation of the pagoda. Erected on the top floor of the Pagoda is a huge bronze column forged in 1358 in the Ming Dynasty and cast more than 1,000 Buddha figurines in relief and a drawing of the Heavenly-Palace with a precious pagoda. The bronze column together with the gilded pearls on its top, the multi-layered gilded dishes and the protective iron chains, weighs more than 5 tons. In 1980 it was meticulously renovated and has taken on a completely new look. Since then the magnificent Flowery Pagoda has retained the unique architectural style of the Song Dynasty, glittering with Wisdom and talented creation of the labouring people in ancient China. The Pagoda is situated in the city proper, and when tourists climb the top of it, they can enjoy a panoramic view of the whole city.