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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No. 63: The Pagodas of Zhengding, Hebei

This pagoda (塔) at Linji Temple (临济寺), Zhengding, Hebei (河北, 正定县), holds
the remains of Linji (临济), founder of the Linji sect (临济宗) of Chan (=Zen, 禅).
I took an expensive taxi the 20 kilometers from Shijiazhuang to Zhengding. With city walls dating back to 352 A.D., Zhengding had been an important religious and administrative center for over a thousand years.

There are two important schools of Chan (Zen) Buddhism: the Linji (or Rinzai) and the Caodong (or Soto). The founder of the Linji school was Linji Yixuan, and his modest pagoda, first built in 867, still stands in Zhengding. After circumambulating it, I set out to find three other pagodas I had learned of online.

Not far south of Linji Temple is the so-called "Flowery Pagoda" of Guanghui Temple. Dating to the Tang Dynasty, its name refers to the ornaments on its tower. Although they are actually animals, from a distance they resemble a column of flowers.

After seeing the town's reconstructed South Gate, I took a cab the two kilometers (hey, I was tired!) to Lingxiao Pagoda at Tianning Temple. Originally built in 860 during the Tang Dynasty, its top floors are made of wood. As I approached, a little girl sang "You are My Sunshine" for me (at her mom's prompting). Charming!

Finally, I walked to Xumi Pagoda at Kaiyuan Monastery. Like Xumifushou Temple in Chengde, it is named for the mythical Mount Sumeru. Built in 636, it looks more like the pagodas in Xi'an, the Tang capital, than any of the others.

Another taxi back to my hotel, and bags in hand I went to the train station for my trip to Beijing, where I would have to layover on my way to Qingdao. But a year later, I would return to Zhengding.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily July 8, 2013.)

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GALLERY

The Chengling Pagoda at Linji Temple, Zhengding
The Hua Pagoda at Guanghui Temple, Zhengding
Detail of the Hua Pagoda at Guanghui Temple, Zhengding
Lingxiao Pagoda at Tianning Temple, Zhengding
The Xumi Pagoda at Kaiyuan Monastery, Zhengding
BONUS IMAGES: Views of some of the pagodas above, rendered as vintage postcards.

The Hua (Flower) Pagoda (花塔) at Guanghui Temple (广惠寺), Zhengding,
Hebei (河北, 正定县), is covered with these carved animals.
Lingxiao Pagoda (凌霄塔), also called the "Wooden Pagoda" for its appearance, stands
on the site of the former Tianning Temple (天宁寺), Zhengding, Hebei (河北, 正定县).
Xumi Pagoda (须弥塔), on the former site of Kaiyuan Temple (开元寺), Zhengding, Hebei (河北,
正定县). "Xumi" is a partial transliteration of the name of the mythical Mount Sumeru (须弥山).

There are 40 pictures related to Zhengding and its pagodas (some of them identical to these, but with different captions) in a FaceBook album starting here (available to all, even without a FaceBook account).

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