An­cient Build­ings in the Pun­ing Tem­ple

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Zhang Hong­peng Edited by Justin Davis

The Pun­ing Tem­ple was the first tem­ple that Em­peror Qian­long (reign: 1735–1796) es­tab­lished in Chengde, He­bei Prov­ince. The tem­ple was con­structed to com­mem­o­rate a bat­tle. Its huge wooden Bud­dhist statue makes it stand out.

The colour­ful and mag­nif­i­cent Pun­ing Tem­ple is nes­tled on the hill­side north­east of the Mountain Re­sort in Chengde, He­bei, ex­em­pli­fy­ing the blend­ing of Han, Mon­go­lian and Ti­betan cul­tures. If the Mountain Re­sort is con­sid­ered a wit­ness to the rise and de­cline of the Qing Dy­nasty (1644–1911), the eight tem­ples sur­round­ing the re­sort should be re­garded as mon­u­ments mark­ing na­tional sol­i­dar­ity and unity.

The Pun­ing Tem­ple was the first tem­ple that Em­peror Qian­long (reign: 1735–1796) es­tab­lished in Chengde. It was con­structed at a spe­cial mo­ment, which made the tem­ple stand out from the other tem­ples in the area.

Con­struc­tion of the Tem­ple to Mark a His­toric Event

Dur­ing the early Qing Dy­nasty pe­riod, Dzun­gar Mon­gols’ up­per class suf­fered fre­quent and fierce con­flicts re­gard­ing Khan’s po­si­tion. After Gal­dan Tseren, the Khong Tay­iji of Dzun­gar Khanate, died in 1745, his three sons and their fol­low­ers bat­tled each other to claim suc­ces­sion to his po­si­tion.

In 1754, Amur­san (1723–1757) led 20,000 sol­diers and civil­ians to sur­ren­der to the Qing Dy­nasty after los­ing his foothold in north­west­ern China. Em­peror Qian­long met with him at the Mountain Re­sort and learned of Dawachi’s atro­cious rul­ing and re­bel­lion against the Qing Dy­nasty from Amur­san, who persuaded the em­peror into quelling the re­bel­lion. The em­peror also had plans to con­quer re­gional Dzun­gar forces and ap­pointed Bandi as North Paci­fi­ca­tion Gen­eral, Amur­san as Left Vice Gen­eral and Yongn­ing as West Paci­fi­ca­tion Gen­eral in 1755 to put down the re­bel­lion. With sup­port of some Mon­gol tribes, the Qing troops paci­fied the rebels quickly. Em­peror Qian­long was de­lighted by the vic­tory in the north­west and ac­cepted the rebels’ sur­ren­der at the Meridian Gate of the For­bid­den City in Bei­jing. Af­ter­wards, he held a ban­quet at the Mountain Re­sort in hon­our of the aris­toc­racy of four Mon­gol tribes and con­ferred no­ble ranks on them.

To com­mem­o­rate the vic­tory, Em­peror Qian­long copied Em­peror Kangxi’s (reign: 1661–1722) so­lu­tion of build­ing the Huizong Tem­ple in Duol­un­n­uoer after re­solv­ing disputes of the Xalxa Mon­gols to con­struct the Pun­ing Tem­ple. It was mod­elled after the Samye Monastery, which was said to have been built by Dhama King Trisong Det­sen (reign: 755–794), who played a piv­otal role in the in­tro­duc­tion of Bud­dhism to Ti­bet. It took four years to con­struct the Pun­ing Tem­ple. Pun­ing means “uni­ver­sal peace” in Chi­nese.

Em­peror Qian­long wrote in­scrip­tions for two stone ste­les in 1755 and 1758, which were erected in Ili and at the Pun­ing Tem­ple, re­spec­tively, to record the con­quer­ing of the Dzun­gar rebels. Both the tem­ple and the ste­les were mile­stones for the Qing Gov­ern­ment’s paci­fi­ca­tion oper­a­tions in bor­der ar­eas and marked the for­ma­tion of an em­pire with mul­ti­ple eth­nic groups, sym­bol­is­ing the Qing Gov­ern­ment’s ad­vo­cacy of eth­nic and cul­tural fu­sion and sup­port of har­mo­nious co­ex­is­tence of all eth­nic groups.

The Pun­ing Tem­ple also im­presses peo­ple with its ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign and aes­thetic value.

Charm­ing Ar­chi­tec­tural Style

In the early 20th cen­tury, the Qing Dy­nasty was forced to open its door to the rest of the world. Some Western schol­ars were at­tracted to China. In 1902, the Ger­man ar­chi­tect Ernst

Bo­er­schmann (1873–1949) ar­rived in China by ship via In­dia. After set­ting foot on the an­cient civil­i­sa­tion, he im­me­di­ately set eyes on an­cient build­ings in Chengde. The Mountain Re­sort and its neigh­bour­ing eight tem­ples im­pressed him deeply and were etched in his brain.

