Nanhua Temple, Shaoguan, Guangdong
(July 24 & 25, 2012)

(1) The first gate at Nanhua (South China) Temple, called the "Cao Xi" Gate after the small river ("Cao's Creek") across the road, which also lends itself to the name of this place. Fairly crowded at this time, the gate is deserted during the lunch hour, when all tour buses are at restaurants.

Nanhua Temple is famed as the long-time seat of Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan (Zen), and the place where his body (mummy) has resided since his death in 713. The temple was actually founded much earlier, by the Indian monk Jnanabhaisajya in 502. He named the place "Baolin" (Treasure Forest) as it reminded him of a similarly-named place in his native land (a common motif in early temple founding legends).

(2) The bridge across the "free life pond."

(3) I shot these kids over their dad's shoulder.

(4) Inside the Four Heavenly Kings' Hall. The statues are colossal.

(5) A typical set of three buddhas (l to r Amitabha, Shakyamuni with attendants, and the Medicine Buddha).

(6) But just below Shakyamuni is a strange sight.

(7) The central case has the mummy of Huineng; to the left is Dantian and to the right is Hanshan. It's a long story.

(8) Close-up of Huineng's mummy. The first time I came, in 2005, it was in a hall of its own (where I did three prostrations in front of it, as well as in front of his two companions), but as that hall is undergoing reconstruction, it's been moved here.

(9) The same hall is lined with 500 arhats; here are some of them.

(10) Close-up of one of the 500 arhats, at the rear of the main hall.

(11) The pretty Lingzhao Pagoda behind the main hall was once the resting place of Huineng's mummy.

(12) Later the mummy was moved to this hall, now under renovation.

(13) Gateway to the Zhuoxi Fountain.

(14) The Zhuoxi Fountain was said to be miraculously formed when Huineng struck his staff into the ground (he needed pure water to wash the Buddha's robe and bowl, handed down though all the Chan patriarchs). Yet, the Platform Sutra places it 5 li (about 20 km) behind the temple. Was the water piped here? Hmmm...

(15) A stupa dedicated to Xuyun; not as ornate as the one at Yunmen Temple, but with another beautiful location. The nearby hall is also under repair.

(16) This is the gate of Wujin Nunnery, founded by Huineng's first female disciple, who was impressed with the level of his erudition despite his illiteracy. I would go inside on a return visit the next day.

(17) This magnificent tree grows in the courtyard of the veg restaurant on the grounds, where I had lunch before setting off on my great adventure of the day.

(18) Because I couldn't get into Yuehua Si, I had time to go back to Nanhua and see some things I missed. I was able to use my layperson's certificate to get in for free. The nun in the ticket office said I could have used it the day before; I said I didn't mind paying 20rmb (about $3US), but I didn't want to pay 40! She laughed. Anyway, here are some gardener's baskets artfully placed next to a gate.

(19) This is the "Long Corridor." It's called that because it's long. And it's a corridor.

(20) This is the memorial hall of Wei Yin, the abbot who took over from Master Xuyun.

(21) Inside the Wei Yin Memorial Hall

(22) Image of Master Wei Yin

(23) Wei Yin's stupa

(24) The Barnyard Boys (behind the monks' kitchen)

(25) This tree was apparently "ordained," according to the temple map. I don't know why (but it is 450 years old). More research is necessary.

(26) I shot this from the bus window as we sped away from the temple. I think it has to do with the "cult" of Huineng. [2019: Perhaps Caoxi Jiangtan, a preaching station?]

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Last Updated August 18, 2019

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