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Buddhist grandeur - Nanputuo Temple

Updated: 05 Jun 2007
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Whether you are a devout Buddhist or just a tourist wanting to absorb some culture and spirituality, Nanputuo Temple is a sight to behold,

 

Sprawling up the Five Old Men Mountains next to Xiamen University, resplendent in golden Buddha statues and dragons, Nanputuo Temple is one of the highlights of any visit to Xiamen. Every year thousands of people flock to the temple to climb to the lofty lookout point, to throw coins into wishing well pools and - even - to worship. Yet the vast majority of these people have no idea that the buildings they face are not the original temple structures, but rather a more modern architectural concoction.

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A close look at the foundations of the buildings shows that the original temple was founded during the latter years of the Tang Dynasty (about 1,200 years ago). At this time, the main building was the beautiful Sizhou Pagoda. It was destroyed during the Ming Dynasty and the temple was left abandoned until the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing dynasty (1662-1722), during which time it began to grow again.

 

The twentieth century saw a period of swift modernisation of Nanputuo. This began in 1924 when the head of the monastery set in place new regulations on the governance of the temple, in an attempt to bring it into the modern world. In particular, this involved giving the resident monks a greater say in the affairs of the monastery. This modernising trend was continued in 1925 with the founding of Nanputuo's South Fujian Buddhist institute, which now educates over 100 undergraduates a year.

 

During the period 1966-1978, after recovering from a serious termite invasion, the temple went into a period of decline. Happily, the 1980s saw the start of some major renovations, and in the present day, Nanputuo has regained its place as a centre of Buddhist teaching with a library of 10,000 important Buddhist scriptures. The temple is also once again an important place of pilgrimage. The evidence of this can be seen in the nests of votive offerings - usually little statues - brought by the pilgrims and scattered over the side of the mountain. The temple's wealth means that it can offer both food and housing to weary pilgrims when they reach the end of their journeys.

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Today's temple is a wonderful place to spend some time whether you are a weary pilgrim, tourist or resident. Gourmands and vegetarians would do well to stop in at the famed restaurant inside the temple itself for some fabulous vegetarian food. However, if you are feeling spry, the climb to the top of the mountain is glorious. You can even continue over into the botanical gardens on the other side of the mountain, although you should beware - there is a ticket booth for the gardens placed at the top, so sneaking over is now a bit harder if you don't want to pay the whopping 40RMB entry fee. Those less energetic souls with an interest in Buddhism, buildings, or photography can relish a stroll through the temple itself, whilst those of a lazier bent may enjoy chatting over a tea ceremony by the lake and waving at the more active types at the top of the mountain! Kate Nicholls.

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SOURCE: WHATSONXIAMEN

 

By Andrea See

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