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Nanjing Linggu Temple Travel Guide


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The inscription stele of Linggu Temple
The martyrs' name list on the wall

Linggu Temple (灵谷寺, literally translated as The Efficacious Valley Temple) was built by Emperor Wu of Liang(464-549) in memory of Monk Master Bao Zhi(宝志). It is one of most famous Buddhist temples in China. In accordance with the records of Gao Seng Zhuan (高僧传, the Biographies of Monk Masters), Monk Bao Zhi’s earthly surname was Zhu, and he was born in today’s Lanzhou, Gansu Province. After becoming a monk, Bao Zhi learnt Zen hard, and had a great achievement in studying the Buddhism. In 453, Bao Zhi was said to have the superpower that the hands and feet looked like the claws of bird. He always carried the ancient mirrors, scissors, rulers and fans when he was outing with the disheveled hair and the bared feet. But what he said was the quite mysterious words that foretold effectively the future. He was respected as the sacred monk by Emperor Wu of Qi and Emperor Wu of Liang.

After Bao Zhi passed away, Emperor Wu of Liang built five-story wooden pagoda at the southwest hillside of Dulongfu, Zhongshan Mountain(钟山, The Mountain of The Bell), where Bao Zhi was buried. And then this site was gradually extended as the temple, and named as Kaishan Temple. At the time, Buddhism flourished. At the area of Zhongshan Mountain, it had over 70 temples, and among them, Kaishan Temple was the largest one, and boasted the No.1 Monastery of Zhongshan Mountain. From the main gate to the main hall, the distance was over 5 miles. And in the temple, the buildings listed included Jingang Hall, Tianwang Hall, Wuliang Hall, Wufang Hall, Pilu Hall, Guanyin Pavilion and Fangsheng Pool.

During the Qianfu’s regin in Tang Dynasty, it was named Baogong Temple. In Kaibao’s reign of Song Dynasty (968-975), it was renamed as Kaishan Monastery. In 979, it was royally inscribed to be Taiping Xingguo Buddhist Temple (太平兴国禅寺, literally translated as the Zen Temple of Taiping Flourishes the State) by Emperor Taizong. Later on, it was changed to be Sifang Zen Temple and Jiangshan Temple.

In Ming Dynasty, Nanjing was the capital city, and the west side of the Zhongshan Mountain was chosen as the Imperial Mausoleum Zone, and then Emperor Taozu moved the temples to the southeast side of mountain in 1381. And the temples were built, and it was named Linggu Zen Monastery by Emperor Taizu. In 1707, during the southward visits of Emperor Kangxi, Zhongshan Mountain was visited, and an imperial board of Ling Gu Chan Lin inscribed with the calligraphy of Emperor Kangxi. It became one of three largest temples in Ming Dynasty.

In mid period of Qing Dynasty, the whole Linggu Temple was re-glorified. All the buildings were all restored in the reign of Emperor Tongzhi in Qing Dynasty, and there are The Eight Views of Linggu Temple(灵谷八景) valued. They are in details: Zhongfu Qingyun (钟阜晴云, Sunny Cloud of Zhongshan Mountain), Futu Qiuyue(浮图秋月, The Autumn Moon of Buddhist Pagoda), Gudian Zhongsheng(古殿钟声, The Bell Sound of Ancient Halls), Cangchi Songying (苍池松影, The Shadow of Pine Trees and The Old Pond), Yinxing Qixia (银杏栖霞, Gingko Stayed in Sunglow), Qingquan Yanzhu(清泉咽竹, Bamboos Nearby the Clean Spring Water), Kongyan Yingzhang (空衍应掌) and Qushui Liushang (曲水流觞, Floating Wine Cups Along Winding Water).

During the Republic of China, it was constructed as the Memorial Cemetery of National Martyrs, and the original temple was destructed. Linggu Pagoda was built in 1929 as a sign of remembrance for those soldiers. The 9 stories pagoda stands 60.5 meters high. Speeches made by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and epigraphs of Chiang Kai-Shek were inscribed on the tower. During the Cultural Revolution, Linggu Temple was seriously destroyed.

