A Brief Introduction to Chinese Buddhist Temples

A classic Chinese Buddhist temple is typically a building complex consisted of several courtyards as shown in the illustration below.

Entrance

The front gate of Jin'an Buddhist Temple

The front gate of Jin’an Temple (静安寺) – a Buddhist temple located in Shanghai CBD and initially built in the 3rd century, more than a thousand years before Shanghai became a city.

The first is the entrance building, known as Mountain Gate (山门), with a square in front and three gates that represent the doors to freedom from three constraints.

The three constraints are generated by our obsessions with a temporary self-identity, with a fixed perspective and with the illusive world manifested from our own thought.

Bell Tower & Drum Tower

Bell and drum structures

Behind the entrance, there are two terrace structures, with the one on the left to accommodate a bell and the one on the right to house a drum.

In the dawn, the monks on duty strike the bell then the drum; and in the twilight, the order is reversed.

Hall of Celestial Guardians

In the next courtyard is the Hall of Celestial Kings (天王殿), which is a place paying tribute to some powerful and distinguished figures in the universe, including the current king of six Desire Heavens immediately above the terestial world. These celestial VIPs have a close affiliation to Buddhist enlightenment programs run on earth in the human domain.

Hall of Buddha & Bodhisattvas

The building in the next courtyard is the centrepiece of the temple: The Great Treasure Hall (大雄宝殿).

The hall can have up to ten columns in its width to make 9 sections of space, and six columns deep to make 5 spatial sections, as 9 and 5 are the most prestigious numbers in the universe according to Daoist concept, which is the theoretical foundation of traditional Chinese science and technology, including city planning, building design and construction engineering.

The statues in this hall are the most prominent Buddhist characters – Sakyamuni is normally sitting cross legged on a tolus in the middle. Beside him, one is his teacher and another is his successor Maitreya who is scheduled to be incarnated into this world as next Buddha.

At least four Bodhisattvas, who are said to be most relevant to human world on earth, are also presented in the hall, namely Guanyin (Avalokitesvara) for compassion, Wenshu (Manjusri) for wisdom, Puxian (Samantabhadra) for cultivation endeavour, and Dizang (Kṣitigarbha) for universal salvation.

There are four Buddhist mountains in China devoting to the four Bodhisattvas: Island Putuo (普陀山) near Shanghai for Guanyin, Mt Wutai (五台山) in Shanxi for Wenshu, Mt Emei (峨眉山) in Sichuan for Puxian and Mt Jiuhua (九华山) in Anhui for Dizang. Allegedly, these mountains are frequented by the associated bodhisattvas from time to time.

However, one thing is certain, you will never know they are bodhisattvas when you encounter them, even if they are not directly transformed into human appearance by qi but born by a woman, as it is how things work in the universe that is not a dark forest but operates according to certain rules and orders. Therefore anybody who claims to be the reincarnation or earthly embodiment of such figures is no other but a fraud con artist.

A Buddha statue in the main hall of a 1000-year-old Buddhist Temple Dulesi

A Buddha statue in the main hall of a 1000-year-old Buddhist Temple Dulesi (独乐寺) in Shanxi Province.

A cross section of the main hall in a 1000-year-old Buddhist Temple Dulesi (独乐寺) in Shanxi Province, drowned by one of the greatest Chinese architects Liang Sicheng (梁思成) in 1927.

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS

soxfan1957: Interesting there is so much English on it. Sometime says the document is not as old as it looks.

Christopher Graham: the temple is old,not the plan

chong cen: It’s a renovation draft plan, subject is the temple built during Liao kingdom, 统和二年。

All Things Chinese: Liang Sicheng and his wife Lin Huiyin, also a great Chinese architect and the designer of China’s National emblem, spent decades surveying and recording by way of architectural drawings most surval heritage public buildings even during the WWII when Japanese attacked and invaded China.

When they did this job, they had no plan to renovate them but just wanted to bear witness to ancient treasures.

It was only since the 1950s after China is reunited and peace returns, most historical buildings, including Beijing Forbidden City, underwent major renovations, with Liang Sicheng being the leader of the projects.

chong cen: Great job done by them. Salute. Didn’t the Americans stole our Can Do and Just Do It spiritual Right, I wonder….😁😁😁

All Things Chinese: Hummm, to be fair, Americans were pretty creative and resourceful in the 19th and the 20th.

Mile HsiangYang: Yes. AMERICANS were CREATIVE in The 19th + 20th Centuries. But Somehow, They Seem to have LOST Their MOJO 😐😐😐😐😐

All Things Chinese: Lee When the Soviet Union lost the Cold War, the seed was sowed. That’s how the yin-yang achieve dynamic balance.

The fate could be changed, if the winning group know how to restrain themselves and compensate the losers. But instead they keep increasing their winning margin.

The End of History and the Last Man reads like a death penalty for his adopted country. I’m not sure if he is sent by fate to take revenge on the behalf of the nation nuked.

Clinton’s era is the climax. Climax is a dangerous point, beyond which is a downward journey.

Which is why Lao Tzu emphasised on yin-yang balance and Confucius advocated Middle Course for Moderation. It’s the secret to sustain the existence of the universe and to the longevity of Chinese civilisation.

