Saturday, April 25, 2009

Trip to Tanzhe Temple

Hello from Beijing! In China the first and the fifteenth of the lunar month are peaks for burning incense and other activities at the temples. On my first Saturday here in Beijing it was the first day of the forth lunar month. I went on a trip to Tanzhe Temple on the western outskirts of Beijing.

More photos at Tanzhesi

Tanzhe Temple is one of the largest and oldest temples in Beijing. The temple was founded in 307 CE in the Western Jin dynasty. This is over six hundred years before Beijing became a major city, when the Liao dynasty set up their second capital in Beijing in 938.

Traveling on public transport outside of the center of Beijing is a fun experience although it took me about three hours to get to the temple using by a combination of bicycle, subway, and bus. You can see all walks of life here on the way to and at the temple from regular Beijing folk, locals from the countryside, and beggars and you can also see all kinds of transportation from BMW's, Japanese passenger cars, flat bed tricycles, to horse driven carts. One of my favorites are the locals selling incense, and other stuff by the side of the road. There is an especially dense concentration of this outside Tanzhe Temple. The diversity reminds me of the meaning of joining palms, of the six realms all coming together.

The temple is named after the Dragon Pool (Tan) and mulberry trees (zhe) in the grounds. Emperor Kangxi, who reigned 1661 to 1722 as the second emperor of the Qing dynasty, visited the temple and personally wrote the calligraphy for 《天王殿》(Hall of the Heavenly Kings) and and elsewhere in the Temple. The Hall of the Heavenly Kings is the first hall in a series along the central axis of the temple. Behind the Hall of the Heavenly Kings is the Hall of the Great Heroes 《大雄宝殿》, featuring the same name as the main hall at Hsi Lai Temple. The Pilu Chamber《毗卢阁》features the buddhas of the five directions (五方佛), which is similar the main hall at Foguang Nan Tian Temple in Australia. In the middle is Vairocana Buddha, in the east is Aksobhya Buddha, in the south is Ratnasambhava Buddha, in the west is Amitabha Buddha, and in the north is Amoghasiddhi Buddha.

In 1997 Tanzhe Temple was permitted to once again carry out religious activities.

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