Friday, July 13, 2007

Lingyin Temple – West Lake Hangzhou

Lingyin Temple, sometimes referred to as Yunlin Temple, is located on the Northwestern side of West Lake in Hangzhou. The temple itself is situated in a scenic area that contains numerous paths, streams, and caves. There are also other smaller temples in the area and various Buddhist carvings. This entire area is known as the ‘Buddhist Kingdom of the South East’ and the Lingyin temple even holds the largest statue of a sitting Buddha in China.

The other major attraction in the area is the ‘Peak Flying from Afar’ also known as Vultures Peak. This is the stuff legends are made of. Walking through the forests on the stone paths you pass numerous caves and carved statues where there are printed references to ancient Chinese tales about The Stone Bed, or the Fingerprint of the Monk Ji Jong. The Linyin Temple was built in 326 AD, other carvings and inscriptions on the peak date back as far as 300 AD.

The peak was apparently named for some Indian monk named Hui Li. The name does not sound very Indian to me so it must have been a Chinese adaptation for Hargobinglaldas or something. It is interesting to notice though that a lot of the sculptures in the rock face do resemble Hindu idols. This one in particular is reminiscent of Devi riding her tiger.

There are a vast number of carvings to inspect in the area. Some are sculpted in obvious positions on either side of the entrance to a cave and others are embedded deep within the rocks of the cave or high up on cliff walls. Walking through the area is like taking a trip through an ancient art gallery.

Noteworthy is also the route that has been carved. The ancient path winds back and forth across the bed of a stream. Being summer there were only still pools of water separated by dry slopes with rock bridges over them. I can imagine in wetter times that the water would flow straight across the paths bringing the whole scene to life. I particularly liked the harmonious union of the modern attraction with the surrounding nature.

It is pleasant enough to wander around the scenic park but you can also pay an additional charge to enter the Linyin Temple. I thought this was a whole package deal but apparently the attraction was a lot larger than I imaged so paying an extra 20 RMB was warranted. There were a couple of shops near the entrance of the temple selling refreshments and DUPPA. Joss sticks or incense are a hot item there because everyone going into the temple burns them for good luck. The whole area smells of DUPPA because there are 2 temples, the smaller one containing about 5 Chinese idols and the large one on a hill housing the Big Buddha. People are burning joss all over the place.

Check out a short clip of the biggest statue of a sitting Buddha on Chinese soil!

The Linyin Park was spectacular to explore and visiting the temple was a perfect way to cap off my weeklong journey around Eastern China. I usually get frustrated with this country living here in Guangzhou, but every once in a while when I get to see what else China has to offer apart from the just the business side of things, I feel slightly rejuvenated. I know I am only scratching the surface but that is the only thing that actually makes me look forward to spending any time here.

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