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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No. 36: Yushan Xingfu Temple, Changshu, Jiangsu

I enjoyed seeing these two old men seated in the Mountain Gate (山门)
at Yushan Xingfu Temple (虞山兴福寺) in Changshu, Jiangsu (江苏, 常熟市)
After visiting Xiyuan, I took a bus to Changshu city (actually part of Suzhou) and Yushan Xingfu Temple.

It's a shame I went so late in the day, because there's lots to see in Changshu, a place whose name means "Perpetual Harvest." Yushan itself is a National Forest Park and home to several other temples. And about five kilometers away (!), situated in a garden in the center of the city, is the "Fang Ta" (Square Pagoda) which was once part of Xingfu Temple.

But alas! No time to see it all. So I went straight by taxi to the gates of the temple. Founded around 500CE as Dabei ("Great Compassion") Temple, it was renamed about 40 years later as the result of an interesting "accident."

In the midst of some renovations, a large stone was discovered inside the main hall, where it can be seen today. It has two unique aspects. On the left side as you face it are bumps said to resemble the Chinese character "Xing" (兴) or "flourishing," and on the left is supposedly "fu" (福) or "luck." So the temple is now known as Xingfu, or "Flourishing Luck," Temple.

Frankly, I could make nothing of the bumps on the stone, nor could the monk attendant in the hall trace them out for me. I guess 1,500 years is a long time, even for a stone!

The rest of the temple is new, with gardens on either side of the main compound around the base of the mountain. Some of the upper reaches were closed for relandscaping, including the "ta yuan" (pagoda-filled cemetery). Someday, if time permits, I'd like to go back and explore more of the temple and the surrounding park.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily September 17, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • 31.66533, 120.71996



Map:




GALLERY

The front gate at Xingfu Temple, with the "Broken Stream" running in front (postcard above)
Front of the temple's main hall, in which the Xingfu Stone is located
The Xingfu Stone in the main hall
Part of the west garden
A pond in the east garden

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