When he re­vis­ited Chengde in 1906, he toured tow­ers, pavil­ions and ter­races in tem­ples and took nu­mer­ous photos, which are still well-pre­served and have be­come im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments.

After re­turn­ing to Ger­many fol­low­ing his sec­ond visit to Chengde, Ernst Bo­er­schmann sorted out ma­te­ri­als he col­lected from China and pub­lished three books: Chi­ne­sis­che Ar­chitek­tur (Chi­nese Ar­chi­tec­ture), Baukunst und Land­schaft in China (Ar­chi­tec­ture and Land­scape in China) and Chi­ne­sis­che Pago­den (Chi­nese Pago­das), which were con­sid­ered im­por­tant doc­u­ments on an­cient Chi­nese ar­chi­tec­ture and caused a stir in in­ter­na­tional ar­chi­tec­tural cir­cles at the time.

He vividly de­picted the beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture in the Pun­ing Tem­ple in his books. In Chi­nese Ar­chi­tec­ture, Ernst in­di­cated the Dacheng Pav­il­ion of the Pun­ing Tem­ple had four storeys, but some parts had five lev­els, which each had dif­fer­ent heights. He de­scribed the fact that the struc­ture is in­creas­ingly nar­row from the first floor, to the fifth floor and five gilded bronze spires are fea­tured on top of the pav­il­ion in a lay­out in which four lower ones en­cir­cle a higher one. The main Bud­dha sculp­ture in the pav­il­ion im­pressed Ernst a lot as well. Sun­light lights up the up­per part of the sculp­ture through win­dows on the pav­il­ion, in con­trast to its dim lower sec­tion. The Bud­dha’s head looks bright and even bril­liant, cre­at­ing a solemn im­age. He be­lieved Chi­nese ar­chi­tec­tural forms of­ten cor­re­lated with their func­tions.

Golden Lac­quer, Wooden Sculp­tures and An­cient Tem­ple

The Dacheng Pav­il­ion is still pop­u­lar among Bud­dhists and visi­tors, as it houses the world’s tallest wooden sculp­ture of Bod­hisattva Aval­okiteś­vara, which mea­sures 23.51 me­tres (m) tall and fea­tures a “thou­sand” dif­fer­ent eyes and a “thou­sand” dif­fer­ent arms stretched out from its frame. In re­al­ity, it has two main arms and 40 more arms. Each arm rep­re­sents 25 Bud­dhist-style re­tri­bu­tions, so 40 arms sym­bol­ise a thou­sand re­tri­bu­tions and a thou­sand arms.

The sculp­ture was built dur­ing the Qian­long pe­riod (1736–1795), so it is more than 200 years old. It is sym­met­ri­cal and is em­bel­lished with var­i­ous mo­tifs on its wrists and chest. The sculp­ture is seated on a lo­tus pedestal and is made from five kinds of wood, in­clud­ing pine, cy­press, elm, fir and lin­den. Its sur­face is coated with golden paint, which re­mains bright and fresh after all these years.

Two palms are placed to­gether in front its chest, with the rest of the arms each hold­ing a tool or accessory and cor­re­spond­ing with an eye. The tools in­clude sym­bols of the moon and sun, Bud­dhist prayer beads, lo­tuses, knives, swords, um­brel­las and canes, which each were made sep­a­rately and later at­tached to the hands.

Ex­perts es­ti­mated the large Bud­dha sculp­ture was made from about 120 cu­bic me­tres of wood. This takes into ac­count the sculp­ture’s hol­low torso. If its torso was solid, more wood would have been con­sumed. There is a one-m-high door on the back of the sculp­ture, which was spec­u­lated to be for main­te­nance. In 1998, some ex­perts opened the door and found a so­phis­ti­cated wooden struc­ture in­side.

Ex­perts stud­ied the struc­ture and found there were three wooden floors and a colos­sal wooden back­bone in the sculp­ture. The back­bone is about 24 m high and 66 cen­time­tres (cm) in di­am­e­ter. It stands from the bot­tom to the head. The back­bone’s lower part runs 3.63 m into the lo­tus pedestal. Four sup­port­ing props are at­tached to the back­bone. They are 15.7 m long and 40.5 cm in di­am­e­ter each and stand be­tween the sec­ond floor and the third floor. The ridge beams of the first floor are sup­ported by 10 pil­lars, which are 13 m long and 33 cm in di­am­e­ter, re­spec­tively. Four lay­ers of hor­i­zon­tal, wooden pil­lars are sit­u­ated be­tween two of the 10 pil­lars, which are em­bel­lished with carv­ings and paint­ings. There are four square pil­lars on the third floor, which are used to con­nect the sculp­ture’s 42 arms. An­cient work­ers used the three-level wooden struc­ture to sup­port the sculp­ture’s arms and con­sol­i­date the sculp­ture.

The sculp­ture still stands in­tact at the Dacheng Pav­il­ion and is wor­shipped by visi­tors. The an­cient tem­ple, its struc­tures and re­mains re­flect Chi­nese wis­dom and the crafts­man­ship of its time pe­riod. They are also sym­bols of Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.