But the America’s merchant government doesn’t understand it.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, a downhill process for the winner has been activated. The rest is history.

By the way, today is an annual turning point in yin-yang balance: The Winter Solstice for the northern hemisphere where most human beings reside.

House of Arhats

Arhats are said to be the ones who have attained nirvana, which means they have freed from their obsession with illusions. However, they are yet to be the master of their world as they insist to break away from all impressions and keep disengaged with any manifestation.
The Houses of Arhats (罗汉堂) are normally located at the sideways of the courtyard in a big temple and often the places where you can view the best ancient Chinese sculptures.

Sutra Room

A Sutra Room (经堂) in Chinese Buddhist temple is a place where fulltime cultivators (monks) and part time followers study sutra and discuss their cultivation endeavours.

Daoism, Confuciusm and Han-tradition Buddhism are the three foundations of Chinese civilisation.Confuciusm is a social science focusing on the relationships between individuals, between individual and his family, his community and the entire humanity, Daoism is a natural science exploring the causes, the driving forces, the structures, the rules and the full picture of the universe, while genuine Buddhism is the art of mind and consciousness, helping us go beyond the universe to arrive in the True Reality then return to craft the world as author.

Like Confuciusm and Daoism, Chinese Buddhism (Han Buddhism) is not based on blind faith and requires no obsolete submission. Quite the contrary, it urges you to investigate who you are, where you came from and how you are going to end up beyond this life.

You can’t find these answers through endless prostrations in front of a temple, mindless kowtows before a statue and countless turning of a praying wheel. You’ll need to study Buddhist classics, join group discussions, contemplate through medication and practice in real life situations.

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS

Jose Moron: What the difference between a monk and a Buddha?

All Things Chinese: Buddhas are fully enlightened consciousness, while Buddhist monks are full-time cultivators towards that goal.

Simply put, Buddhas are graduates and monks are students.

The graduates may work elsewhere or return to the university as teachers.

Lecture Room

Lecture Hall (法堂) is where veteran cultivators (senior monks) explain their understanding of the Buddhist classics, offer instruction on meditation techniques and share their personal experience and progress in cultivation.

The paths, methods and techniques to achieving nirvana and beyond are clearly explained in details in the time-honoured Buddhist classics, namely Complete Enlightenment, Discourse on the Stages of Yogic Practice and Surangama Sutra.

Library

Library in a Chinese Buddhist temple is a place where fulltime and partime cultivators can gain access to original Buddhist classics.

Life-reseasing Pond

Most Chinese Buddhist temple has a garden featuring a pond for people to set free fish, turtles and other freshwater creatures that they purchased from market, practicing the cultivators compassion for life and determination to let go of their possessions.

China’s Major Buddhist Sites

Buddhist island Mt. Putuo

Buddhist island Mt. Putuo near Shanghai

Mt. Putro is one of the four major Buddhist sites in China, devoting to Bodhisattva Guanyin, symbol of universal compassion

Other three are Mt. Wutai in Shanxi tributing to Bodhisattva Wenshu, symbol of complete wisdom, Mt. Emei in Sichuan tributing to Bodhisattva Puxian, symbol of cultivation practice and Mt. Jiuhua in Anhui tributing to Bodhisattva Dizang, symbol of heroic self-sacrifice for others.

COMMENTS FROM GOOGLE PLUS

Charles Smith: AND in the END OF TIMES all will be destroyed by living GOD. WHICH will include VATICAN AND MORMONS LATTER DAY SAINTS JEHOVAH WITNESS. This country was Founded on LIVING GOD, all others are FALSE GODS.

Mile HsiangYang Lee: LIVING GOD? FALSE GOD? 😮😮😮😮😮 Some People are Still Living A LIFE of CHRISTIAN INDOCTRINATION of Over 2000 Years Ago 😔😔😔😔😔 A PITY, Really 😏😏😏😏😏 The BIBLE – Written By Men + Worshipped by Men – Yet They Don’t Even Know THAT TRUTH 😕😕😕😕😕 Like A SHEEP, They FOLLOW The SHEPHERD – BLINDLY 😑😑😑😑😑

Charles Smith: You of no Faith. When you meet Jesus Christ at the Gate you will FALL TO YOUR KNEES.

chong cen: Hawking’s say there is no god. It’s man, nature and universe. God is man made to overcome the sense of insecurity in the face of empty universe.

All Things Chinese: It depends on your definition of god. If you mean the beings more powerful than humans, there are, and plenty of them.

To ants, humans are gods and we can easily put them to death.

But whatever the life form you assume this round, ant, human, a hellish or angelic being, you are the one, and the only one, bearing the consequences of your own actions (karma).

Even when you have surrendered your right to decide how you should think, talk and act to someone else, like poor Charles Smith, you will still be the one to reconcile your karmic balance. No one else can help Charles if he owns a massive karmic debts, not even his God regardless how humbly he goes down on his knees at his gate.

Everyone lives in his own world surrounded by mirrors reflecting his own consciousness. It’s just like everyone working on his own computer while communicating with the world. Whether he wants to download a program and hands over the control on his device to a third party or a hacker is a matter entirely up to him.

If your computer has crashed, you will have to fix it on your own computer not on the third party or a hacker’s computer.

2 comments

You are most welcome to leave your comments below