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Saturday, May 15, 2010

No. 20: Zhaojue Temple, Chengdu, Sichuan

The Screen Wall (照壁) at Zhaojue Temple (昭觉寺) in Chengdu, Sichuan (四川, 成都市) has a Dharma
Wheel (法轮) on it. Above are two of the six letters in the phrase "Namo Amitofo" (南无阿弥陀佛)
meaning "Homage to Amitabha Buddha," the central Buddha in Pure Land (净土) practice.
Leaving Wenshu Yuan, our party of four headed a few kilometers north to Zhaojue ("Clear Awakening") Temple.

Founded in the Tang Dynasty, it has, like many ancient sites, undergone repeated cycles of destruction and repair. The current construction dates back only a few decades. Nevertheless, the grounds are lush and the buildings evocative of days gone by.

The temple's history and practice are notable for two strains: the more common Chan (Zen) practice, and the less-common "Mizong," an esoteric tradition closely related to Tibetan Buddhism.

One fun thing we noticed here, and were to see other places in Sichuan: Many temples have a "screen wall," a free-standing wall directly outside the front gate to deflect bad spirits from entering (perhaps developed from an architectural vestige with a more practical purpose: to keep passersby from looking in!)

At some Sichuan temples, there is a large figure of the Chinese character for "luck" or "happiness" in the exact center of the wall. As these walls are set well out from the gate, the game is this: stand at the gate, close your eyes, and try to walk a straight line to the wall and "find happiness." Harder than it sounds, it often requires a helper to keep you from wandering off down the street!

Amongst the temple's many halls is a Buddhist college, located not far from the tomb of esoteric Master Qing Ding, who died in 1999.

Zhaojue Si is located right next to the Chengdu Zoo, and not far from a center dedicated to research on Chengdu's most famous residents, the giant pandas.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily May 28, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • 30.707324, 104.106153



Map:




GALLERY

Dharma Wheel on the outside of the screen wall at Zhaojue Temple, Chengdu (postcard above)
The author tries to "find happiness" on the inside of the screen wall
One of many ornate buildings at the temple
Memorial pagoda of esoteric Master Qing Ding, who died in 1999
Some of the many other memorial pagodas the temple
Statue of the popular Buddhist "saint" Jigong

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