Saturday, January 8, 2011
Guangxiao Temple 光孝寺– Guangzhou, China
In summer holiday 2009, when I was still studying in Guangzhou, China, I urged my mom and my younger brother to visit me. Unfortunately, my mom could not go with us to most places since she needed to rest after a surgery. So, I took my brother to some interesting historical places both of us have not been to. As a young girl, people generally would expect me love going to malls for shopping. Strangely, unlike most girls who would put shopping in their top priority, I am not really into going to glamorous shopping centers to buy fancy clothes and accessories, for which some of my friends frown their forehead. Instead of shopping, I prefer traveling and exploring natural, historical and cultural sites. And thank God my brother also has similar perspectives with me, so it was not difficult to persuade him to visit rarely-visited sites like ancient temples.
One shining afternoon, my brother and I started our adventurous journey to some places, which one of them was Guangxiao temple. None of my friends had visited that temple because for them visiting historical sites like ancient temples and museums are a boring job to do. No guide could take us there and I only had a tourist map in my hand. Following the directions in the map and asking some local people, we eventually reached the destined place. It was indeed a real fun to travel that way. ^_^
Also called Bright Filial Temple in English, a literal translation from its Chinese name (Guangxiao si), Guangxiao temple is situated to the west of the Temple of Six Banyan trees (Liu Rong Si) in the Guangxiao road. Occupying an area of 31,000 square meters, the current building of Guangxiao temple dated back to the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911) for the original one built by an Indian monk in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317 - 420) was destroyed by fire. Among the four most famous temples in Guangdong province, Guangxiao temple with the history of 1,500 years is the oldest and largest of its kind in Lingnan area that plays an important role in the history of Chinese Buddhism. The building that obtained its current name in the Song Dynasty (1151) is one of the most-visited temples by Buddhist pilgrimage all around the world for it was the place where the founder of Zen Buddhism, Huineng of the 7th century had his hair cut.
Guangxiao temple was initially a residence of Zhao Jian De, the third generation of Zhao Tuo, the famous ruler of the Nanyue Kingdom in the Western Han Dynasty (206BC – 24AD). During the Three kingdoms period, a man named Yu Fan was banished to Guangzhou and taught there, for which the place was called Yu garden. After his death, his family converted the building to a temple called Zhizhi temple, which was then rebuilt by Indian monks in the East Jin Period. Since then many famous monks visited the temple to preach and spread Buddhism, which among them were Tanmoyeshe who helped build the Mahavira Hall, and the founder of Zen Buddhism, Huineng. Huineng came to the temple to discuss about Buddhism who later had his head shaven in Guangxiao temple and was converted to become a monk in 676. Later monks built an octagonal pagoda of 7.8 meters high to bury his hair.
The original temple had been destroyed several times by fire in the 17th century. After the tragedy, the temple was refurbished several times, so the current building is not the original one, but the one dated back from the mid 19th century. Initially, in Guangxiao temple there were 30 temples and palaces but only ten remain until the present time. Two huge guardian statues standing sentinel at the entrance gate welcome visitors who come to this south-facing building, which is then followed by the second gate called the Gate of Heavenly Kings guarded by the four Deva Kings. In the center of the gate is the statue of the Laughing Buddha, Maitreya.
Inside the temple, there are Mahavira Hall, sleeping Buddha statue, bodhi trees, washing bowls carved by dharma of the Southern Dynasty, stone bell of the Tang Dynasty, and two iron pagodas with Buddhist statues from the Song and Ming Dynasties. The iron pagodas or called as the Gilded One Thousand Buddhas pagodas situated on each side of the main temple are thought to be the oldest ones in China, which once were gilded but now have been peeled off leaving only the iron body visible. The one located in the east dated back to 967 and decorated with over 900 niches with statuettes of Buddha, while the one in the west dated back to 963. The pagodas originally had seven storeys, however in the last year of the Qing dynasty, some houses collapsed and destroyed the four storeys leaving only three remain until today. A huge lotus petal is engraved at the base of the pagoda and other celestial guards in the eaves and pedestals.
Mahavira Hall is the most impressive part of the temple with 140 feet wide and 90 feet high. Inside the hall are three newly built golden Buddha statues with the statue of Sakyamuni in the center (30 feet tall), followed by the statues of Manjusri and Visvabhadra Bodhisattva on the left and right side (25 feet tall), which are recognized as Three Saints of Huayan. On each side of the Mahavira Hall is the Bell and Drum Tower. In front of the Hall are two large iron pagodas, a large incense burner and two stone pillars engraved with Buddhist incantation chanted by the monks in the monastery. At the backside of the hall is a huge statue of Guanyin. There is also a well-designed and tranquil garden with pagodas, statues and zigzag paths, where you could stroll around and relax yourself. The overall design demonstrates the magnificence architecture of the Tang Dynasty.
I do not know exactly what this hall is called, but inside are many wooden name plates of the deceased and donators of the temple
The pillars and the bars of the hall are all made of wood and joined together without nails, a typical ancient Chinese architecture for religious buildings
A fountain located in front of the first hall
One of the halls in Guangxiao temple
Cute twin monk stone statues in the garden of Guangxiao temple
I do not know exactly what this main hall is called, but people prayed and burned incense in front of the hall
If you are a real traveler, Guangxiao Temple is a place you must include in your travel list for it is the place where you could grasp the charm of the old Guangzhou.
Personal experience and additional information from other online articles