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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No. 55: Dabei Temple, Tianjin

Gate to the so-called "West Temple," (西院) a separate
compound inside Dabei Temple (大悲院) in Tianjin (天津)
I wanted to see a temple in Tianjin, so the businessman who paid for my trip to Beijing gave me a car to take me there. The two-hour drive was relaxing, but because we zipped in and out, I didn't get to see much of that great city by Bohai Gulf on the Yellow Sea.

Dabei ("Great Compassion") Temple is renowned for its unusual layout. While most temples have a central axis, starting with the front gate and proceeding through a series of halls, Dabei Temple has two such axes. These are known as the "East Temple" and "West Temple."

The West Temple is the older, having been built in 1658 at the beginning of the Qing Dynasty. Rebuilt several times, it is much smaller, humbler, and more atmospheric than the grand, gaudy East Temple.

The East Temple was built in the 1940s by the Tianjin native monk Tanxu, who also built or restored several temples in the old capital of Xi'an, China's northeastern region, and Qingdao throughout much of the 20th century. A recently-added area of the temple contains a hall dedicated to Tanxu.

That new area with several large buildings is west of the West Temple, so the sweet old compound is now lost amongst the newer, bigger buildings, of which it constitutes the physical and spiritual heart.

The temple's name honors a large statue of Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. The current statue is a 1980s restoration of a much older one. It has 24 arms and stands in its own hall.

The temple is just a few steps from the Tianjin Eye, a 120-meter Ferris wheel built on a bridge over the nearby Hai River.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily April 23, 2013.)

GPS Info:
  • 39.15495, 117.18962



Main gate into Dabei Temple, Tianjin
Courtyard in the newer East Temple compound
Gateway into the older West Temple compound (postcard above)
Courtyard with the Tianjin Eye beyond

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