Hangzhou, praised as the Southeast Buddhist Center, is home to many famous temples, pagodas and Buddhist statutes. The landscape of Hangzhou is often the talk of the town for its smell of burning incense and its sound of ringing bells.
As Chinese New Year is approaching, we are delighted to provide you with a guide of a Buddhist tour of Hangzhou.
Also named as Yunlin Temple (Yun Lin Chan Si), Lingyin Temple is situated in the hills on the west side of West Lake. As the oldest and most famous temple in Hangzhou, it preserves many exquisite relics handed down from past dynasties, and every day pilgrims and visitors flood into pray for blessings.
Spanning a history of 1,700 years, Lingyin Temple has become a treasury of history and culture. The tablet of Yun Lin Chan Si hanging in the Hall of Heavenly Kings was written by Emperor Kangxi in the Qing Dynasty. Both the stone pagoda in front of the Mahavira Hall and the stone pillar engraved with scriptures are relics of Wu and Yue during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Precious treasures of ancient scriptures written on the leaves of a golden Buddha sculpture made in the Eastern Wei Dynasty, and a Diamond Sutra written by the great calligrapher Dong Qichang in the Ming Dynasty are all conserved in Lingyin Temple.
This renowned temple is also the place where a legendary monk Ji Gong converted to Buddhism. In the Daoji Hall stands a vivid sculpture of Ji Gong, with a broken fan in his right hand, a string of prayer beads in his left hand, and a right foot resting on a liquor jar.
In front of Lingyin Temple stands Peak Flying from Afar. Although not very high, Peak Flying from Afar is famous for more than 340 grottoes of Buddha which were established in the Five Dynasties, the peak is also a rare treasure of grotto art in Jiangnan. Remote from the city center, Lingyin Temple still wins the hearts and minds of pilgrims who regularly come to worship, notably on the first and fifteenth day of every month in the Chinese calendar.
From Lingyin it takes 5 to 6 kilometers to go to nearby scenic spots like Longjing, Nine Creeks and Eighteen Gullies, Hangzhou Botanical Garden or West Lake, and it takes 7match kilometers to go to Xixi National Wetland Park.
Huiyin Gaoli Temple, with its many unique highlights, is a scenic spot noted for its architecture and religious culture; for example, the Luncang Hall, distinct sculptures of the four Heavenly Kings, the statues of Buddha and the frescos, among which the Luncang in the Luncang Hall is the most amazing. In short, Luncang is a wooden pagoda-shaped building preserving scriptures. This building can rotate around the axis by human power with four people pushing the four bars of the building.
As one of the four oldest temples around West Lake, Jingci Temple is situated opposite Leifeng Pagoda. This is a tranquil place amongst the hustle and bustle of the West Lake scenic area. The temple stands in solemn silence while the smoke of incense pervades the air, and at dusk the melodious sounds of bell ringing soar over the West Lake and awaken the imagination of its visitors.
Jingci Temple is also the place where Monk Ji Gong practiced his spirituality and where he died. It is also a good place to pray for blessings for the family.
Xiangji Temple was first built in the Song Dynasty, a thousand years ago. Its original name was Xingfu Temple and it was Emperor Zhenzong of the Song Dynasty who bestowed it the name of Xiangji temple. A well-known temple in Gongshu District, Xiangji Temple is praised as No.1 Temple on the Grand Canal.
In the temple there were originally two pagodas built during the Kangxi period of the Qing Dynasty but now only one exists. The nine-storey octagon pagoda was built on a base of white stone. The Song-styled pagoda has a tablet engraved with "Ci Yun" hanging on its third storey and with a Qing-styled structure and cameo the temple has been preserved as a Zhejiang Important Cultural Relics Protection Unit.
Near Xiangji Temple there are two food streets - Dadou Road and Shengli River Street where you can find a bite to eat in a tranquil space in the center of the city, beside the Grand Canal.
The most interesting fact of Xiangji Temple is that one can travel to it by boat. At Chinese New Year's Eve, the temple will open at 10 pm for pilgrims to be able to burn the first incense.
There are three famous ancient temples at Tianzhu Mountain: Upper Tianzhu, Middle Tianzhu and Lower Tianzhu. Lower Tianzhu was built first more than 1,660 years ago and Upper Tianzhu, the latest structure, also has a history of more than a thousand years. Emperor Qianlong named the upper, middle and lower as Faxi Temple (法喜寺), Fajing Temple (法净寺), and Fajing Temple (法镜寺) and wrote the tablets for the temples himself.
Yongfu Temple is located a mile to the west of Lingyin Temple on the foot of Shisun Peak, and it has been more than 1,600 years since Monk Huili built it. The temple is built against the hills and with its five open gardens it is one of the largest temples in Hangzhou.
Taoguang Temple, beside Yongfu Temple, is both an influential and ancient temple in the Lingyin scenic area. The temple was built by Taoguang, a famous poet and monk from Sichuan in the Tang Dynasty. Bai Juyi, the great poet and a government official of old Hangzhou always came here to make tea and read poetry.
The gate of the temple is unique and stands out for its white walls and gray arches are enriched with a traditional Jiangnan architectural style. With infrequent visitors, this temple remains a quiet place for resting in peace and harmony.
Fahua Temple is located in a valley in the northwest of Northern Peak. Even though you can see that the temple has been recently rebuilt (2003), its history dates back to 1,700 years ago. Originally built in the Eastern Jin Dynasty, the temple was founded by Monk Tanyi. Emperor Zhaogou bestowed the temple a new name - Long Gui and it was the largest temple in Xixi at that time.
Today, Fahua Temple covers an area of 667 acres. Consisting of a gate, halls, a bell tower and a drum tower, the temple intricately reproduces its ancient atmosphere to the present world.
Wanshou Temple, also called Jingshan Temple, was first built in the Zhonghe Period of the Tang Dynasty (AD881-884). Qian Liu, the King of Wu and Yue, titled it as Wu Xing Zheng Zhen Temple. During the Song Dynasty, it was renamed as Miaojue Temple. Emperor Zhaokuo ranked the most significant temples in the country - Five Mountains and Ten Temples, and Wanshou Temple was ranked the second highest.
As time passes the original look of the temple has become blurred, the buildings we see now were reconstructed in the 1980s. We only know that the original temple possessed thousands of halls, buildings, pagodas and pavilions and more than 3,000 monks. This area has enjoyed a long history of producing tea and in the Southern Song Dynasty, Japanese monks brought the culture of tea, together with the Buddhist scriptures, back to Japan and that was the origins of Japanese teaism.