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Thursday, October 14, 2010

EXTRA: Huayan Temple, Xi'an, Shaanxi

These two pagodas (塔) are all that remain of the five that were dedicated to the first five patriarchs (祖)
of the Avatamsaka or Huayan Sect (华严宗) at Huayan Temple (华严寺) south of Xi'an, Shaanxi (陕西, 西安市).
On my way back to central Xi'an from semi-remote Xingjiao Temple, I left the bus at what I thought was the best place to walk to the remains of a very important temple. Alas, Google Maps had the place completely wrong! With the help of a kind policeman, and another short bus ride, I found what is left of the once-important Huayan Temple.

The original temple was built in the Tang Dynasty. In the 1950s, the local government decided to raze the main temple compound and build a public school on the site. The "tayuan" or pagoda compound on the bluff behind was protected by the local people, however, and with Buddhism's revival a small scattering of temple buildings is growing around the two remaining pagodas.

Although not one of the "key temples" (because of its condition) it is important as the seat of the well-known Huayan Sect, which focuses on the Avatamsaka or "Flower Garland" Sutra, of which "Huayan" is the Chinese translation.

There once were five pagodas, with the remains of the Huayan School's first five patriarchs. But three slid down the hill, and only two remain--and even those are undergoing preservation efforts to prevent slippage of the ground beneath them.

The two are dedicated to Dushun, founder of the School (557-640); and Chengguan, the Fourth Patriarch (738-839). The Dushun Pagoda is said to contain a "whole body relic" of the founder; the other has the more-common cremation remains.

Though little remains, the site is evocative, and the newer buildings detract not at all from the antique atmosphere of the two pagodas.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily October 22, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • 34.13559, 108.97173



Map:


(This may look blank, but it works--I promise!
And be careful of the incorrectly-placed site nearby.)



GALLERY

Huayan Temple's two remaining pagodas sit high on a bluff south of Xi'an.
New temple buildings are growing around them.
Another view of the two pagodas and one of the modern buildings (postcard above)

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