Cul­tural Hub

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

Bei­jing con­tin­ues its de­vel­op­ment by em­brac­ing and pro­mot­ing di­verse cul­tures. Re­li­gious cul­ture is no ex­cep­tion. Along­side re­li­gious de­vel­op­ment, mag­nif­i­cent tem­ples, churches, mosques and other struc­tures have been built in Bei­jing, prov­ing this cap­i­tal as an open city.

No­table Tem­ples

It is said that Bei­jing’s tem­ples top the world. The cap­i­tal boasts the Tanzhe, Fayuan and Yonghe­gong Lama tem­ples which best man­i­fest the ar­chi­tec­tural style and his­tory of Bei­jing’s Bud­dhist struc­tures. Bei­jing is also home to other Bud­dhist venues which make the city more at­trac­tive.

Tanzhe Tem­ple

The Tanzhe Tem­ple is at the foot of the Tanzhe Moun­tain in Men­tougou District in the west of Bei­jing. One old say­ing goes that the Tanzhe Tem­ple was built ear­lier than the cap­i­tal city of the Youzhou Pre­fec­ture. The tem­ple was said to be con­structed dur­ing the Jin Dy­nasty (AD 265–420) or the Tang Dy­nasty. Ac­cord­ing to Men­tougou in Jingji con­g­shu (“a se­ries of books about the cap­i­tal”), the tem­ple was built in AD 316. Named Ji­afu Tem­ple then, it wasn’t large, but was the first tem­ple built af­ter Bud­dhism was in­tro­duced to the Yan area.

Monk Daoyan (1335–1418) sur­named Yao, was se­lected by Zhu Yuanzhang or Ming Em­peror Taizu, to serve Zhu Di, then Prince of Yan. When Ming Em­peror Jian­wen took ac­tion to weaken the prince’s power, Zhu Di trig­gered the Jing­nan Cam­paign ac­cord­ing to Yao’s plan, seized the throne, and be­came Ming Em­peror Chengzu.

Yao was des­ig­nated as one of the chief of­fi­cials in charge of re­li­gious af­fairs, ab­bot of the Qing­shou Tem­ple, and later “mas­ter of the crown prince,” and granted the name “Guangx­iao.” Later, Yao re­signed from his of­fi­cial posts, and went to the Tanzhe Tem­ple

to live in seclu­sion and prac­tise Bud­dhism. Ev­ery day, Yao dis­cussed Bud­dhism with his old friend—mas­ter Wuchudeshi, ab­bot of the tem­ple. Zhu Di once vis­ited Yao at the tem­ple.

Yao was the de­signer for build­ing Bei­jing City. In­spired by the ar­chi­tec­tural style and lay­out of the tem­ple, Yao had many places built in Bei­jing ac­cord­ing to the tem­ple’s ap­pear­ances. Pur­suant to the Hall of Great Bud­dha at the tem­ple, the Hall of Supreme Har­mony was built.

Though the for­mer is shorter and smaller than the lat­ter, they both have a mul­ti­ple-eave wu­dian rooftop (top-level of its kind), and a com­part­mented ceil­ing with pat­terns, each with a golden dragon and im­pe­rial seal. When Yao was or­dered to take charge of the com­pil­ing the Yon­gle Canon, he left the tem­ple. How­ever, the site of the “quiet room for the mas­ter of the crown prince” once in­hab­ited by Yao is still pre­served at the tem­ple.

Be­gin­ning with Zhu Yuanzhang, Ming em­per­ors, em­presses and con­cu­bines mostly be­lieved in Bud­dhism. With funds al­lo­cated by the im­pe­rial court and money do­nated by eu­nuchs, the tem­ple was ren­o­vated and ex­panded many times, which de­ter­mined the lay­out of to­day’s Tanzhe Tem­ple.

Fayuan Tem­ple

Built dur­ing the Tang Dy­nasty, and re­built and ren­o­vated in var­i­ous dynasties, the Fayuan Tem­ple is the most fa­mous an­cient tem­ple in the south of Bei­jing. The tem­ple’s Shan­men Gate (gate to a monastery) takes on a pala­tial style. Through the gate, vis­i­tors will en­ter this solemn tem­ple.

The Hall of the Heav­enly King and a pair of bronze lions in front of the hall are sur­rounded by green pines and cy­presses. The bell and drum tow­ers stand on the left and right sides of the hall. To the north of the hall is the Hall of Great Bud­dha, also called the “great hall” and “prin­ci­pal hall.” The Hall of Great Bud­dha is the main place where monks chant Bud­dhist scrip­tures and hold ac­tiv­i­ties.

In AD 696, dur­ing the reign of Wu Ze­tian, China’s only fe­male monarch (reign: AD 690– 705), the tem­ple was com­pleted, and named the Minzhong Tem­ple. Dur­ing the An Shi Re­bel­lion (AD 755–763), Tang’s turn­ing point from pros­per­ity to de­cline, it was re­named the Shuntian Tem­ple. Af­ter the re­bel­lion ended, the tem­ple re­gained its orig­i­nal name.

In 1070, dur­ing the Liao Dy­nasty, it was re­built and re­named the Great Minzhong Tem­ple, form­ing the scale and lay­out of to­day’s Fayuan Tem­ple. In 1437 dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty, mas­ter Xian­grong of the tem­ple raised funds, and ren­o­vated the tem­ple later granted a name: the Chongfu Tem­ple. In 1734 dur­ing the reign of Qing Em­peror Yongzheng, the tem­ple was des­ig­nated as a venue for the Vi­naya school of Bud­dhism, and re­named the Fayuan Tem­ple.

Be­hind the Hall of Great Bud­dha is the Minzhong Al­tar, a struc­ture unique to the Fayuan Tem­ple. On the al­tar, Em­peror Taizong once held rites to re­lease souls of mar­tyrs from pur­ga­tory. With 12 pil­lars as the frame of the outer wall and 12 pil­lars as in­door sup­ports, the al­tar has a style sim­i­lar to that of the Wanchun Pavil­ion in the Im­pe­rial Park at the For­bid­den City.

Su­rangama Al­tar of Tanzhe Tem­ple

The statue of the Maitreya Bud­dha in Yonghe­gong Lama Tem­ple

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