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Sunday, October 17, 2010

EXTRA: Three Ancient Temples in Xi'an, Shaanxi

Ximing Temple (西明寺) in Xi'an, Shaanxi (陕西, 西安市), is another place Konghai (空海)
stayed; it is newly-built in a new location, with these shiny Three Buddhas--Amitabha
(阿弥陀佛), Shakyamuni (释迦牟尼), and the Medicine Buddha (药师佛)--on the main altar (坛).
Numerous temples of significance--like Famen Temple--dot the Xi'an area but were not included, for one reason or another, on the list of 142 Key Buddhist Temples in the Han Area. The afternoon I visited Famen, and over the next couple of days, I visited three of these.

Qinglong ("Green Dragon") Temple lies close to, and outside of, the southeast corner of Xi'an's city walls. Although it is on the original site, nothing remains of its historic buildings. The renovators wisely rebuilt the main hall just north of its former location, leaving the ancient foundations intact under a grassy lawn.

During its heyday in the Tang Dynasty, Qinglong hosted study for a number of Japanese monks, the most prominent of whom was Konghai (Japanese Kukai), who returned to Japan to found the Shingon (Chinese Zhenyan) Sect. A memorial to Konghai stands on the grounds.

The next morning I took a long bus ride out to the area of Caotang Temple, which I had visited a few days before. My goal this time was Ximing ("Western Brightness") Temple. This temple, too, had hosted many monks in the Tang. Konghai had been here, as well as Xuanzang, Yijing, and numerous Indian monk/translators. Xuanzang's Korean disciple Woncheuk (seen at Xingjiao Temple) was so closely associated that he became known by the temple's name, Ximing.

The formerly glorious temple was located quite near the city walls. The small, modern reconstruction is miles away. Its exquisite little compound is now occupied by a group of nuns.

To round out the threesome, the next morning I visited Xiaoyan Ta, the "Small Wild Goose Pagoda." Unfortunately, though I was able to get an early-morning glimpse of the pagoda's top, the temple grounds that surrounded it were closed long-term for repair and renovation.

Next stop: Ningxia!

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily November 26, 2012.)

GPS Info:
Note that the map for Ximing Temple looks quite blank. The temple is there in Satellite View; just zoom in and move about 425 meters west and 165 north. It's tiny!



GALLERY

Reconstructed Main Hall at Qinglong Temple, Xi'an
Reconstructed Main Hall at Ximing Temple, Xi'an
Buddhas inside the reconstructed Main Hall at Ximing Temple (postcard above)
Early morning view of the Small Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi'an (postcard below)
BONUS IMAGES: Konghai's Memorial at Qinglong Temple, and the Small Wild Goose Pagoda image above, rendered as vintage postcards

The Konghai (空海) Memorial is dedicated to a Japanese monk also known as Kukai (空海) or Kobo Daishi
(弘法大師), who studied at Qinglong Temple (青龙寺) in Xi'an, Shaanxi (陕西, 西安市), during the Tang Dynasty.
I could not approach the Small Wild Goose Pagoda (小雁塔) at Xiaoyan Temple (小雁寺) in Xi'an,
Shaanxi (陕西, 西安市), because the grounds were closed. Hence this misty morning shot.

Click here to visit the next article in chronological order || Click here to view the trip details

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