The Stone Scrip­tures Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall in the Yunju Tem­ple

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Wu Bo­hui Edited by David Ball Photo by Yan Yusheng

Famed for its thou­sands of in­scribed Bud­dhist stone tablets, Yunju Tem­ple is also known as “Bei­jing's Dun­huang.” These valu­able works have sur­vived over 1,400 years and of­fer rare in­sights Bud­dhism's his­tory in China.

The Yunju Tem­ple Stone Scrip­tures Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall, lo­cated in Nan­shangle Township, Fang­shan Dis­trict, is known as “Bei­jing's Dun­huang” be­cause of its col­lec­tion of carved Bud­dhist stone tablets. Anti-bud­dhist cam­paigns in the North­ern Wei (AD 386–534) and North­ern Zhou (AD 557–581) dy­nas­ties led to a large num­ber of Bud­dhist scrip­tures be­ing de­stroyed. For that rea­son, dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Yang (AD 604–618) of the Sui Dy­nasty (AD 581–618), an emi­nent monk by the name of Jing­wan vowed to en­grave the Bud­dhist clas­sics on tablets and hide them in the caves to pre­serve them and ful­fill the wishes of his mas­ter (Huisi). Jing­wan spent more than 30 years carv­ing the clas­sics— work that was con­tin­ued for more than 1,000 years af­ter his death. The carv­ing of 1,122 Bud­dhist scrip­tures in 3,572 vol­umes on 14,278 tablets com­poses one of the largest and long­est writ­ten works in the his­tory of mankind. To­day, these stone tablets are col­lected in the nine caves of Shi­jing Moun­tain and the Scrip­tures Col­lec­tion Cave next to Yunju Tem­ple.

The Fang­shan Stone Scrip­tures have be­come a clas­sic Bud­dhist work that has been handed down from the Sui Dy­nasty. They are hugely sig­nif­i­cant in the study of Bud­dhism, pol­i­tics, so­cial econ­omy, art and cul­ture, and have great cul­tural and artis­tic value as works of cal­lig­ra­phy. In 1961, the Pagoda and Stone Scrip­tures in Yunju Tem­ple were in­cluded on the list of the State Coun­cil's first batch of key cul­tural relics un­der na­tional pro­tec­tion.

The ‘Great Tem­ple of North China’

Yunju Tem­ple— also known as the Great Tem­ple of North China— was built by the emi­nent monk Mas­ter Jing­wan in the pe­riod of Da'ye of the Sui Dy­nasty. It is home to a huge

col­lec­tion of Bud­dhist clas­sics in the form of stone tablets, manuscripts and wood­blocks, which are col­lec­tively known as the “Three Achieve­ments.” To the east of this mag­nif­i­cent tem­ple is a lake and the en­tire com­plex is dom­i­nated by moun­tains. The cen­tral axis of the tem­ple fea­tures six halls: Tian­wang Hall and Pilu Hall, which are flanked by drum and bell tow­ers, and Shi­jia Hall, Zhan­tan Hall, Yaoshi Hall and Mi'le Hall are flanked by dor­mi­to­ries for monks, Wen­shu Hall and Ab­bot Hall. On top of the hill is Dabei Hall, the largest build­ing in the tem­ple, which in­cor­po­rates the Shuofa and Zengjing halls. In the north­ern part of the tem­ple com­plex is the brick­built Luo­han Tower con­structed in the Liao Dy­nasty and known as the North Tower. In the south­ern part of the tem­ple is the South Tower, known as the Scrip­tures Pro­tec­tion Tower be­cause of its po­si­tion atop an un­der­ground cham­ber that stores 10,082 stone scrip­tures. The South Tower and most of the tem­ple's halls were de­stroyed dur­ing the Sec­ond Sino-ja­panese War— with only the en­trance, North Tower and the four small tow­ers around it sur­viv­ing. In re­cent years how­ever, the main build­ings have been suc­ces­sively re­built.

The North Tower is an icon of Yunju Tem­ple. A 34.2-me­tre-high tile-roofed ed­i­fice, it was built from bricks and dates back to the Liao Dy­nasty. The tower's spire and body are com­posed of a phase wheel, stupa and pavil­ion which re­sem­ble a bell, drum and pavil­ion re­spec­tively. It has an oc­tag­o­nal base carved with mu­si­cians and dancers, re­flect­ing the cul­tural her­itage of the Liao Dy­nasty and pro­vid­ing ma­te­rial ev­i­dence for the study of the mu­sic, dance and other arts at that time. The lower sec­tion of its base is in­laid with 176 bricks carved with an image of the Bud­dha and in­scribed with Bud­dhist text. An­other of the tem­ple's pre­cious an­cient pago­das is a small tower built in AD 711 dur­ing the Tang Dy­nasty by the north­west cor­ner of the North Tower. The old­est Tang Dy­nasty tower in Bei­jing, it is built on a square plan, is 3-m high and has seven floors—hence its al­ter­na­tive name: the Seven-floor Tower. The tower's main door is flanked by a statue of Narayana on ei­ther side, which is ma­te­rial ev­i­dence of the study of Bud­dhism and Bud­dhist ar­chi­tec­ture dur­ing the Tang Dy­nasty.

