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Qita Temple (Seven-Pagoda Temple)
2016-09-08 14:40 Text Size: A A A

Qita Temple, or the Seven-Pagoda Temple, is located midway along Baizhang Road. The temple, plus Tiantong Temple, King Asoka Temple and Guanzong Temple, are four famous Buddhist monasteries in east Zhejiang Province.  It was approved by the State Council as one of the first national key temples opened up to international visitors in the year of 1983. The temple is elegant-constructed with primitive simplicity and grandeur, with an architecture typical of the seven rooms of Buddhist Zen School. It is mainly composed of the Hall of Heavenly Kings, the Grand Hall, Three-Sage Hall, the Hall of the Abbot, the Library of Sutras, the Hall of Providence, the Hall of Jade Buddha, the Towers of Bell and Drum, the Praying Hall, and the East and West Wing-rooms. In the Hall of Jade Buddha, a Jade Buddha is placed. Before the hall are rockeries and beautiful bamboos. Usualy Grand Halls are places to enshrine the statue of Sakyamuni, but here in Qita Temple, the Thousand-handed Guanyin is enshrined. Therefore it is called the Minor Putuo. The temple boasts of a collection of treasures including a sarira pagoda for the zen master Xinjing of the Qixin Temple during the Tang Dynasty, two bronze bells made during the South Song Dynasty, a wooden counstruction molding board (cha) of the Ming Dynasty, and a five-hundred archat portrait carved on the Grand Hall.

 The temple was built in 858 A.D., and has a history of 1140 years. The temple record goes that it was initially named Dongjin Zen House. At that time, a man called Ren Jingqiu, who was once the county magistrate of Fenning County (today’s Xiushui County) in Jiangxi Province and donated his former residence, to the local Buddhist society, who turned it into Dongjin Temple, the structure that later evolved to be Qita Temple. Ren Jingqiu also invited Master Xinjing (meaning the Mirror of the Heart), the abbot of Tiantong Temple, to serve as chief of the new temple. Known as Zanghuan before he became a monk, Master Xinjing was born and brought up in Huating. During the Huichang years of the Tang Dynasty, he served as abbot at Tiantong Temple and led his people to build Five-Buddha Pagoda at Xiaobailing. As the first abbot of Qita Temple starting from 858 A.D., Master Xinjing dedicated himself to the temple’s renovations and the cultivation of Zen spirit. According to historical records, a gang of rebellious soldiers broke into the temple in the 3rd year of Xiantong period in the Tang Dynasty (861 A.D.). They were astounded by what they saw: Master Xinjing sat there in meditation, completely unmoved by the commotion. In great awe, the rabble hushed, did kowtow to the abbot and withdrew. To honour the virtuous abbot, the county gentry sent a report to the emperor in request of renaming the temple as Qixin Temple (meaning where the heart rests). In the year of 1008, the Song Dynasty emperor issued an edict board naming the temple the Chongshou Temple ( Temple of Longevity). In the early Ming Dynasty, Japanese pirates often ganged up on coastal villages of China, leaving the residents no peace. To protect the civilians, in the 20th Hongwu year (1378 A.D.), Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang sent General Tanghe, the Duke of Xinguo, to evacuate the islanders of Zhoushan to Jiangdong, Ningbo. In addition, the Duke also moved the statue of Guanyin (or Avalokitesvara), which was enshrined in Zhoushan’s Puji Temple to Qita Temple and renamed it as Butuo Temple. For this reason, Qita Temple has close contacts with Mount Putuo, for ever since pilgrims and visitors to Mount Putuo would also come to worship the Thousand-handed Guanyin (or Avalokitesvara) in Qita Temple. Erected in the 21st year of Emperor Kangxi in the Qing Dynasty (1682  A.D.), the seven pagodas represent the seven Buddhas, Sakyamuni in our world and his six predecessors: Vipasyin, Sikhin, Visvabhu, Krakucchanda, Kanakamuni and Kasyapa. From these structures the temple got its present name. During the years of chaos caused by the Taiping rebellion, the temple was burned down to ashes. Then it was rebuilt, but during the Cultural revolution, it was ruined again. In 1980, the municipal government of Ningbo organized a agency for the reconstruction of the Qita Temple. The agency was headed by Monk Yuexi. With great endeavour and the support from all walks of society, the temple was restructed. It regained its   grandeur and became the only large size Buddhist temple in the downtown of Ningbo.

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