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Lingyin Temple

By Devik Balami at
Lingyin Temple

Lingyin Temple is a Buddhist temple located at north-west of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China. This Buddhist temple is one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China and contains numerous pagodas and Buddhist grottoes. Among them, the most famous one is Feilai Feng.

Historical accounts of Lingyin Temple

The temple was founded in an early 4th century during the Eastern Jin Dynasty by an Indian monk. It is recorded that from its inception the temple was very famous and also used as the monastery in the Jiangnan region.

During the 10th century, in the period of Wuyue Kingdom, the temple included nine multi-storey buildings, 18 pavilions, 72 halls, and more than 1300 dormitory rooms. The number of monks lived at this place during this time was more than 3000. It is also inscribed that the rich Buddhists carvings in the Feilai Feng grottos and surrounding mountains dated from this era.

The Lingyin temple and monastery was regarded as one of the ten most important temples of the Chan sect in the later Southern Song dynasty. However, the temple was not secured from the bandits. It is also recorded that the temple was rebuilt more than sixteen times from is establishment. The temple and grounds suffered damage during the cultural revolution but it was not severely damaged. Therefore, the current buildings standing at the Lingyin Temple were the renovated during the late Qing dynasty.

Features of Lingyin Temple

The Lingyin Temple follows a traditional Song dynasty five-hall Chan Sect Structure. However, the five-hall axis is a recent recreation. Only, the front three halls are a part of the Qing dynasty axis.

Hall of the Heavenly Kings

The main entrance of the temple is the Hall of the Heavenly Kings but the scenario has been changed in recent times. Now, the visitors entered through the side doors where separate ticket offices are set up for admission. This hall has double eave and the front part carries a plaque which is written by the Kangxi Emperor. The plaque mentions Chan temple of the Clouds and Forests. The hall houses principle statue of Maitreya Buddha in his manifestation of Laughing Buddha, the Buddha head is depicted in bald and in laughing expression. Another Buddha statues housed in this hall is of Skanda Buddha facing up the hills at the back of the hall. This statue dates from the Southern Song Dynasty and is believed to be around 800 yrs old. Other than the Buddha statues, the statues of Four Heavenly Kings are also arranged along the left and right.

Grand Hall of the Great Sage

The Grand Hall of the Great Sage is the second principal hall of the Lingyin Temple. This hall is also popularly known as Mahavira Hall. The Grand Hall of the Great Sage is triple eaved and has a height of 33.3 m. The hall houses statue of Shakyamuni Buddha which was carved in 1956 from camphor wood in Tang Dynasty Style and coated with 60 tolas of gold. At the back of the main statue is a statue of Guanyin, which is backed by the large screen that features the carved images of some 150 Buddhist personalities, pilgrims, Daoji, and arhats.

Hall of the Medicine Buddha

The Hall of the Medicine Buddha is behind the main hall that housed a statue of Bhaisajyaguru Buddha, commonly known as Medicine Buddha.

Sutra Library

The Sutra Library is behind the Hall of the Medicine Buddha. It is recorded that the hall was built in the early 21st century to recreate the five halls main axis. The Sutra Library does not house any Buddha statues and is also not open to general public.

Huayan Hall

The fifth and last hall on the main axis is the Hyayan Hall. This hall is also popularly known as Avatamsaka Hall. This hall is also built in the early 21st century and houses statues of the three sage of the Avatamsaka Sutra- Shakyamuni, Manjusri, and Samantabhadra.

Hall of the Five Hundred Arhats.

The Hall of Five Hundred Arhats is built in such a way that it faces onto the western side of the courtyard in front of the main hall. The building is equipped with complex floor plans similar to the shape of a Buddhist swastika. The five hundred arhats are arranged in the direction of arms of the swastika while at the center of the swastika, the bronze statue of four Bodhisattvas are erected representing the four cardinal directions.