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Home Hangzhou Attractions Hangzhou Tianzhu Hill Temples

Hangzhou Three Temples of Tianzhu Hill Travel Guide


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Tianzhu Hill(天竺山) nearby Hangzhou West Lake scenic area is famous for three old temples, which local citizens call Tianzhu Three Temples(generally upper tianzhu temple, middle tianzhu temple and lower tianzhu temple) , and these three temples are respectively named Faxi Temple(法喜寺), Fajing Temple(法净寺) and Fajing Temple(法镜寺) by Emperor Qianlong in Qing Dynasty. Fajing Temple(法镜寺) is the oldest one with more than 1700 years of history, and the newest one is Faxi Temple, but it still has more than 1,000 years of history. Three temples share the same or similar history and get close to one another. Furthermore, their Buddhist standpoints are the same, and their destinies are closely interconnected. So in history, this special region of Hangzhou was honored to be The Buddhist Heaven of Tianzhu(天竺佛国).

The History of Tianzhu Three Temples

In history, Wulin Hill was the shared name of hills or peaks of lingyin and tianzhu. In accordance with the Record of Geography in West Han Book(汉书地理志, Hanshu Dilizhi): Wulin Hill of Qiantang is the origination of Wulin River Water. In book of Lingshanzhi(灵山志, The Record of Spiritual Mountains), the place was finally named in period of Song Dynasty, and the south of Feilai Peak is Tianzhu Hill, the north Lingyin Hill. The Buddhist culture of Lingyin and Tianzhu Hills passed down along with the history of Hangzhou over the past thousands of years.

The Popularity of Buddhism in Hangzhou and the large construction of temples are closely related to Monk Huili from India. In Record of Tianzhu Hill(天竺山志), Monk Huili arrived at Lingyin in the early period of Xianhe of East Jin Dynasty. As viewing the landscape of Lingyin, he talked to himself: this was the extended part of Lingju Hill from Tianzhu State, but when did it fly over here. Since then, the hill was called Tianzhu, and the peak called Felai. Subsequently, they respectively named the temples Tianzhu Temple together on the south part of the hill, particularly called Upper Tianzhu Temple, Middle Tianzhu Temple and Lower Tianzhu Temple. Huili became the founder of this sacred Buddhist region. Today, there are Ligong Grotto and Ligong Pagoda at the mouth of Longhong Cave(龙泓洞). The ash of Monk Huili was preserved in pagoda. Anciently, a lot of apes lived in this region, and there was a Cave of Calling Apes(呼猿洞),which was said to be the place that Monk Huili raised the apes. In the period of Song Kingdom(420-479) of South Dynasty, Master Zhiyi(智一), the abbot of Lingyin Temple also raised the apes here. He could summon the apes via howl. Many ancient poets left a lot of themed poems. The scene called The Howling Apes of the Cold Spring was one of the top ten views in ancient Qiantang Area.

Due to Emperor Zhenzong and Emperor Renzong’s worshipping the Buddhism and Taoism. Therefore, the local governors of Hangzhou like Su Shi, Cai Xiang and Shen Wentong got a close connection with Buddhist temples of Hangzhou. It partially made the lingyin and Tianzhu Hills famous. In 1203, Monk Youxian built the Kwan-yin Hall between Baiyun Peak and Shizi Peak. The historically recorded like this: the surrounding hills enclosed with mist and cloud, and the bell sound was available occasionally, and the whole sacred temples of this region seemed like the heavenly palaces. In 1049, Emperor Renzong presented 5330 volumes of Buddhist sutras to temples. As the treasure of Buddhism, some sutra libraries were built for collecting them. Up to the period of Jiayou(1059-1060), Shen Wentong(沈文通), the governor of Hangzhou, considered that the Kwan-yin spread the Buddhist power via voice, and the zen can not be stayed any more. And his thought can be summarized to be Making Buddhism Replace Chan. And he changed all the Chan monasteries to be Buddhist temple, and ordered Monk Biancai or called Yuanjing to be the abbot of the temples. Besides, the architectural class was also improved to be the double eaves, an exclusively privileged style of architecture only used by the superior people. Moreover, Emperor Renzong of Song Dynasty inscribed the board of “灵感观音院”(Spiritual Kwan-yin Monastery) for the temple. In 1065, Cai Xiang acted as the governor of Hangzhou. Zeng Gongliang(曾公亮), the prime minister, invested a lot to build the temple and presented approximately 5,230 volumes of sutras to temples and these sutras were all preserved at the west side of temple. In 1100, sixteen halls of the temple were all completely built.

