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July 15, 2015

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Home » City specials » Hangzhou

Exploring lesser-known temples, pagodas

HANGZHOU has sometimes been referred to as “Southeast Buddhist Country” due to its many temples and devout people.

Centuries ago all Hangzhou families were required to visit temples on auspicious lunar days to burn incense sticks. It was a holy deed to show respect to Buddha and to pray for good luck for the family.

Temples are scattered about in the hills of western Hangzhou. Pilgrims from Zhejiang and other provinces frequent theses places of worship regularly. While Lingyin and Tianzhu temples are the most famous, the city also boasts several low-profile ones of historical importance.

Pagodas are another by-product of Hangzhou’s Buddhist leanings. The Leifeng and Liuhe pagodas, two of the most famous in the country, have become attractive scenic spots that lure tourists from around the world.

Shanghai Daily introduces a pagoda and two temples that are characterized by traditional Buddhist architecture and fascinating histories. These places are less crowded than their more famous counterparts, giving visitors a chance to linger and soak in the atmosphere.

Longxing Temple

Chinese began to engrave Buddhist scriptures on stone pillars during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) in order to pass them on to future generations. Buddhist pillars that combine artistic and religious values have since became common around the country.

In Zhejiang Province, the oldest known Buddhist pillar is in Hangzhou although most locals don’t even know of its existence.

It is located at the intersection of Yan’an and Fengqi roads. Formerly it belonged to Longxing Temple, at one time the city’s biggest temple. However, the temple’s importance was gradually replaced by Lingyin and Xiangji temples and Longxing was torn down in the 1950s, with only the pillar remaining intact.

This octagonal pillar was carved with auspicious clouds, Buddhist scriptures, Buddha and Bodhisattvas. The top features traditional upturned eaves. On the bottom, eight Arhants held up the pillar. According to historical materials, the scripture was written by noted Tang Dynasty calligrapher Hu Jiliang.

The government rebuilt the temple on the original site (intersection of Yan’an and Fengqi roads) and a traditional Chinese-style pavilion was built to protect the pillar.

Lianhua Temple

Historical document shows that its establishment could date to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It had less than 10 Buddhist nuns at the time since it was a small temple.

During the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945) it was occupied by Japanese soldiers and the Buddhist nuns were forced to leave. The temple was damaged during this period and totally ruined during the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976).

In 1986, a Buddhist named Han Genghua accidentally fell into a river, but survived. As a devout Buddhist, she believed she had been blessed by Buddha. Han then decided to restore Lianhua Temple in gratitude.

She used her life savings to rebuild the temple, which soon began attracting more worshippers. Ten years later, the government reopened the temple to the public.

Today, the hillside temple at the intersection of Qiantang, Fuchun and Puyang rivers draws numerous believers every day.

Anle and Shugong pagodas

In Yuhang District, two pagodas sit opposite each other across the Tiaoxi River. They are important landmarks that act like a compass for locals in the area. However, few people outside the area know of them.

Anle Pagoda was erected in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (AD 907-979) period when Emperor Qian Liu triumphed in a battle against Huang Chao. At the time, Qian’s son was recuperating in Yuhang. In order to bless his son and spread the idea of “giving peace to the people,” Qian presided over the construction of Anle Pagoda.

This five-story pagoda stood for more than 700 years without being restored once. But in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) it nearly toppled over and a local family contributed money to restore it.

The restored version adhered to its original plain design with white walls and upturned eaves. The family added two floors to the former structure, turning it into the tallest building in the area at the time. Locals still use it to tell the direction.

When Anle Pagoda was being restored, Shugong Pagoda was built nearby. It’s made with bricks and includes an attic. Both pagodas are similar in that they lack fine details and decoration.


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