Sunday, November 16, 2008

Temples in Guangzhou - Haizhuang Si (海幢寺)

The last of the 4 great temples of Guangzhou is Haizhuang Si, first built during the Southern Han dynasty and named Qianqiu Si. It was renamed Haizhuang Si at the end of the Ming dynasty. This ancient temple has a more than 1,000 year history like the rest of the 3 great temples. What this temple was famous for was not its ancient structures, but a legend that Monk Ji Gong manifested there in the past to teach the arrogant abbot a lesson. Above we see the main entrance of the temple.
Monk Ji Gong as portrayed in the popular China TV series - "The Travels of Ji Gong".
General Hum guarding the entrance. Ji Gong is an enlightened being who appeared as an eccentric and unkempt monk to teach sentient beings. He lived during the Southern Song dynasty at the same time as patriotic General Yue Fei and the treacherous prime minister Qin Hui.
General Ha. According to the legend, once Ji Gong passed by this temple and saw that the abbot was an arrogant fellow who thought of himself as a highly attained monk. So he decided to play a prank on him. Ji Gong walked into the temple with his tattered robes, carrying 2 cloth sacks and requested to stay at the temple. The abbot was disgusted with Ji Gong's appearance and allowed him to stay only for the night, insisting that he got out the next morning.
The Hall of Heavenly Kings. Ji Gong continued to act in an eccentric manner. He placed the 2 sacks in the Grand Hall and said that he wished to go to Nanhua Si in Shaoguan, telling the abbot to help him carry his "luggage". All the monks present laughed in amusement.
The laughing Maitreya Buddha in the Hall. The enraged abbot scolded him saying: "Madman! You don't know your limits. If you are so capable, ask the Arahants in the Grand Hall to help you carry them!"
Heavenly King Virupakka. At this Ji Gong walked to the front of the Grand Hall and shouted: "At the order of this temple's abbot, may 2 of the Arahants inside show themselves and carry my luggage to Nanhua Si in Shaoguan for me!" The moment he finished those words, 2 Arahants suddenly jumped down from their pedestals, took up the cloth sacks and followed Ji Gong towards the north (in the direction of Nanhua Si)!
Heavenly King Vessavana. Everyone was shocked and dropped to their knees, especially the abbot, who was trembling in prostration, unable to get up. Ji Gong flew up into the air and pointed at the abbot saying: "Hey big monk, you should cultivate yourself well. Only when get rid of your conceit then can you attain the fruit of the holy path." Still the abbot did not dare to look up. After Ji Gong and the 2 Arahants flew away, he was too ashamed to stay in the temple, so he left to become a wandering monk.
The tortoise pond. From then on, there were only 16 Arahant images left inside Haizhuang Si (instead of the normal 18) and 502 Arahants images at Nanhua Si (instead of the normal 500). So that was the whole story. But strangely I did not see any Arahant images inside the Grand Hall. Where did they go?
The Guest Hall with an image of Dharmapala Guan Gong inside.
The Hall of the 6th Patriarch. Almost all the big temples in Guangdong province have a hall dedicated to Huineng. The worship of the 6th Patriarch here is as popular as the worship of LP Tuad in Southern Thailand.
A closer look at the Statue of Huineng inside the Hall.
A standing stone Guanyin image behind the Hall of Heavenly Kings.
The courtyard with the temple's famous "Eagle Claw Orchid" trees.
Senior citizens socializing and doing exercises in the temple's courtyard. This is quite a common activity in the big city temples of China.
A stone pagoda in the courtyard.
The Grand Hall.
The Buddhas of the 3 Worlds are venerated inside the Grand Hall. This is the Shakyamuni Buddha statue at the centre, in the posture of subduing Mara.
The Guanyin statue at the back of the Grand Hall, in meditation posture. I walked around the Hall looking for the 16 Arahants but they were nowhere to be found.
Another stone pagoda outside the Grand Hall. It was built in 1997. Almost everything in the temple had to be rebuilt as all the ancient artifacts and structures were demolished during the cultural revolution.
A white stupa with the 4 great Bodhisattvas sculpted onto the base. With that I ended my tour of the 4 great temples of Guangzhou and proceeded to other destinations.

No comments: