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ART & LEISURE: Ancient Temples in China
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Ancient Temples in China:
White Horse Temple, Lingyin Temple & Xiangguo Temple
By Rose Salas

BT 201901 Art 06在全国各地,每个朝代建造的数千座寺庙被认为是不可或缺的宝藏。这些寺庙传统上被建造为不同宗教的礼拜场所。 从佛教,道教,祖先祭拜或神社 - 这些寺庙长期以来一直支持着宗教活动,为当地的神灵或上帝服务。 多年来,这些寺庙已经变为社会和福利活动的场所。 其中一些寺庙甚至赞助重要的社区活动,如环境项目和对穷人的援助。

白马寺

位于河南省洛阳老城以东12公里处,始建于东汉永平十一年(68年),是佛教传入中国后兴建的第一座寺院,白马寺建立之后,中国“僧院”便泛称为“寺”,白马寺也因此被认为是中国佛教的发源地,有中国佛教的“祖庭”和“释源”之称。

灵隐寺

灵隐寺至今已有约一千七百年的历史,为杭州最早的名刹。灵隐寺地处杭州西湖以西,背靠北高峰,面朝飞来峰,两峰挟峙,林木耸秀,深山古寺,云烟万状。灵隐自创建以来,高僧云集,文人荟萃,儒释交融,谈禅论道,一吟一咏早己蔚然成为文化大观。此外,寺内还存有不少年代久远的佛像、法器、经幢、石塔、御碑、字画等历史文物为灵隐寺珍贵的佛教文化遗产。

大相国寺

大相国寺是著名的皇家寺院、十大历史名寺之一。原名建国寺,始建于北齐天保六年(555年),距今1400多年的历史。据载寺址为战国四公子信陵君的故宅。公元712年,唐睿宗为纪念自己由相王登上皇位,赐名大相国寺。北宋时期,大相国寺尤得皇帝尊崇,多次扩建,占地达500余亩,辖64个禅、律院,僧众数千人,是全国佛教中心。目前,保存有山门、天王殿、大雄宝殿、八角琉璃殿、藏经楼、钟鼓楼、千手千眼佛等殿宇古迹。整座寺院布局严谨,巍峨壮观。大相国寺历史上高僧辈出,现任方丈为心广大和尚。

BT 201901 Art 02Temples-miào (庙) or diàn (殿) reflects our rich, long history and culture. Across the country, thousands of temples that were built from each Dynasty have been considered as an indispensable treasure. These temples were traditionally built as a place of worship of different religions and purpose. From Buddhist, Taoist, Ancestral or Shrines- these temples have long served their purpose whether as a place of solace, school, or a sanctuary to serve a local deity or god. Throughout the years, these temples became a venue for social and welfare activities. Some of these temples even sponsor for important community activities like environmental projects and assistance for the poor.
 

Let’s look at these 3 ancient temples and their long-lived values that still stand up to this day.
 

White Horse Temple

BT 201901 Art 08白馬寺 Pai-na szu or the White Horse Temple in Luoyang, Henan Province is considered as “The Cradle of Chinese Buddhism”. It was one of the oldest Buddhist temples built in the patronage of Emperor Ming who sent out two emissaries and came back on a White Horse to house the scriptures of Buddhism. Until today, this temple is a favourite tourist spot of many foreigners around the world because of its tremendous and magnificent Buddhas and pomegranate trees. As this is a place of worship, many foreigners were prohibited to enter in some places. The top sceneries that people look for in this place are the ancient bell, the clear terrace, and Hall of Mahavira.
 

Lingyin Temple

BT 201901 Art 05The Lingyin Temple 灵隐寺, also known as Temple of the Soul’s Retreat is a Buddhist temple, was built in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (328 AD) by an Indian Monk named Huili who was inspired of its spiritual nature of the scenery and believed as the perfect dwellings of the immortals. The temple is a famous monastery of the Jiangnan region. Even up to this day, the temple is still regarded as one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temple across China. It composes of multiple story building, numerous pavilions, grottoes and halls which are inhabited by thousands of monks. The whole place is also covered with century-old trees that despite many tourists visiting it is still a peaceful place to be. The whole place is truly a remarkable historical and cultural site. It is also the best site for those who wish to study the aspects of Chinese Buddhism because of its numerous Buddhist literature collections. Tourists all over the world admire the Elder Li’s Pagoda which houses the ash of the founder and Feilai Feng grottoes, which were carved from limestone and was known as "The Peak that Flew Hither or Flying Peak".
 

Xiangguo Temple

BT 201901 Art 03One of the top ten most famous temples across the country- The Xiangguo Temple plays an important role in the development of Buddhism in the country. It was built during 55-557 AD and lies in the center of Kaifeng City. It was also enlarged several times, holds 64 temples and houses thousands of monks. Today, the temple is known as the International Buddhism Center for cultural exchange of China and other countries and the largest Buddhism Center across the country. The temple also holds annual activities like the Lantern Festival and the Great Prayer Festival which are best visited together by pilgrims and tourist.
 

The Xiangguo Temple has multiple features that are well-loved by travellers around the world: The Mountain Gate, Heavenly Kings Hall, Hall of Mahavira, Arhat Hall and Sutra Hall.

BT 201901 Art 04

What makes these temples an epitome of our rich culture? The following summarizes what makes Chinese Culture still significant today:
 

Chinese Culture and Religion
One of the main reasons for Chinese Temples and Monasteries’ fame up to this day is the knowledge of people about our rich culture and deep respect to religion. Thousands to millions of people visit these temples to worship their ancient gods and deities by giving offerings and lighting incense as they say their prayers. It also serves not just a hall of worship, but some also serve as the center for social and welfare activities to help the needy and the environment.
 

Architecture
One of the most distinguishable features of Chinese temples is the architecture. From thousands of these temples (from smallest to the biggest and the tallest), this architectural feat is a marvellous sight, that some have been standing for thousands of years ago. Chinese temples are known for their marvellous shrines and halls that reflect the old culture from the tiled roof to the pillars, as well as the base of its temple. Most of all, the materials used are also remarkable- from numerous tons of jewels, gold, and marble used to create statues and temples, truly reflects such a great talent in the field of architecture.
 

World Heritage
Because of the marvellous sights and wonders of these ancient temples, a lot of temples and other historical sites were listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage. Even those who are not listed were treated as such and respected; with the help of the government and its people aiming to preserve China’s treasure.

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