We invite you to touch the ancient Buddhist culture again and make another trip, this time to the Buddhist temples in China.
Chinese architecture, even embodied according to the traditional canons of Buddhism, is unique. It combines the features of the facades of imperial palaces with their light pomposity and classical Indian temples with simple roofs in several tiers. The combination of these two styles resulted in Chinese Buddhist monuments-bright, lavishly decorated with bas-reliefs, sculptures and gold.
There are a huge number of such masterpieces of architecture and architecture all over the country, and it is quite difficult to list them all. In this article, we have compiled a list of the most famous, curious or unusual temples of the Middle Kingdom with a description. Together, we will find out where each of them is, when it was founded, what it is remarkable for, and what secret lies behind it.
The Temple of Heaven.
The Chinese call it quite simply – Tiantan. It was built during the time of the ruler Yun Le of the Ming family in the first half of the 15th century in the south of the capital Beijing.
Its fame is due to its unusual appearance by Chinese standards – with a base in the shape of a circle. However, this form was not chosen by chance – it perfectly symbolizes the sky.
Another name for this place is the Temple of Supplication for a Good Harvest. People flocked here before the summer strada with appeals to the sky, to the Buddhas about fertility.
This is interesting! Generations of emperors came to Tiantan every year at the end of December – the winter solstice – and prayed to the heavens for a good summer and good crops.
Entering the territory of the temple, visitors find themselves in a cozy park, which bears the same name-the park of the Temple of Heaven. It begins with a large altar, open to anyone. Then, to the main building, which is located in the north, leads a wide road-about thirty meters wide.
Probably the most famous monastery not only in the Middle Kingdom, but also beyond its borders – Shaolin. So we couldn’t avoid it.
Located on Mount Sunshan, it has a direct reference to its geographical location in the name, namely translated as “forest temple on Shaoshi Hill”. Its founder is considered to be Bodhidharma, who reached this region in the 5th century on the way from his native India. He was known for bringing the Chinese version of Zen – chan-Buddhism to the masses.
On the site of the future temple, the teacher settled for a long nine years. Together with his students, he engaged in meditation and physical exercises, which were based on the imitation of animal behavior. Later, centuries later, this practice was transformed into the art of fighting without weapons, which was passed on to the successors in the monastery.
The local monks were widely known for their abilities. They participated in many wars, and also defended their own territory. But this was the reason that by the beginning of the last century, Shaolin was almost completely ruined, and the buildings were destroyed.
Not wanting to “bury” the ancient heritage of their state, the government issued a decree on the restoration of the monastery. Today, Shaolin has regained its former glory, and tourists from all over the world flock here, wanting at least one glimpse of the martial art in action.
Training of real fighters takes place behind high three-meter walls. They are surrounded by a memorial forest planted in honor of the monks who lived here. In addition, the site now offers a museum and a huge statue of the Buddha.
The Temple of the Jade Buddha.
It was founded in Shanghai relatively recently – in 1882. The foundation of the temple is associated with a significant event in its history – this year, two statues of the Great Teacher Shakyamuni were brought by sea from Burma (present-day Myanmar).
One of them is of impressive size-two meters high and weighing three tons. It is made of white stone, inlaid with jewels, and shows the Buddha lost in thought. Another statue is of a more modest size, but depicts a Buddha experiencing a state of Awakening.
Today, these statues are displayed in the very center of the main hall, which is called the House of the Jade Buddha.
In addition, once in the Shanghai temple, you should also look at the Hall of the Heavenly Lords, the Hall of the Great Sage, the halls of contemplation and reading of the scriptures.
The facade of the temple itself is easy to see from a distance – it is bright yellow, and numerous figures of Buddhas and deities are placed on the roof.
The Temple of the Five Pagodas.
There is an art museum in Beijing, and it is not quite ordinary, because it is located in the building of the Temple of the Five Pagodas, once large and powerful. It is also known as the Temple of the Great Awakening of the Righteous.
It was the epicenter of the spread of Buddhist philosophy in the Chinese latitudes, and since 1961 it has been recognized as a national treasure. However, even today, pilgrims from all over the country are eager to visit it, and therefore the shrine is one of the most protected in the world.
The walls of the temple were built during the reign of the Ming family. Initially, they were made of brick and white marble masonry. The facade is generously covered with carved symbols, sculptures in filigree execution.
But the main feature of this temple, because of which it got its name is the following: it is based on five stupas. Four of them are located in each corner of the rectangular foundation, and the fifth-in the center. Over the centuries of a difficult fate, the temple has changed its appearance more than once.
The Temple of the Thousand Buddhas.
Speaking of the most beautiful temples in China, it is impossible not to mention the cave buildings, of which there are a huge number in the Middle Kingdom. One of them is Qianfodong, better known as the Temple of the Thousand Buddhas.
Its history goes back more than one and a half thousand years. He appeared in caves near the provincial town of modern Jiuhua. It took the change of a dozen imperial families to complete the construction.
Today, there are concentrated ancient buildings and important artifacts that have passed for a good thousand years.
Qianfodong left us as a legacy:
500 stupas; more than 700 caves;40,000 sq. m. of sacred land; precious frescoes; Buddha statues; illustrations painted with mantras and drawings of deities.
Anyone can come here now, but a few days may not be enough for the inspection – more than two hundred caves have already been restored.