Temples in Ningde, Fujian
(October 25, 2011)

An excursion to Shuiyun Temple (near Huayan Si); as well as Zhongde Temple, Qiyun Temple, Tiantang Temple, and Xiangshan Temple, all in Fu'an, and the last two on Tian Ma Shan.

(1) First, a quick stop at the very small Shuiyun Si ("Water Cloud Temple") on the highway, where Ven. Deru's friend is abbot. He wasn't in, so we pushed on. Note the waves of bamboo in the background. When I asked Ven. Deru to compare this temple to big city ones like yesterday's Xichan Si, he said "We all prefer places like this": nature, quiet, a chance to focus the mind. Ah.

(2) This larger temple, Zhongde Si ("Planting Virtue Temple"), is on the outskirts of Fu'an, Ven. Deru's hometown. He said it's the largest in the city, and get this: this city of 600,000 (200,000 in the city center) has over 300 Buddhist temples! That's one for every 2,000 people! Like Paradise! Many are quite small, though, not much more than a single hall. One hill we passed had more than 10, he said!

(3) I know this is a little rude, but bear with me: This is a typical under-developed restroom (in the same temple). There's a trough that runs through all of these booths; one puts one's feet on either side and squats to do one's business. Little privacy, uncomfortable, and potentially very messy.

(4) Now look at this: in the last booth, the temple has built a "sitter." Crude, yes, but at least better than squatting. Now if they could just hang a shower curtain around it...

(5) This is the temple where Ven. Deru has lived for the last five years. Qiyun Si ("Settle Cloud Temple") was founded in the Tang Dynasty, he said (more than a thousand years ago). Yet the place is around ten years old! "How so?" I asked. He says they have the founding document from the Tang. So how did it resurrect? Someone (a monk, a group of devotees, or some combination) petition the government to ..."restore" a temple. Having a founding document, some archaeological evidence, or other "proof" helps. The government may then agree to clear the land of current use or occupants and things get going. He said that, previously, there had been a mental hospital on the site. We agreed that the Buddhist principle of curing the mind of delusion means that a temple and a mental hospital may not be so different! Anyway, there was chanting going on (he said it's daily, morning and evening) so I didn't see inside the main (and just about only) hall.

(6) This is the front gate of Tiantang Si ("Heaven Hall Temple"), architecturally one of the most interesting I've ever seen. The blue gate and the realistic horses (where one usually sees lions, dragons, or other creatures) heralds that something unusual is up.

(7) The horses are carrying containers like those that brought sutras back from India. Also, the mountain we were on is called "Tian Ma Shan" (Heaven Horse Mountain), so there's another connection.

(8) The front of the building is flanked by tall drum and bell towers, making it look almost like a church.

(9) Instead of the usual fat Laughing Buddha, Mile Fo is shown in his more Indian form.

(10) Ordinarily, Weituo is behind Mile Fo; he wasn't there, but I didn't think much of it until Ven. Deru took me upstairs to the hall where he stands (just above his usual location) flanked by lifelike statues of the 18 Arhats.

(11) The main altar holds a (probably Burmese) jade buddha, with a sutra in the wall behind. This is like nothing I've seen before.

(12) Pushing on, we reached the top of the mountain, and a view of central Fu'an. Ven. Deru is very proud of his city!

(13) Our last stop: Xiangshan Si ("Fragrant Mountain Temple"), where we had dinner. Upstairs in the building, Ven. Deru showed me something else: a copy of the Diamond Sutra that he had written in blood! It wasn't his own, though; some devotees of the temple had contributed 4 milliliters each (with the help of an attending nurse) and anticoagulant was added. I don't have the whole story yet; I was too floored to ask many questions, but I will try to find out why this was done if I see him tomorrow, as planned. [Edit: I didn't see him, so didn't get to ask.] Anyway, isn't his calligraphy fine?

(14) This is a view of the "old kitchen," not too different from the "restaurant" I saw a couple of days ago. Nevertheless, with nuns cooking veg food, what comes out of here is amazing. There is, in fact, a new kitchen, but no one could tell me why it wasn't being used.

(15) Finally, my new friend, our hostess: Ven. Yixiang, abbess of Xiangshan Si (with Ven. Deru on the right). Ven. Deru eats there once a week or so, and it's clear they're good friends. She has a smattering of mostly-useless English, gained when she spent seven years in Australia where her master has several temples. (I also met her 82-year-old mother briefly.) She was tonight's main cook (but Ven. Deru says everyone in this small temple cooks). She also attached a strap to my phone, and presided over the tea we drank after dinner. A great way to end the day before a long car ride to the "local" train station and a train back to Fuzhou.

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Last Updated August 7, 2019

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