city guide

Outskirts - Lingyin Temple

Outskirts - Lingyin Temple

Lingyin Temple 灵隐寺

Lingyin Temple or Temple of the Soul's Retreat is a Chinese Zen Buddhism Temple with a history that dates back to 328 AD during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (not to be confused with the Jin dynasty from northeast China or Manchuria). As the story goes, an Indian monk named Huili stumbled upon the place and was so struck by the spiritual nature of the scenery that he founded a temple with the name "Lingyin," to mean a place where a soul could retreat in peace and contemplation.

It was not until the Kingdom of Wuyue (907-978 AD) that the temple started to gain importance. Hangzhou was the capital of Wuyue and the King, being a devout Buddhist, ordered large-scale development for the temple. Since then, Lingyin Temple grew from a humble monastery to an expanse of nine buildings, 18 pavilions, 76 halls and more than 1,300 rooms for around 3,000 monks.

Over the years, the temple has seen and undergone much of the historical upheavals in China, as well as flourished under dynasties such as the Southern Song dynasty and the Yuan Dynasty. It suffered much damage during the Cultural Revolution under the hands of the Red Guards. Today, the temple remains one of the 10 largest Zen Buddhism temples in China and has since been restored to its former magnificence of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911AD), with a daily crowd of devotees and tourists. Its long history has also resulted in a rich accumulation of precious historical relics such as calligraphic scrolls, paintings, sutras, seals, porcelain and jade once owned by the ancient monks.

The temple consists of several halls, such as the Hall of the Heavenly King, Hall of the Medicine Buddha, Hall of the Five Hundred Arhats and the Hall of the Mahavira. In the Hall of the Mahavira, the largest woodcarving statue of the sitting Buddha in China stands at a height of 24.8 meters, including the seat.

Ji Gong 济公 (1130-1209 AD). An eccentric monk who was known to break monastic conventions with his love for meat and wine, Ji Gong became a monk at Lingyin Temple but was soon expelled. Since then, he lived as a wandering, carefree monk who won both curiosity and respect from the people due to his benevolent and compassionate nature. Legend has it that Ji Gong had magical powers. He is usually featured in folklore as a monk dressed in tattered robes, holding a fan and a bottle of wine he always kept filled.

Li Gong Pagoda. Located near the entrance of Lingyin Scenic Area is a small stone pagoda rebuilt in 1590 AD in honor of Monk Huili or Li Gong. Intricately decorated, the pagoda stands over the burial grounds of Huili's remains.

Peak Flying From Afar 飞来峰

Just outside the main temple is the Feilai Feng grotto, also known as Vulture's Peak or Number One Hill in the southeast. It was said that Monk Huili ascended the hill and described how it looked as if the small mountain of Linjiu Mountain in Middle India had flown there. Since then, the peak was thus named.

In 1681, Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722 AD) of the Qing Dynasty wrote the name of the peak and this was inscribed on the stone cliff. Scattered around the caverns, cliffs and slopes along the streams are 345 stone carvings depicting Buddhist stories and monks such as Tang Sanzang (also known as Xuanzang or Tripitaka) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) on his journey to the west, and Zhu Shixing of the Three Kingdom Period, who was the first Chinese monk who travelled overseas to further his Buddhist study.

Within the main cavern is a stone statue of the Goddess of Mercy (Bodhisattva Guanyin). These well-preserved carvings dates from the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (907-979 AD) to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD), most of them left behind from the Yuan. Surrounding trees are also centuries old, their ancient presence an essence to the spiritual wholeness of the place.

Address: 1 Fayun Lane. Bus: K7, Y1, Y2. Opening hours: 5am-6pm. Admission fee: 45 yuan for Peak Flying from Afar; 30 yuan for Lingyin Temple.

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