Giant Buddha Temple

In Zhangye Huachen International Hotel where me and my friend Anya got a room for free, we met Mr. Lee, local photographer with a dark black Chinese beard.. He was attracted by my beard and came to us to ask if he could touch it.. Maybe some others would feel awkward, but not me.. He touched my beard and said he likes it.. Was it another beard connection?.. I believe so.. Was my beard beautiful? I believe so, because Mr. Lee then asked permission to take photos.. He got his old film camera and together with hotel’s manager came to our room.. When the photo session was over, Mr. Lee said that in the morning he will come to take us for a tour.. We wanted to visit a local Buddhist temple and he offered himself to be our guide.. Next day in the morning we went to visit the temple.. How could we know it’s the Giant Buddha Temple, the largest architectural relic in Gansu Province of the Western Xia (1038-1227) period that houses China’s largest reclining Buddha..

Well, being true, I was hoping to see a real temple with Buddhist monks walking here and there.. Turned out it’s a museum with an entrance fee.. Mr. Lee got the tickets.. And we went to the Giant Buddha..
In the 1st year of Yong An Period during the reign of Chong Zong of Western Xia State (a northwestern tribal state in ancient China) i.e. the 1st year of Yuan Fu Period Zhe Zong’s reign of Northern Song dynasty (AD1098), the emperor’s Buddhist tutor Wei Mie claimed to have heard heavenly music and followed the sound to the place where he dug out a statue of Buddha in the posture of Nirvana.. A temple was built at that place and it was named The Reclining Buddha Temple.. It was said that Emperor Gong Di of Southern Song dynasty converted to Buddhism and moved to live in the temple and got his Buddhist name He Zun after he was dethroned by Mongols who established the Yuan dynasty.. Kublai Khan, 2nd emperor of Yuan dynasty was believed to be born in the temple..

The city of Zhangye lies midway in the Hexi Corridor along the Silk Road.. Giant Buddha temple was a famous landmark.. The great traveler Marco Polo gave a detailed description in his travels. The temple was rebuilt in the 9th year of Yong Le Period (AD1411) of Ming dynasty and a Buddhist administrative office was established here under the jurisdiction of the province.. Throughout its long history the temple was known under different names: Hong Ren (“Widespread Benevolence”), Bao Jue (“Precious Enlightenment”).. And later it became knows as Da Fo Si (大佛寺), Giant Buddha Temple..

The statue of reclining Buddha is really gigantic.. It’s 34,5 meters long and 7,5 meters wide between its two shoulders, with feet of 4 meters and ears of 2 meters.. The reclining posture symbolizes the moment when Sakyamuni Buddha entered parinirvana, i.e. passed away.. As it is described in Mahaparinirvana Sutra of the Pali Canon, at the age of 80 Buddha announced that soon he will leave his earthly body.. It happened in abandoned jungles of Kusinara.. Lying on his right side, Buddha proclaimed his final words and entered the final deathless state..
I didn’t take any photos of the statue as if wasn’t allowed to do in the Giant Buddha hall.. But if you look at the hall (photo below) you can imagine how big the reclining Buddha is..

The Giant Buddha temple has a great number of brick and wood carvings and a rare copy of Tripitaka in its collection.. During the 1411 reconstruction the Emperor Zhuqizeng donated 6000 manuscripts to the library of the temple. In response the provincial governors of Shaanxi and Gansu ordered the creation of gold copies of the Mahaprajina Paramita Sutra.. In 1446, the emperor presented a set of the Tripitaka to the temple, which is now believed to be the only set of this northern version of the Buddhist classic that still exists..

Mr. Lee soon received a call and told us he has to leave for some important meeting.. His friend stayed with us and later took us back to the hotel where we got our backpacks and went to the highway.. Our couchsurfing host in the city of Lanzhou was waiting for us.. We still had about 500 km to hitchhike..

More photos of Giant Buddha Temple in Picasa gallery:


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