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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EXTRA: Haizhuang Temple, Guangzhou, Guangdong

The Memorial Hall (功德堂) is new, but Haizhuang Temple (海幢寺), Guangzhou,
Guangdong (广东,广州市), is ancient, and has been destroyed and rebuilt many times.
Beautiful Haizhuang Temple is located on the south side of the Pearl River (as it flows east-west across Guangzhou). The park-like setting is no accident. Originally, the area was a private garden. Several hundred years ago it was given over for use as a temple.

Then, in 1932, it was secularized and opened as a park for the public. At one point, an amusement park was installed; I like to imagine monks riding the bumper cars there!

Since then it has had ups and downs, but in 1993 it was again turned over to the Buddhist establishment. Many of the buildings and statues are new, but the ancient trees bear witness to the temple's history.

Entering by the front gate, one is greeted by very dynamic statues of the guardians Heng and Ha, each with only one foot firmly on the ground. To the left is a reception room and library. Steles line the left side of the courtyard, and small halls the right, including one dedicated to Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan (Zen). This figure will be found at most Buddhist temples in and around Guangzhou, which is not far from his birthplace. Dead ahead are the "Free Life Ponds," where devotees release animals from captivity.

Beyond that are the Hall of Heavenly Kings, main hall, and the rear hall, as are found in many temples.

But interspersed between these edifices are many unusual and attractive features. For example, next to the Hall of the Heavenly Kings is the so-called "Blessing Tree," festooned with red ribbons inscribed with the wishes of visitors.

Behind the same hall is a statue of Guanyin standing in a pond, and next to that is the newly-made but attractive Haihui Pagoda, decorated with images of the Laughing Buddha. In its own courtyard off to the left is a stupa with the Four Great Bodhisattvas on its four faces.

Between the main hall and the rear hall are an Iron Pagoda, and a truly ancient banyan tree; I doubt three people could get their arms around its trunk!

Near the back gate are halls used for lectures and the recitation of sutras, signs that pure Buddhism is back and thriving in this park-like setting.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily December 31, 2012.)

GPS Info:
  • 23.10603, 113.25835



Map:




GALLERY

The guardian named Heng, with one foot off
the ground, at Haizhuang Temple, Guangzhou
The "Blessing Tree" is decorated with people's wishes
Guanyin stands in a pond, with the Haihui Pagoda behind
The Haihui Pagoda
This marble stupa has the Four Great Bodhisattvas on its sides
A new iron pagoda behind the main hall

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