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Nanjing Jiming Temple Travel Guide


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Jiming Temple (鸡鸣寺, the temple of chicken sounding) is also called ancient Jiming Temple. It is located at the east foot of Jilong Mountain. Originally built in West Jin Dynasty (265-316), Jiming Temple was one of Nanjing’s oldest temples and traditionally boasts the No.1 Temple of Southern Dynasty, and the first one of 480 temples of Southern Dynasty. Jiming Temple is a large architectural complex of Buddhism culture highlighted with the integrated scenic area of mountain, water, forest and temple. Jilong Mountain eastwardly connects Jiuhua Mountain, northwardly borders on Xuanwu Lake and westwardly links Gulougang. In the period of Wu State (222-280) in Three Kingdoms, Jiming Temple was a backyard of palaces. In 300, it was established a cultivation site of Buddhism. In 527, Tongtai Temple, which was said to be the former of Jiming Temple, was built by Emperor Liangwudi (464-549).

Jiming Temple was the most famous Buddhist monastery in Nanjing, because Emperor Liangwudi abandoned all of what he got and his throne, and then became a monk in Tongtai Temple for four times. And then, the princes and the officials paid a lot to redeem Emperor Liangwudi. At this time, the Temple had a grand scale, and six grand hall buildings, and the pagoda had nine stories. In 549, due to the rebellion of Hou Jing (侯景之乱), Taicheng(台城, used to be the palace building complex zone of East Jin Dynasty and Southern Dynasty in Nanjing) was occupied, and Emperor Liangwudi died of starvation, and Tongtai Temple was destroyed as well in the warfare. In 922, Taicheng Thousand Buddha Monastery was built by Yang Xingmi (杨行密). In Southern Tang Dynasty, it was named Jingju Temple, and later changed to be Fabao Temple. In 1387, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, who was the Emperor Taizhu and the first founder of Ming Dynasty, ordered to rebuild the temple, and named it Jiming Temple. During the period of Emperor Yongle, the Baozhi Sacrificial Altar of Linggu Temple was moved to Jiming Temple. Later, there are several constructions for enlargement operated, and then became the second largest temple of Nanjing. In Qing Dynasty, Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong respectively inscribed the titles for this temple. In 1973, a large part of the temple was burnt down. And in 1983, it was reconstructed by the municipal government of Nanjing.

The travel guideline written by a foreign professor teaching in a local university of Nanjing

After paying a mere five kuai to get in (for those new to China, "kuai" is the local slang word for yuan - it's exactly analogous to calling dollars "bucks"), you walk up some steps and find yourself in the first of many beautiful courtyards, with little buildings housing individual shrines, complete with kneeling cushions before all of them. I couldn't help but notice there was a cat fast asleep on one of those cushions, which was a rather funny sight to see.

Continuing your journey uphill, you find another courtyard, and you can hear Buddhist chanting as you approach it. With a drum tower to your left and a bell tower to your right, you find the source of the chanting - it's a full-on Buddhist worshipping ceremony in the "Jeweled Hall of Vairocana". Unfortunately, the doors were closed, but you could see the proceedings through the doors. Everyone's back is turned away from you, but because of the nature of what's going on inside, you kind of assume it's rude or at least inappropriate to come in. So you just look through the doors, and wow, what a sublime, magnificent hall it is.

Looking into this flamboyantly decorated room, with a truly grand golden Buddha in the centre, with statues of a dozen other figures bookending the room, with bona-fide Buddhist monks chanting and bowing in unison, you can't help but think, yeah, this is the China that I came here to see. Maybe the doors were shut because it was a (very) cold day, maybe not. But you could see enough from the outside to be impressed. Oh, if this means something to you, this room had "Bodhisattvas images of Manjushri Bodhisattva and Samanta-Bhadrayuh Bodhisattva", according to the bilingual introduction to it. It was built in 1994, and the main Buddha is called the "sacred image of Vairocana Buddha". Then you proceed uphill again, up to the main pagoda, which is called the Bhaisajyaguru Pagoda (note that none of this language is Chinese, it's clearly Indian). You pay another five kuai to get into this place, and you get a ticket with information in Chinese and English, although the Chinese introduction is clearly more informative than the English translation - you don't even need to be able to read any Chinese to figure out that the pagoda dates back to 300AD, and has had a few significant dates in its life. This information is neglected in the English version (I found out from the aforementioned friend that this building was one of the many places leveled by the bombings of the Japanese army in 1937). Regardless, it's a very cool seven-storey pagoda with another huge statue of Buddha in the first floor (apparently this statue used to live in Beijing, and it moved here in 1972), with the walls surrounding him being covered in miniature versions of him in small glass cases.

Going up floor by floor, you are greeted with more Buddhist effigies, and once at the top you are presented with not just a great view of not just Xuanwu Hu (Xuanwu Lake), but also a huge section of the remaining city wall, stretching from the temple below you to another small hill a few kilometers away. There's a few other things in the temple, like an art gallery full of paintings and calligraphy, and "The Great Mercy Hall", which is adorned with four identical, truly impressive twenty-four armed Goddesses of Mercy (Sahasrabhujasahas Ranetra). I'll admit, I'm a bit of a sucker for Buddhist temples - they always look so damn good, and the ones in the cities always have the dichotomous foible of being tranquil, Zen-ed out zones surrounded by urban chaos. So if that interests you, or any other aspect, whether it is aesthetic, religious or just plain curiosity, this is well worth ten kuai and an hour or two of your time.

UPDATES...during warmer months, the general entrance fee goes from five to ten yuan. Also, there's a back entrance out of the Temple that leads to the Nanjing Historical Museum of Ming Dynasty City Wall, and also there's a vegetarian restaurant within the temple. Check them out.

nanjing jiming temple
The Panoramic View of Jiming Temple of Nanjing

How to go?

Bus 304 takes you right to the doorstep. Also, heaps of buses go along Taiping Bei Lu (太平北路), such as 140, 11, 20, 24, 3 and 31, and all of these get you within walking distance. If you want to find it on a map, it's on Jiming Si Lu (鸡鸣寺路), and the temple itself is easy to find a map because it's around the southwestern corner of Xuanwu Lake  

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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