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Friday, November 19, 2010

No. 44: Liurong Temple, Guangzhou, Guangdong

Remaining ancient banyan trees (榕) in a side courtyard at Liurong
("Six Banyan Tree") Temple (六榕寺), Guangzhou, Guangdong (广东, 广州市).
The next temple on my itinerary was a little closer to home. In fact, Liurong ("Six Banyan Tree") Temple is the closest of the 142 to my home in Shenzhen. (Hongfa Temple had not been built when the list was made in 1983.)

Founded in 537 C.E., the temple has undergone numerous name changes. The current name was bestowed by the great poet and statesman Su Dongpo who was struck by the temple's trees on a visit during the Northern Song Dynasty.

While only a few of the eponymous trees survive, the temple itself is a leafy oasis in the middle of the province's busy capital of Guangzhou. And holding center place is something downright "flowery": the "Hua Ta" or "Flower Pagoda," so-called because the ornate shape of its roof resembles the petals of a flower.

Unusually for most Chinese temples, the pagoda stands in the main courtyard, directly in front of the main hall. Many Buddhist temples were originally simple compounds around a pagoda. Although the pagoda, like the temple, has been rebuilt several times, it retains this ancient position.

In contrast to most Chinese Buddhist temples, which face south, Liurong Temple faces east. [I think I read somewhere that it used to face south, but for some reason it was turned.] To the south of the main compound is a secondary compound with a hall dedicated to Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan (Zen), as well as several memorial halls and a dining hall. A much smaller courtyard north of the main hall holds a bronze Buddha from Thailand given to the temple in 1985. The same quiet courtyard holds a statue of Su Dongpo, who gave the temple its name.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily December 10, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • 23.12825, 113.26011



Map:




GALLERY

One of the remaining banyan trees that lent its name to Liurong Temple, Guangzhou
The Flower Pagoda stands immediately in front of the main hall
A wider view of the "Flower Pagoda"
Three colossal 17th-century bronze Buddhas grace the altar inside the main hall
A statue of Su Dongpo, who was impressed by the banyan trees
A bronze Buddha given to the temple by Thailand in 1985
Interior of the hall dedicated to Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan

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