The most fa­mous arte­facts in Yunju Tem­ple are the Fang­shan Stone Scrip­tures housed in Shi­jing Moun­tain op­po­site the tem­ple. The tablets are renowned for be­ing the only Trip­i­taka carved on stones in the whole of China. Built into the side of Shi­jing Moun­tain are nine caves hous­ing the stone clas­sics over two floors, of which eight were sealed by stones and cast in molten iron.

Hid­den Trea­sures

In ad­di­tion to the stone scrip­tures, other valu­able cul­tural relics have also been dis­cov­ered in Yunju Tem­ple. These in­clude Bud­dha relics, wood­blocks of the Lung Trip­i­taka Scrip­tures, and the Tongue Blood Scrip­tures, which ap­peal to vis­i­tors as im­por­tant ev­i­dence of the study of Bud­dhism, phi­los­o­phy, his­tory, science and art.

The Bud­dha Relics in Yunju Tem­ple were un­earthed on Novem­ber 27, 1981 when a stone cave twofeet in length, width and depth and a text carved on white mar­ble were dis­cov­ered be­neath a kneel­ing stone in Shi­jing Moun­tain's Leiyin Cave. Be­neath the large mar­ble tablet was a blue stone carved by Jing­wan, un­der which was a white mar­ble tablet carved with text. Un­der that was a fourth set of small in­scribed sil­vers, and at the bot­tom was a set of tiny elab­o­rately in­scribed jade wares. Two rice-sized red Bud­dha relics found among the jade wares caused a huge sen­sa­tion at the time. The two relics, to­gether with the Bud­dha's fin­ger bone relics at Fa­men Tem­ple in Shaanxi and the Bud­dha's tooth relic in Badachu Park in Bei­jing, are re­ferred to as the “Three Na­tional Trea­sures of China.”

The Lung Trip­i­taka Scrip­ture wood­blocks were cre­ated be­tween 1733 and 1738. The 79,000 wooden blocks are carved with 718 works in 1,662 parts over 7,160 vol­umes. Weigh­ing 400 tons, they are the most valu­able wood­block Bud­dhist clas­sics in China and are elab­o­rately carved on fine pear wood with ex­quis­ite work­man­ship and fine cal­lig­ra­phy. Im­ages of the Bud­dha per­fectly com­ple­ment the for­mat and are both vivid and aes­thet­i­cally ap­peal­ing. This set of wood­blocks, which con­tains a col­lec­tion of trans­lated Bud­dhist clas­sics in­tro­duced into China 1700 ago, is a valu­able piece of Chi­nese cul­tural her­itage and a glob­ally im­por­tant Bud­dhist work. Among them, a wood carv­ing of the Bud­dha teach­ing the Bud­dhist clas­sics to his dis­ci­ples is ti­tled “Hai­hui Paint­ing.” The elab­o­rate and finely crafted wood carv­ings of 76 im­ages of the Bud­dha, Bod­hisattva, Luo­han, Feitian and oth­ers, are mas­ter­pieces of the fine arts.

Yunju Tem­ple con­tains more than 22,000 vol­umes of Bud­dhist clas­sics, in­clud­ing the Ming Dy­nasty's Yon­gle South­ern Trip­i­taka

( 1420) and Yon­gle North­ern Trip­i­taka ( 1440), in­di­vid­ual printed su­tras, manuscripts and Ti­betan scrip­tures. Of these, the Tongue Blood Scrip­tures and Ti­betan- Chi­nese scrip­tures are the rarest and most valu­able. The Tongue Blood Scrip­tures are an 80- vol­ume, 600,000- word “Flower Adorn­ment Su­tra,” writ­ten dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty by the ven­er­a­ble monk Zuhui us­ing blood from his tongue— his pi­ous be­lief ev­i­dently dis­played by the red let­ters in the scrip­tures. The col­lec­tion of Ti­betan- Chi­nese Bud­dhist clas­sics were printed us­ing wood­blocks. Char­ac­terised by hor­i­zon­tal writ­ing in both Ti­betan and Chi­nese lan­guages, they are the old­est of their kind fea­tur­ing Chi­nese char­ac­ters type­set hor­i­zon­tally.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.