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Hangzhou Jingci Temple Introduction


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Boasting the oriental Buddhism center, Hangzhou used to have hundreds of temples, nunneries and monasteries in different sizes and levels. Among those temples, the most famous one is Lingyin Temple, but today’s it is the most crowded and commercialized cultural and religious site in east China. For getting a better site to learn the Buddhism history, legends and culture in Hangzhou when traveling around the west lake, Jingci Temple(净慈寺, literally translated to be Purified Benevolence Temple) is the first option. It is one of four most famous and oldest temples in Hangzhou, located at the foot of Huiri Peak, Nanping Hill(南屏山). Due to the time-honored big bell sound, the view of Nanping Wanzhong(南屏晚钟, the night bell ringing at the hill of Nanping) becomes one of ten top classic views of West Lake. Besides, Close to Leifeng Pagoda, Jingci Temple is also the highlighted part of Leifeng Xizhao(雷峰夕照, the Leifeng Pagoda in the sunset), also one of ten top classic views of West Lake. Among all the sites surrounding the West Lake, Jingci Temple is the only one featuring two classic views. In humanity, the most famous figures were Master Yanshou(延寿) and Master Jigong(济公). Today, it is one of the most important Han Buddhist temples in China.

The History of Jingci Temple

In 954, King Qian Chu(钱俶), the last king of Wuyue State during the period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, built this temple for Monk Yongming, and originally it was named Yongming Monastery(永明禅院). In South Song Dynasty, it was renamed Jingci Temple, and ranked one of top five temples in Jiangnan region. Master Yongming(904-975),whose earthly surname was Wang, and first name was Yanshou with a courtesy name Chongyuan. Master Yongming had a great study in Buddhism, and his works were abundant. For the popularity of Buddhism in Hangzhou, he used to take in charge of the construction of Lingyin Temple, Liuhe Pagoda, and built Jingci Temple. He was historically and officially accepted as the founder of Jingci Temple. At present, it is hard to know the real profile of Master Yongming Yanshou, however, there is an old statue of Master Yongming was worshipped in arhat hall of Biyun Temple(碧云寺, the green cloud temple), located on Fragrant Hill, Beijing.

In Northern Song Dynasty, it was renamed to be Shouning Chanyuan, or Longevity & Tranquility Zen Monastery translated literally. In Southern Song Dynasty, it was officially named Jingci Baoen Guangxiao Chansi(净慈报恩光孝禅寺, literally translated to be Purified Benevolence, Gratitude Giving, Filial Piety Glorification Zen Temple ), which locally and popularly abbreviated as Jingci Temple. In history, it experienced several destructions and reconstructions. In 1220, it was reconstructed in summer with a group of sculptures of five hundred arhats, which were worshipped in Hall of Arhats. At the time, Jingci Temple shares the same size and scale as those of Lingyin Temple. It was comprised of ten halls, more than 5000 rooms, and it was also famous as one of five centers of Zen Buddhism.

The current abbot is Master Xuexiang, under his leadership, Jingci Temple is restored and resurfaced. Today’s temple consists of the front, the middle and the rear halls. The middle hall was The Precious Hall of the Great Hero or Da Xiong Bao Dian(大雄宝殿), and this main hall was rebuilt in 1960 with the gable and hip roof of the double eaves.

The Highlights of Jingci Temple

Nanping Wanzhong(南屏晚钟, the night bell ringing at the hill of Nanping) – Jingci Temple is the highlight of view of Nanping Wanzhong. The sound of bell in Jingci Temple is also historically famous just as the bell sound of Hanshan Temple in Suzhou. In many famous poems themed with the landscape of Hangzhou, the sound of bell from Jingci Temple is always a classic imagery that makes readers from generation to generation consider and depict their own ideal environment when the bell was striken. In the reign of Emperor Hongwu(1368-1398) , the founder of Ming Empire, casted a huge bell with a weight of approximately 10, 000 kilos. At the sunset time, the sunglow gets declined, and the night view is indistinct, the poets or travelers feel blue when the sound bell spread abroad to refresh everybody. Due to many cavities and unique rock on Nanping Hill, the sound usually reverberates again and again, and could be spread to more than ten miles. It was said that Emperor Kangxi, the most famous ruler in Qing Dynasty, built ten pavilions to shelter then inscription steles after he viewed the ten classic sights of the West Lake. The imperial stele with the inscription of Emperor Kangxi was erected outside the gate of Jingci Temple. Among ten views of West Lake, Nanping Wanzhong is the most famous one, thanks to its great cultural and philosophical embodiment. Unfortunately, the bronze bell was lost during the warfare in the late period of Qing Dynasty.

In October, 1984, with the help of the Buddhists of Japan, the bell was remodeled. In 1986, there were over 400 people gathered in Jingci Temple to celebrate the completion of bell modeling. 108 times of striking make the sound of bell reverberate in the scenic area of West Lake. The surface of the bell was carved with the Dharma Lotus Sutra, a famous sutra among thousands of Buddhist sutras. At the backyard of Jingci Temple, the tomb of Master Rujing(如净), a famous monk of Song Dynasty and the third generation leader of Caodongzong branch of Buddhism, was well preserved. Because Monk Daoyuan(道元), the founder of Caodong Branch of Buddhism in Japan, learnt from Master Rujing for three years in Song Dynasty, and get the essence and return to Japan to found the branch of Caodongzong. Therefore, the believers of Caodongzong in Japan regard Jingci Temple as their origin, so up to today, there are also many Buddhist believers of Japan come to Jiangci temple to do pilgrimage .

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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