Guoqing Temple, Tiantai, Zhejiang
(September 13, 2011)

(1) This is our hotel on Tiantai Shan. A few minutes from today's temple (Guoqing Si), it was a bit aged, but comfy--and only 280rmb (around $40US) a night!

(2) Seriously, who names a water brand after an evil laugh? (Commonly available in this part of the country.)

(3) As we strolled down the road, we encountered these "seven pagodas." Little did we realize what we were about to see...

(4) This is Guoqing Pagoda, a memorial to a Tang-dynasty monk named Yixing. His claim to fame was not religion; he was a pioneering astronomer, who worked and studied here. Read more on Wikipedia. By the way, built in 597, this is said to be the second-oldest surviving brick pagoda in China.

(5) We soon discovered that we had passed the temple (thanks to my poor Chinese when asking about an establishment we were standing right in front of). It was good, though, to see the amount of cultivation in the area. Later you'll see why I think these rice fields may belong to the temple.

(6) The first hall contains the Maitreya (Laughing Buddha) and Weituo combination, but instead of the Four Kings, it contains Heng and Ha, the two generals with the closed and open mouths (representing pairs of opposites). A front hall usually contains either Heng and Ha or Maitreya/Weituo/the Four Kings, so this is unusual.

(7) Another unusual thing: a monk working. The venerable on the left is scraping candle wax from the pavement. Usually this sort of work is left to laypeople. A monk working in the gift shop (also unusual) told me there were about a hundred monks here.

(8) This is the ceiling inside the Yuhua (Raindrop) Hall, which contains the Four Kings (sans Maitreya and Weituo). I had read that quite a few of the halls here date to a renovation in the reign of the Qing Emperor Yongzheng (r. 1722-1735 CE); this work certainly looks old enough.

(9) This is one of several statues in the temple depicting the monk Zhizhe (or Zhiyi), founder of the Tiantai sect of Buddhism (named for the mountain). If I read correctly, there were at least three separate halls with Zhizhe ("Wise Man") as the main figure. In two cases he was flanked by two other figures; no one could tell me who they were.

(10) This Guanyin (behind the altar in the Buddha Hall) is accompanied by her two attendants, as usual; but I thought the discrepancy in their size was unusual. Perhaps they date to different eras, and one is a replacement? They both looked old, but the styles were quite different, too.

(11) This image of Yaoshi Fo, the "Medicine Buddha," sits all alone in his hall. (His iconography includes a pagoda, symbol of the Buddha's body; people pray to him for healing.) I found this figure more evocative than the heavily-gilded Shakyamuni Buddha in the Main Hall.

(12) This and the next two images are from the Guanyin Hall at the top of the temple. The main figure (next) is a thousand-armed Guanyin (ready to help); this and the second following are Guanyin in her/his many forms. I saw this at the temple yesterday as well (when the little old lady attendant took me around and explained things to me), but here it was easy to shoot!

(13) The thousand-armed Guanyin located between images of Guanyin in her/his many forms.

(14) More images of Guanyin in her/his many forms.

(15) I first ran into these figures in a temple in Beijing, and couldn't for the life of me figure out who these "Three Saints" were, looking so different from the usual "Three Saints of the West." Well, mystery solved, per Wikipedia. They are the "Three Saints of Tiantai." The article on Shide says he "was a Tang Dynasty Chinese Buddhist poet at the Guoqing Temple on Mount Tiantai...; roughly contemporary with Hanshan and Fenggan, but younger than both of them. As close friends the three of them formed the 'Tiantai Trio.'" So here they are.

(16) Here are the usual "Three Saints," those "of the West." I loved these towering images, and have composited their faces for you. That's Dashizi, Bodhisattva of Great Power (left); Amitabha, Buddha of Infinite Light and Life (center); and Guanyin, Bodhisattva of Great Compassion (right).

(17) Detail of a pretty corridor roof in the temple.

(18) The figures in a 500 Arhat Hall are usually separated by walls; here they look like a mob scene. There is a legend about the Arhat Hall here: The parents of the crazy monk Jigong (another eccentric associated with this temple) came here to pray. When they prostrated in front of the Hall, an arhat statue fell, and soon Jigong's mother conceived. When he was older, he was considered to be an arhat himself!

(19) Rice drying on a temple platform (next to the Arhat Hall). I don't know if the temple owns the nearby fields, or if they just let the farmers use the space, but there was lots of rice drying around the hall. I always love to see that!

(20) I often show you statues and other features. But I don't often take time to just put up "pretty little spaces." Here's one.

(21) On the way back home, we spotted these kids playing in the small river that winds around three sides of the temple. A nice image to end the day.

Update, September 15:

(22) Two days later, at the end of a long day, we returned to Guoqing Temple as it was near our hotel. Since our first visit, I had read that there was a 1300-year-old plum tree planted by Guanding, first abbot of the temple. (Though Zhiyi laid out the plan, it was his disciple Guanding who actually built it.) As you can see, the tree is quite old; but alas, it seems to be currently leafless. So…

(23) I felt lucky to find a photographer's table nearby, with pictures of the tree under the glass. Here it is in plum blossom season (the date is Feb. 19, 2010), with some lucky lady standing under it.

(24) On our short walk back to the hotel, Mr. Deep and I explored a hillside with small pagodas. Someone has converted the platform for this one into a picnic area. Good use of space!

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Last Updated August 7, 2019

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