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Sunday, July 10, 2011

No. 52: Guangji Temple, Beijing

These steles (石碑) stand in front of a hall (殿) at Guangji Temple (广济寺), Beijing (北京)
Although it is the 52nd temple I have visited on my list of China's 142 key Buddhist temples, Beijing's Guangji ("Spreading Relief") Temple is perhaps not coincidentally the first one on the list itself. Built in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), today it houses the Buddhist Association of China.

Since 1953, this group (also called the "CBA" for Chinese Buddhist Association), in cooperation with the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA), has provided supervision over China's Buddhist temples and the monks and nuns who inhabit them.

In addition to the several prominent monks who have headed the association, for 20 of its 60 years the CBA was presided over by the eminent layman Zhao Puchu, whose image I have seen in many of the temples I've visited. The late abbot of Shenzhen's Hongfa Temple, Master Ben Huan, was honorary president of the CBA during the last years of his life.

Like most of Beijing's urban temples, Guangji provides an oasis in the midst of the city's activities. Once you have entered the street gate, a long parking area (with the CBA offices and a gift shop along the side, as well as the bell and drum towers) leads to the Heavenly Kings' Hall. Inside the grounds, the serenity is palpable, even on a busy Sunday in summer.

The main Buddha hall is surprisingly small for such an important temple, but it holds exquisite statues of the Eighteen Arhats, enlightened disciples of the Buddha.

Guangji Temple truly lives up to its importance as the first on the list of the key Buddhist temples in China.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily April 1, 2013.)

GPS Info:
  • 39.92429, 116.37235



Map:




GALLERY

he Heavenly Kings' Hall at the end of the parking area at Guangji Temple, Beijing
The surprisingly small Main Hall (postcard above)
A pleasant side courtyard at the temple

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