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Sunday, June 5, 2011

No. 46: Huating Temple, Kunming, Yunnan

The mountain behind and the pond (池) of water in front makes the perfect
feng shui (风水) at Huating Temple (华亭寺), Kunming, Yunnan (云南, 昆明市).
Unlike Qiongzhu Temple, Huating Temple is quite easy to get to. Although it is also located in mountains outside of Kunming, it is in the popular Western Hills area, where you can also find the "Dragon Gate" (Long Men), a monument to inveterate Ming-Dynasty traveler Xu Xiake, and other attractions.

Leaving our taxi right in front of the gate, we entered and were immediately faced with a poster-sized image of my all-time favorite Chinese monk, Master Xu Yun. Although I usually imagine him being in Guangdong, I have encountered him in Fuzhou (where he became a monk), Jiangsu (where he trained), and Mount Wutai in Shanxi (where he made pilgrimage), so I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that he rebuilt Huating Temple in 1923.

Founded in 1320, it has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times. What we saw appeared mostly new, and in fact the west compound was being demolished for yet another rebirth.

The main axis of the central compound has just three halls--the Heavenly Kings' Hall, the Main Hall, and the Sutra Repository--but they are exquisite. Old trees and some fine old statuary in the courtyards attest toi the overall age of the foundation.

To one side is a new 500 Arhats Hall, a requisite for any temple hoping to compete with Qiongzhu Temple for visitors. The shiny new gold figures here, however, were decidedly inferior to the Qing period clay figures at Qiongzhu. The hall, however, was magnificent.

Leaving the western gate, we climbed up behind the temple to view the Haihui Pagoda and a strange little subterranean columbarium, a place for storing urns full of cremated remains.

It was a bit harder getting down the mountain, waiting for a tourist bus; but we were soon back in the city center.

[Note: In the Shenzhen Daily series, I made a mistake and placed the meeting with Deru, as well as the visit to Dade Temple, on the next day. These in fact took place on June 5, the day we went to Huating Temple.]

Arriving near Yuantong Temple to eat at a vegetarian restaurant, we ran into an old monk friend of mine, and had dinner at a nearby restaurant. We then took a walk home, stopping on the way at the remaining Twin Pagodas of former Dade Temple. These are now squeezed between a government hall on one side and apartments on the other three, a melancholy remnant of a once-splendid establishment.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily January 28, 2013.)

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GALLERY

The Heavenly Kings Hall at Huating Temple, Kunming, as seen across the pond (postcard above)
The colorful Main Hall at the temple
Ornate ceiling in the new(ish) 500 Arhats Hall
The Haihui Pagoda stands behind the temple
The crowded Twin Pagodas, all that remains of Dade Temple, Kunming
(government building on left, apartments on right)
Another view of one of the pagodas
BONUS IMAGE: The former Dade Temple's Twin Pagodas rendered as a vintage postcard.

The Twin Pagodas (双塔) are all that's left of Dade Temple (大德寺)
in Kunming, Yunnan (云南, 昆明市). They now stand in a tiny courtyard
squeezed between a government hall and an apartment building.

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