Friday, October 31, 2008

Temples in Guangzhou - Hualin Si (华林寺)

Hi readers I just came back from a tour to Guangdong province in China. One of the first temples I visited there was Hualin Si, an temple more than 1,400 yrs old. It is one of the four great temples of Guangzhou, the provincial capital. Hualin Si used to be called Xilai An, as it is a temple dedicated to Bodhidharma, the 1st Patriarch of Zen in China. Legend has it that this is the place that Bodhidharma resided when he first arrived in Guangzhou from India in the year 526 CE. Above we see the entrance of the temple.
A peach tree sculpture beside the entrance.
The Chamber of Bodhidharma. Perhaps the chamber where he stayed in at that time?
A closer look at the bronze statue of Bodhidharma holding a bowl. Notice a hexagon-shaped orb on the right side of the picture near his shoulder.
The Chamber of 500 Arahants.
General 'Ha' guarding the Arahant Chamber.
General 'Hum' on the other side.
The main altar inside the chamber venerating the Buddhas of the 3 Worlds.
The altar to Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.
The Patriarch Hall venerating Bodhidharma. Hualin Si has no grand hall, and this Patriarch Hall is the largest hall in the temple.
A huge wooden statue of Bodhidharma in the meditation posture sits inside the hall. The board above writes "One Flower Five Petals" - signifying Bodhidharma and the 5 Patriarchs of Zen descending from him. Again I noticed a hexagon-shaped orb above the head of Bodhidharma. What could it be?
A closer view of Bodhidharma.
At the side of the Patriarch Hall is this curtain with the words "Namo Amitofo".
This 300 over yrs old white stone pagoda in the northern corner of the temple used to house the Buddha's relics, but it was moved away from the temple in 1965 and the relics confiscated by the government. The pagoda was only returned to the temple in 1994 and the relics in 1996.
Behind the Patriarch Hall is this board which writes "Meaning of Coming from the West", the subject of many Zen koans. The answers of Zen Masters to that question are of completely varied, but they all aim to point the finger back to your own Buddha-nature. I like this answer to the question "what is the meaning of the patriarch coming from the west?" The reply, "An arrow flying across the sky." Do you understand?

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Tallest Standing Buddha in the World

On 29.9.2008, 108 eminent monks and thousands of lay devotees from the mainland and overseas gathered at Foquan Si monastery of Lushan, Henan province to consecrate the 108m tall Lushan Great Buddha - the tallest standing Buddha image in the world today. If we include the 20m tall lotus pedestal, the image would stand at an awesome 128m!
The monastery where the Buddha is located - Foquan Si also boasts a thousand-year old history, one of the oldest in the province. It has the Yuzhen mountain behind as support and Sha river in front as its courtyard water source, forming its excellent Fengshui and making it into a unsurpassed site of pilgrimage for local and overseas Buddhists.
Above is the entrance of Foquan Si, flanked by 2 fierce Dharma protectors. The grand consecration ceremony was led by famous masters such as Elder Yicheng, chairman of the China Buddhist Association; Elder Jueguang, chairman of the HK Buddhist Federation; Elder Xingyun, Founder of Foguang Shan in Taiwan; Ven Yongxin, Abbot of Shaolin temple; Ven Yanfo, Abbot of Foquan Si as well as Ven Shenghui, Xuecheng, Jingxiong and Haitao. Everyone present prayed for peace and prosperity for the whole nation. Celebrity singers from China and Taiwan were also invited to sing in praise of the auspicious occasion.
A distant view of Foquan Si and the Lushan Great Buddha. Such a huge image is constructed with 2,700 tons of yellow & purple copper, 100kg of gold as well as 3,700 tons of steel columns to support it from within! No other image in the world can match it in terms of height and size. At 108m tall it dwarfs even the 88m Lingshan Great Buddha in Wuxi (a similar standing image), as well as the 71m Leshan Great Buddha in Sichuan. But the Leshan Buddha is a seated image, so it should not be compared to standing images in terms of height.
The Abbot of Foquan Si, Ven Yanfo. He spent 12 long years garnering support for the Buddha image to be built for the benefit of all beings. It was in 1997 that he got the support of donor Mr Li Liufa, a prominent corporation head in Henan to start with the construction. 10 years later, after spending a whopping 280 million RMB, the Great Buddha was finally completed last year in 2007. It was not until September this year that the monastery decided to conduct a grand consecration ceremony for their Buddha image. Now that it has been properly consecrated, everyone hopes that the light of the Buddha's wisdom will shine on the whole of China for a long long time to come, sadhu.