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Monday, July 26, 2010

No. 32: Daming Temple, Yangzhou, Jiangsu

Statue of Master Jianzhen (鉴真大师) given by Japanese devotees
(日本的居士) to Daming Temple (大明寺) in Yangzhou, Jiangsu (江苏, 扬州市)
Visiting Daming Temple in Yangzhou, Jiangsu, was a little bit like going home.

For one school year in 2007-2008 I lived in the temple, where I was the Director of Cross-Cultural Studies (and an English instructor) at Jianzhen Academy on the temple's grounds.

The temple is famous for many things: its exquisite location at the top of Yangzhou's Shou Xihu ("Narrow West Lake"), its signature Qiling Pagoda, and its role as the seat of Chinese Buddhism's Vinaya ("Discipline") Sect.

But of all its claims to fame, its greatest is that it's the home temple of Master Jianzhen, a Tang Dynasty monk who, starting in his 50s, tried and failed five times to reach Japan to spread the Buddha's teaching, and finally succeeded on his sixth try at the age of 66--despite having been blinded by an infection on his fifth attempt.

Once in Japan, he established the Discipline Sect there, was abbot of the renowned Todai-ji in Nara (where the Great Buddha is located), and built Nara's Toshodai-ji in his retirement. He remained there until his death.

Because of all this, Japanese Buddhists built a memorial hall to Jianzhen at Daming Temple in 1973 and placed in it a replica of a famed statue of him.

Other features of the temple include: the Pingshan Hall, where Song Dynasty poet Ouyang Xiu relaxed while he was governor of Yangzhou; the Gulin Hall, built by renowned poet Su Dongpo in honor of his teacher, Ouyang Xiu; the "Fifth Spring under Heaven" in the West Garden; and the Jianzhen Library, built by Master Xingyun of Taiwan's Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily
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GALLERY

The front gate at Yangzhou's Daming Temple
Daming Temple's main hall
The Jianzhen Memorial Hall
This statue of Master Jianzhen is a replica of a famous
one in Japan; the closed eyes indicate he is blind
A jade Buddha in front of the Qiling Pagoda
The "Fifth Spring under Heaven" in the temple's West Garden

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