Saturday, January 29, 2011
Liurong Temple 六容寺 – Guangzhou, China
Liurong Si or Temple of Six Banyan Trees was the first temple I visited in Guangzhou with my brother. Before entering the site, I had to pay an entrance fee as much as 5 Yuan. As soon as I stepped into the courtyard, I saw people selling joss sticks and other religious ornaments in shops at the right and left sides. A tall magnificent pagoda, known as the flowery pagoda welcomed us with its majesty. It is the most noticeable structure of the whole building.
The wooden slab at the entrance gate is inscribed by the Chinese famous literature, Su Dong Po. The gate is also decorated with red lanterns, showing a typical of Chinese traditional place of worship.
Having a long history of around 1400 years, the Temple of Six Banyan Trees enjoys its reputation as one of the four biggest temples in Guangzhou apart from Guangxiao temple, Hualin temple and Haizhuang temple. This locally and internationally known temple has kept abundant cultural relics mainly related to the history of Chinese Buddhism and is a perfect place to get some insight about the ancient as well as contemporary Chinese Buddhism. Situated on the Liurong road, the temple is easily reached by MTR. Take MTR and get off at Yuexiu Park station. Walk straight and follow the direction until you reach the temple.
Since its first establishment in 537, the temple has been rebuilt and renamed several times. The temple was first built in the third year of Datong (537 A.D) during the reign of Emperor Wu in the Southern Liang dynasty. The Emperor gave order to a master priest called Tanyu to build a temple to keep Buddhist bones brought from Kampuchea. Originally called Baozhuanyan temple, the temple was then successively renamed into Changshou temple meaning “longevity”, Songchu temple in the Southern Han dynasty, Jinghui temple (Purification Wisdom Temple) after was destroyed by fire and rebuilt by Duangong in the Northern Song dynasty (989 A.D) as a dedication and commemoration to the Founder of Chinese Zen Buddhism Hui Neng, and lastly its current name by a man named Su Dong Po, a famous Chinese literature in Yuanfu’s period in the Song dynasty (960 – 1279). Su Dong Po was a man who visited the temple while returning to the north. During his visit, he found the six banyan trees inside the temple very attractive and verdant, inspiring him. When an abbot approached and asked him to write an inscription for the temple, he wrote “Liu Rong Si”. Then in Yongle period in the Ming dynasty, people started to call the temple with its current name.
The first hall of the temple is Tianwang hall with the statue of laughing Buddha. Located behind it is the Weituo hall, which was constructed to commemorate Weituo, a general who rescued the stolen Buddha relics. In contrast with the laughing Buddha, his face looks serious and strict.
The beautiful Flowery Pagoda built in 1097 inside the temple dominates the entire structure. Because of its octagonal structure, this 57-meters pagoda gives an illusive impression to the visitors of being a 9-storey building while it actually consists of 17 storeys inside. The first structure was ruined by fire in the 10th century. The admission to the pagoda is 10 Yuan. Climb the spiral staircases to reach the top of the pagoda, which is a perfect place to overlook the whole stunning city panorama from above. The pagoda is made of wood with black upwards curved roofs and hanging bells on its eaves that make it look like a dark petal flower or a flower pole. Therefore, it is called “hua ta” in Chinese which literally means flowery pagoda. Inside the pagoda are ancient relics from India and the inner building is decorated with decoration of thousands of animals and celestial beings. The highest story of the pagoda keeps the famous thousand-Buddha copper pillar from the Yuan dynasty (1271 – 1368).
In front of the pagoda is an ancient iron incense burner where worshippers burn religious papers
To the east of the pagoda is located the Mountain Gate where you are welcomed by a smiling Maitreya. Two heavenly kings holding weapons are placed on the four sides of Maitreya. The locals believe that the weapons are a symbol of good expectation of a favorable weather throughout the year.
The Hall of Avalokitesvara or Guanyin houses a Guanyin (goddess of mercy) effigy of 4 meters high. In its surroundings are an array of shops and stalls selling joss sticks, jades and other religious bric-a-brac. Since the temple is located quite close to the foreign consulates, this hall has become a common destination for foreigners who adopt Chinese children to conduct some religious rituals to ask for blessings from Guanyin. The hall also features numerous pictures of the newly adopted Chinese children with their Western parents. On holidays and other big celebrations like Spring and Lantern Festival, the temple is extremely packed with people trying to be the first who burns joss sticks and offers sacrifices to the gods in expectation for a better luck in the upcoming year.
The wooden corridor is very artistic
The stone tablet corridor records the history of the temple and the pagoda
The Attic of Tripitaka keeps the holy book of Buddhism, Tripitaka. Unfortunately, the hall is not open for public visit.
The Grand Hall or Daoxiong Baodian hall located to the west of the flowery pagoda is the main hall of the temple rebuilt in 1983. It houses three biggest copper Buddha statues, which are among the biggest and most ancient Buddha statues in Guangdong province. Constructed in 1633 by the Emperor Kangxi in the Qing dynasty, the three Buddha giant brass statues enshrined in the Grand Hall are of 6 meters high and 10 tons weight. The position of the three statues successively resemble present, past and future with the statue of Sakyamuni in the middle, Amitabha to the left and Apothecary Buddha (Maitreya) to the right.
Enter the Yuan Tang door, then you will find the Friendship Hall inside
The Friendship Hall with a bronze statue of Buddha
The Monk’s Dormitory is located nearby the Friendship Hall
The Dharma Disseminating Hall is a place where the monks gather and listen to the sermon
Around the Burong pavilion are some greenery
Currently, there are no longer six banyan trees. Only some of them remain, as seen in the picture. The tree gives fresh air to the visitors of the temple
As a renowned Buddhist cultural site, the Six Banyan Trees temple has become a pilgrimage destination for all Buddhists across the world. It functions as the headquarters of the Guangzhou Buddhist association. Therefore, be sensitive in taking photographs of the monks and worshippers inside the temple.
Personal experience and additional information from other online articles