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Saturday, October 22, 2011

No. 70: Dizang Temple, Fuzhou, Fujian

This was the first of several odd, barrel-shaped stupas (塔) I saw near Fuzhou, Fujian
(福建, 福州市). This one is at Dizang Temple (地藏寺), one of the oldest in Fujian.
My next trip took me to the area of Fuzhou in northern Fujian Province. From the airport, I took a bus into town and a taxi straight to my first temple--even before checking in at the hotel!

Dizang Temple was named for Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva, who promised to save all six kinds of beings from their respective levels of hell. Typically for a temple dedicated to this "savior of the dead," many of the halls in this small temple functioned as a mausoleum.

The temple is squeezed into an alleyway in the eastern part of the city. My taxi driver was unable to approach it (or even find it); he stopped for directions and finally turned me loose on foot.

Why, then, is this cramped, obscure place on the list of 142 Key Temples? Simply, it's said to be the oldest in Fuzhou and one of the oldest in Fujian, having been founded in 527 C.E.

The temple introduced me to two traits I saw in other temples in the region: an odd, rain-barrel-shaped stupa (memorial pagoda), and an incredibly ornate ceiling, this one over the statue of Dizang.

My visit was at the end of the day; there was a chanting service in the main hall, and while I waited for it to end so I could take a peek, I had one of those encounters that makes these trips worthwhile.

As I sat, a tiny ancient nun, barely four feet tall, came shuffling past. Encountering three low steps, she looked around hesitantly and was about to leave when I jumped up and offered my hand. To my surprise, she accepted it, and "thanked" and "Buddha bless you'd" me repeatedly. She had incense marks burned into her scalp, indicating she was not just someone seeking shelter in her old age, but was a true devotee of the Buddha, marked for life in her early years.

As we said goodbye, the service finished and a middle-aged nun sternly directed me to the closing gate. I had no time to look inside the main hall, but my simple encounter was enough, and I lugged my bags from there the kilometer or so to my hotel.

(An edited version of this article was published in the Shenzhen Daily August 26, 2013.)

GPS Info:
  • 26.09243, 119.31948



Map:




GALLERY

The narrow road in front of the gate at Dizang Temple, Fuzhou
The temple's cramped courtyard (Main Hall stairs to left, Heavenly Kings' Hall to right)
Statue of Dizang Bodhisattva, namesake of the temple. (Note the ornate ceiling.)
An odd, barrel-shaped stupa in back of the Main Hall (postcard above)

There are seven pictures related to this temple (some of them identical to these, but with different captions) in a FaceBook album starting here (available to all, even without a FaceBook account).

Click here to visit the next article in chronological order || Click here to view the trip details

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