The Cultural Heritage Sites of Nanjing Linggu Temple

The most valued heritage sites of history and culture of Linggu Temple in Nanjing are represented by Beamless Hall, Three Superb Tablet, the Grand Hall of The Great Sage and Gongde Spring Water:

Wuliang Hall(无梁殿), or Beamless Hall, was constructed in 1381, and is 22 metres high and 53.8 metres wide. The hall enjoys high reputation for its special architectural techniques. It has three archways on the front and rear sides respectively. The structure was built with bricks from the bottom to the top entirely, without a piece of wood or a single nail. Thus it was called Wuliang Hall, since Wuliang means beamless. It happens that the hall originally enshrined Amitayus (Buddha of Infinite Life) whose Chinese name pronounces the same with Wuliang. Later in 1928, the hall was turned into the memorial hall of soldiers who lost their lives in the War of Northern Expedition (1926–1927). More than 30,000 soldiers were enshrined.

In the temple there is also a Three Superb Tablet(三绝碑) , on which a painting of Monk Baozhi painted by Wu Daozi, a famous painter; a memorial poem written by Li Bai, a Tang dynasty poet; and calligraphy written by Yan Zhenqing, a well-known calligrapher in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) were inscribed. Since the three were all masters in their own field in the Tang dynasty, the tablet was considered Three Superb Tablet. Unfortunately, the original tablet was broken in warfare, the present one is a duplicate under the reign of Emperor Qianlong in the Qing dynasty.

The Grand Hall of the Great Sage (大雄宝殿) . The main hall is the memorial of Master Xuanzhuang(玄奘), where the valued relics of Xuanzhuang are partially preserved here, exactly in a sandalwood-made pagoda. Xuanzhuang, a great Buddhist master of Tang Dynasty, and the origin of Tang Sanzang in novel of The Pilgrimage to the West (西游记). He was the founder of Weishizong Branch of Buddhism in China. Also, he was a great sutra translator, exactly, one of three top Buddhist sutra translators, as famous as Kumārajīva (鸠摩罗什) and Paramartha (真谛). According to the records of the history, Master Xuanzhuang was buried in Xian Xingjiao Temple Pagoda, which was partially destroyed by the Rebellion of Huang Chao. Up to Song Dynasty, Monk Fazheng of Tianxi Temple got some part of Master Xuanzhuang’s relics in Zige Temple of Zhongnan Temple, Shaanxi Province, and then moved the relics to the Baoen Temple, outside of Zhonghua Gate, Nanjing, and a special pagoda was built to protect the relics, and the pagoda was named Sanzang Pagoda. In 1943, Japanese invaders resurrected the site of Baoen Temple, and got the relics of Master Xuanzhuang, as well as the historical records of the relics protection in Song Dynasty (1027) and Ming Dynasty (1386). They shamelessly moved them respectively to Japan and Beijing. After the World War Two, the relics were moved to the National Central Museum of Nanjing (today’s Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology). In 1949, it was moved to Pilu Temple (毗卢寺), and then moved to Nanjing Museum. Today, it returned to the original site.

Gongde Spring Warter (功德泉水, the spring water of merits &virtues) . This is also a famous site, though today’s it is just a relic with a well fence. It was earliest discovered by Monk Tan Yin(昙隐), and considered as the presents that the god gave to the humankinds. It was called Gongde Water. Also, thanks to its eight merits, namely, clearness, coldness, fragrance, softness, sweetness, tranquility, no diarrhea and food deodorization, it also boasts Eight Merits & Virtues Spring Water. As early as Liang Dynasty, it was used to treat the patients. Later, due to the warfare and and woodcutting, the spring was deserted. In Northern Song Dynasty, Lord Su of Lanling, who was a famous scholar, searched for the site of Gongde Spring Water. And he bought eight stone plates, and built the fence for the spring well, and also a pavilion was built as well to protect the spring. And then, the spring water became the well water. In Qing Dynasty, Linggu Temple scenic area became the battlefield between the troops of Qing government and Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. It was destroyed as well, and today, there is only the broken well fences and the water.

nanjing linggu temple
The Ancient Stone Inscription Stele in Linggu Temple of Nanjing
nanjing linggu temple
nanjing linggu temple

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