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Xuedou Temple
2016-09-08 14:38 Text Size: A A A

Xuedou Temple, located in Xuedou Mountain, also known as Xuedou Zisheng Temple, is one of the ten best-known Zen Temples in China. It is the residence of Daci Maitreya as well as one of the five Chinese Buddhist mountains, others being Putuo Mountain, Wutai MountainEmei Mountain and Jiuhua Mountain. Situated 8 kilometers northwest of Xikou Town in Fenghua City, Xuedou Mountain is distinctive and famous for its nine closely connected mountain peaks, which are grand and magnificent with various shapes. The time-honored temple was once the residence of Buddhist nuns in the Jin Dynasty, named as Waterfall Temple while it was renamed as “Pubu Guanyin Temple” or literally “Bodhisattva Temple near Waterfalls” after being moved to the present site in the Tang Dynasty (841) and then experienced a massive expansion in 892, with the total construction area of 6000 square meters and temple land of 90 hectares. The temple was the favorite of several generations of emperors of the Song Dynasty, who issued successively some 40 imperial edicts to the temple to its great honor. In 999 in the Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Zhao Heng named it “Xuedou Holy Temple”. Story has it that in 1037, Emperor Renzong of the Song Dynasty once had a dream in which he was touring Xuedou Temple and thanks to his dream, the temple was named “the Temple in the Dream”. In the Ming Dynasty, the mountain was known as one of the ten famous Zen temples of China.

Since its establishment, Xuedou Temple has gone through several destructions and reconstructions while the last destruction happened in early 1960s. However, the jade signet, dragon robe, dragon bowl and 5760 Buddhist scriptures presented by Emperor Lizong of Song Dynasty(reign:1224-1264) remained well preserved. The latest reconstruction of Xuedou Temple was in 1985 with Guangde, then the abbot of Xuedou Temple, in charge of making preparations for the rebuilding. The Grand Hall and Maitreya Hall were rebuilt successively while the whole construction was resplendent and magnificent with traditional upswept eaves.

In its long history, Xuedou Temple enjoyed a high status in the Buddhist world with a booming pilgrimage and a wealth of eminent monks from various Buddhist sects practicing Buddhism. Zen master Yongming Yanshou in the Song Dynasty spoke the Dharma and wrote 100 volumes of “Zong Jing Lu” (The Mirror of Orthodoxy) in Xuedou Temple, one of Buddhist classics enjoying a high reputation both home and abroad while Chongxian, also a Zen master in the Song Dynasty, once stayed at Xuedou Temple, named as Xuedou Zen master. In the early years of the Republic of China, Master Taixu, then Head of Buddhism Association of China held the post of the abbot of Xuedou Temple at the invitation of Chiang Kai-shek and investigated Buddhism in many other countries with Taixudashiquanshu (Master Taixu’s Encyclopedia of Buddhist Culture) as his master work. He passed away in Yufo Temple in Shanghai, with his ashes buried in Xuedou Temple.

Xuedou Temple, as the Bodhimanda, or place of awakening of Maitreya, has different scale and regime from other temples. In the Great Buddha’s Hall sits up Maitreya, the Buddha of the future who is commonly known as Cloth Bag Monk with his alternative name as Changtingzi because he was from Changting in Fenghua. He always carried a cloth bag in which he put all his necessities of life on his shoulder with a cane and he was said to have a good sense of humor and always topless and smiling, explaining why people called him “Happy Monk” while his mysterious words and deeds were spread around the local area. It was not until several years after his death when people met him in Fujian Province and was reminded by him of the omnipresence of Buddha dharma did people begin to realize that he was the incarnation of Maitreya. Since then every temple began to model the Maitreya Statue according to the figure of him and placed it in the Hall of Heavenly Kings. A grand dedication ceremony of Maitreya was held in the Maitreya Hall in Xuedou Temple in the first half of 1994 with around 1000 Maitreya Statues being lifelike and having thriving incense.

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