Cen­turies-old tem­ple re­mains undis­turbed

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE | TRAVEL - By LI YANG and ZHAO RUIXUE in Ji­nan Con­tact the writ­ers at liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Lingyan Tem­ple has been one of the four most im­por­tant tem­ples in­China since it was built more than 1,600 years ago in Ji­nan, Shan­dong prov­ince. Its peak lasted from the Tang Dy­nasty (618907) to the Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644), when it had more than 50 large build­ings and over 500 monks.

The tem­ple, which perches in a quiet val­ley on the north range of Mount Tai, had re­mained un­known to many un­til 1982, when it was listed as a key cul­tural relic site un­der State pro­tec­tion and was opened to tourists.

Mount Tai be­came aWorld Nat­u­ra­landCul­tur­alHer­itage site in 1987, and Lingyan Tem­ple is a part of the moun­tain’s cul­tural her­itage. Be­sides its sig­nif­i­cance in Bud­dhist his­tory, the tem­ple has breath­tak­ing nat­u­ral views at an al­ti­tude of 700me­ters.

In the mid-Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911), the Em­peror Qian­long stayed at the tem­ple eight times on his way to in­spect the south of China from Bei­jing, be­cause of the pic­turesque views and the quiet­ness of the tem­ple.

The nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment is well pro­tected. The peaks sur­round­ing the tem­ple look like sev­eral monks chant­ing su­tras and the for­est is home to hun­dreds of kinds of birds and an­i­mals.

East of the tem­ple, at the foot of a steep cliff, are three nat­u­ral springs all be­side each other. To the north and south of the tem­ple, there are five more springs. The flow of the spring wa­ter is con­stant and the wa­ter is crys­tal clear. They are the main wa­ter source for the tem­ple, as well as an im­por­tant rea­son why Lingyan Tem­ple has sur­vived the twists and turns of a long his­tory.

A san­dal tree with more than one thou­sand years’ his­tory still flour­ishes be­side one of the springs. There are many tales about the tree, the springs and the moun­tains.

Along the north-south cen­tral axis of the tem­ple are theHall ofHeav­enly Kings, a bell tower and a drum tower, Great Bud­dha’s Hall, FiveFlower Hall, Thou­sand-Bud­dha Hall, Pra­jna (wis­dom) Hall and Trip­i­taka Su­tra (Bud­dhist texts) Pavil­ion. The main struc­tures and foun­da­tion of th­ese build­ings date back to the Song Dy­nasty (960-1279), and the roofs and walls were re­in­forced in the Qing Dy­nasty.

The Thou­sand-Bud­dha Hall is a must-see. Be­sides three large gilded Bud­dha stat­ues, there are about one thou­sand small wooden Bud­dha sculp­tures placed on lay­ers of shelves on the wall.

There are 40 color­ful clay sculp­tures of monks, most of which are be­lieved to be made in the Song Dy­nasty ac­cord­ing to 40 real-life monks in the tem­ple. Each of the monks has his own fa­cial ex­pres­sions and ges­tures, and even the veins on their fore­arms and necks are vividly carved. Some are smil­ing, some are an­gry and some are pon­der­ing. The col­ors, from min­eral sub­stances, re­main fresh and bright to­day.

“The clay sculp­tures seem to have life. Each one of them teaches the viewer a les­son about life,” said Zhang Ruidong, a local trav­eler. “You can find your­self among them. My look­ing is like a process of di­a­logue with them.”

are in the grave­yard of Lingyan Tem­ple in Ji­nan, Shan­dong prov­ince

Dur­ing a ren­o­va­tion project in 1982, work­ers ac­ci­den­tally found silk-made or­gans, Bud­dhist texts, cop­per coins and an­cient books in com­part­ments within th­ese clay fig­ures.

There are many well-pre­served del­i­cate stone and wood em­boss­ments, and fres­cos on the build­ings, telling Bud­dhist sto­ries. Sev­eral stone tablets in­scribed with records of the main ren­o­va­tion projects of the tem­ple in the past 1,000 years still stand at cor­ners of the shady court­yard.

Li Deguang, a local trav­eler, said: “I vis­ited the tem­ple in 1983. It looks ex­actly the same after 33 years. The tem­ple is an ideal, rem­i­nis­cent place, while the city has changed too much to be rec­og­nized even by lo­cals if they have left for 33 years.”

In the back of the tem­ple is Pratyeka (mean­ing ‘ev­ery’), a 55.7-me­ter pagoda of the Song Dy­nasty, and a monk grave­yard cov­er­ing a pe­riod of about 1,500 years. It took the Song peo­ple 65 years to build the eight-an­gle nine-story pagoda with brick, stone and clay. The grave­yard has 167 stu­pas, which refers to a kind of dome-shaped mon­u­ment used as a Bud­dhist shrine for relics, and 81 tomb­stones in­scribed with epi­taphs.

“Tourism brings about com­mer­cial­iza­tion, against which the Lingyan Bud­dhists must be vig­i­lant and try to main­tain the pu­rity and tran­quil­lity of the tem­ple, mak­ing it a habi­tat for hearts,” said Hong’en Mas­ter, a monk in Lingyan Tem­ple. “We are re­spon­si­ble for hand­ing down the tem­ple to the next gen­er­a­tion, just as we re­ceived it from our masters.”

JU CHUANJIANG / CHI­NADAILY

Top: Pratyeka in Lingyan Tem­ple. Above: Thou­sand-Bud­dha Hall in the tem­ple. Clay sculp­tures in

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