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Monday, July 26, 2010

No. 33: Tianning Temple, Changzhou, Jiangsu

Statue of Maitreya (弥勒) in front of the huge pagoda (塔) at
Tianning Temple (天宁寺) in Changzhou, Jiangsu (江苏, 常州市)
Traveling down the Yangtze from Yangzhou and Zhenjiang by bus, I reached Changzhou, home to Tianning Temple.

Although founded in the Tang Dynasty, Tianning ("Peaceful Heaven") Temple has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Its most notable feature, however, is remarkably new.

Started in 2002 and completed in 2007, the Tianning Pagoda is claimed to be not only the world's tallest Buddhist pagoda, but also the tallest wooden structure in the world. One source says it's 7.2 meters taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza!

The day I was there, a typical late-afternoon storm was approaching. As each of the pagoda's thirteen floors has eight sides, and each corner has a bell, I listened as the coming storm rang 104 bells. Glorious!

While stunning, the pagoda is not the temple's only attraction. The Heavenly Kings' Hall has some amazing cabinetry, housing the Laughing Buddha and the guardian Wei Tuo. There are also tree-filled courtyards, and East and West Arhats' Halls.

Two collections of Buddhas also stand out. One is the group of seven jade Buddhas (plus one Sleeping Buddha of jade) in their own hall. These were gifts of the temple's former abbot, Min Zhi, who has lived in both the USA and Burma.

The other is in the hall housing my favorite Buddha, Vairochana. This is a Ten Thousand Buddha Hall, and in addition to those lining the walls, there is a "mountain" of them holding up the Vairochana.

With the storm on its way, and a new high-speed train to be caught, I had to leave all this splendor and head for fabled Suzhou.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily August 27, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • 31.77281, 119.96920



Map:




GALLERY

The front gate of Tianning Temple, Changzhou

Unusual cabinetry at the temple

The lush courtyard in front of the Main Hall

Some of the 500 Arhats in one of two dedicated halls

The Jade Buddha Hall with multiple statues

The world's tallest pagoda (at the time)

Vairochana on some of the 10,000 Buddhas


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