In South Song Dynasty, the troops of Jin Kingdom invaded Hangzhou in 1130. the general of Jin Kingdom was called Jin Wuzhu(金兀术) visited Upper Tianzhu Temple, or the Faxi Temple in Qing Dynasty, and got the guide of Kwan-yin. He moved the statue of Kwan-yin and relevant sutras to the north of China. And the monks of the temple followed them and arrived in Yuhe village, five miles away from the southwest Beijing. They built a temple over there. In 1132, Emperor Gaozong of South Song Dynasty ordered the abbot of temple to build the sutra library and Yingzhen Pavilion, and three years later, he went there to show respect to Buddha. In 1164, Emperor Xiaozong of South Song Dynasty ordered the governor of Linan named Cao Chengdu to build the Hall of Five Hundred Arhats. In 1165, the abbot named Master Ruona of The Upper Tianzhu Temple was summoned by Emperor Xiaozong and appointed as You Jie Seng Zhu, and later the Zuo Jie Seng Zhu. Master Ruona administrated the business of Buddhism in Jiangnan region, and it became the top temple of South Song Dynasty. In Yuan Dynasty, The Upper Tianzhu Temple was destroyed as well, and in Ming Dynasty, Emperor Taizu, Zhu Yuanzhang, ordered to build the hall of bodhisattva. In 1445, Emperor Yingzong of Ming Dynasty presented the Sutra of Beizang(North Treasure Sutra, 北藏经). During the region of more than 270 years in Ming Dynasty, the Upper Tianzhu Temple was reconstructed via donations from the folk society. In Qing Dynasty, the Upper Tianzhu Temple was highly favored. Emperor Kangxi’s six visits to Jiangnan, and five of them connect to this temple, he presented the temple many inscriptions themed with sutras. In 1751, Emperor Qianlong visited The Upper Tianzhu Temple for two times, and changed the temple to be Faxi Temple and presented the temple his inscriptions as well as the calligraphic couplets. There are currently lots of heritages from these two emperors. The status of the Upper Tianzhu Tmeple before 1949 was quite high, and the relevant fair was also famous in the surrounding regions.

During the Cultural Revolution, Faxi Temple suffered a lot. After 1978, Tianzhu Three Temples were listed into The West Lake Scenic Area. Temples were all rebuilt. Currently, Faxi Temple has Heavenly King Hall, Yuantong Hall, The Grand Hall of the Great Sage, The Dining Room, The Guest Room and Temple Gate, particularly, the statue of five-hundred arhats, which is mixed with various styles of arhats statue in different temples nationwide. In temple, there are the old yulan plant and bamboo with more than five hundred years. Three temples of Tianzhu hill hide deeply in valley, and temple building complexes ranked from the lower to the upper are quite grand. The landscape is special and there used to be many famous monks, who mostly were famous for their Buddhist knowledge and poetic creations. The classic like the Old Story of Wulin(武林旧事) and Brief of Hangzhou Landscape(湖山胜景概称) also highly speaks of the scene and story of three temples.

Culture of Tianzhu Hill Three Temples   

Visitors can reach the dragon well from the upper Tianzhu hill and get to Langdang Peak(琅铛岭) from the south and have access to Wuyun Hill(五云山). The foot of Tianzhu is connected with Meijiawu(梅家坞). The Buddhist theory is rooted in the beautiful surroundings of Tianzhu hill. The openers of three temples like Hui Li, Bao Zhang and Dao Yi were all the great masters of Buddhism and poetry. Su Dongpo said the Masters of Tianzhu Temple were the writers. Bai Juyi praised that the land belongs the state of Buddhism and the human is unconnected to the ordinary people(地是佛国土, 人非俗交亲).

The Upper Tianzhu Temple located on the foot of Baiyun Peak is covered with the white cloud all the year. the hill is the tea plantation, and the tea is called Bao Yun(Treasured Cloud, 宝云), which is as famous as tea named Xiang Lin(Fragrant Grove, 香林) produced in The Lower Tianzhu Hill. The peak is called Shuanghui Peak, and the rock is called Shuanghui Rock, which is also called Baizhang Rock. The surroundings of the temple include Super-mercy Spring, Dream Spring, Lizard Spring, Huanying Well, Zuochan Well and Shixian Well. There is another famous spring called Baoquan Spring, and the water like the cream hanging on the peak, which also called Rushi Peak. There is a grove of ancient laurels. The front of the temple is the extension of Baiyun peak, and the ridge looks like guqin, so it is called Qin Ridge. The ridge is full of the bamboo grove. The place between the Zhongying Peak and Baiyun Peak is called Yu Gang(Ridge of Lord Yu, 愚冈), and it is one of the famous scenic spot in the ancient town of Hangzhou.

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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