Friday, July 24, 2009

Lingyin Temple

Name : Lingyin Temple, Língyǐn Sì. The temple's name is commonly literally translated as Temple of the Soul's Retreat.

Location : It is located north-west of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China. It is one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China.

Description : Lingyin Temple is a Buddhist temple of the Chan sect. The monastery is the largest of several temples in the Wulin Mountains, which also features a large number of grottos and religious rock carvings, the most famous of which is the Feilai Feng; literally "the peak that flew hither").


The monastery was founded in 328 AD during the Eastern Jin Dynasty by Indian monk Huili. From its inception, Lingyin was a famous monastery in the Jiangnan region. It still has the Stone Pagoda which contains Huili's Ashes.

At its peak under the Kingdom of Wuyue (907-978), the temple boasted nine multi-storey buildings, 18 pavilions, 72 halls, more than 1300 dormitory rooms, inhabited by more than 3000 monks. Many of the rich Buddhist carvings in the Feilai Feng grottos and surrounding mountains also date from this era.

The Feilai Feng grottos

Feilai Feng, or "the Peak that Flew Hither", also commonly translated as "Flying Peak", is located in front of the temple proper. The peak is so-named because it is made of limestone, giving it a craggy appearance very different from the surrounding mountains. Legend holds that the peak was originally from India (with some versions suggesting that it is Vulture Peak, but flew to Hangzhou overnight as a demonstration of the omnipotence of Buddhist law. A large number of carvings dot the surface of the peak. More are located in various caves and grottos throughout the peak. Within the main cave, dedicated to the bodhisattva Guanyin, there is a crack in the ceiling of the cave that stretches up to the surface, so that a person standing at a certain position can see a sliver of sunlight. This is known as the "one thread of heaven"

Other Attraction :

Hall of the Heavenly Kings

The formal entrance of the temple is the Hall of the Heavenly Kings. The principal statue in this hall is that of the Maitreya Buddha in his manifestation as the cloth bag monk, or the Laughing Buddha. At the back, facing up the hill, is the Skanda Buddha, or Weituo as he is known in Chinese. This statue dates from the Southern Song Dynasty. Arranged along the left and right are the Four Heavenly Kings. The ceiling is ornately painted and decorated with phoenixes and dragons.

Visitors to the temple are often impressed by the size and majesty of the entrance hall and its statues of the heavenly kings. Indeed, the hall of the Heavenly Kings at the Lingyin Temple is as large or larger than the main hall at many temples, reflecting its status as the centre of Buddhism in south-eastern China.

Grand Hall of the Great Sage

The second and principal hall is the Mahavira Hall, or the Grand Hall of the Great Sage. It is separated from the Hall of the Heavenly Kings by a large courtyard, featuring a raised lawn bordered with trees. To the left of the courtyard stands the Hall of the Five Hundred Arhats.

Hall of the Medicine Buddha

Further uphill and behind the main hall is the Hall of the Medicine Buddha, housing a statue of the Bhaisajyaguru Buddha, commonly called the Medicine Buddha.

Sutra Library

Uphill from the Hall of the Medicine Buddha is the Sutra Library (Chinese: 藏经楼; pinyin: Cángjīng Lóu). This, and the Huayan Hall behind it, were built from 2000 to 2002 to re-create the five-hall main axis. The Sutra Library does not house a major statue and is not open for worship.

Huayan Hall

The fifth and last hall on the main axis is the Avatamsaka Hall, or Huayan Hall. Built in 2002, this hall houses statues of the three sages of the Avatamsaka Sutra, known as the Huayan Sutra in Chinese - Shakyamuni, Manjusri, and Samantabhadra.

Hall of the Five Hundred Arhats

The Hall of Five Hundred Arhats, also a modern addition, faces onto the western side of the court yard in front of the main hall. The building has a complex floor plan, shaped like a Buddhist swastika. Along the arms of the swastika are arranged the five hundred arhats as slightly larger-than-life bronze statues. Each statue is seated on a unique ornate seat. At the centre, where the arms of the swastika join, stands a bronze canopy housing statues of four bodhisattvas representing the four cardinal directions. This is currently the tallest solid bronze structure in the world.

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