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Lingyin Temple

An Introduction to Lingyin Temple

Lingyin Temple, located on the west bank of the famous West Lake in Hangzhou city, Zhejiang province, was one of the most popular scenic spots in Hangzhou.

The presence of a temple on this site can be traced back to the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317 - 420AD). According to local legend, Huili an Indian monk came to the area where he was inspired by the spiritual nature of the scenery to be found here. To his mind this had to be a dwelling of the Immortals and so he gave the temple a name "Lingyin (Temple of the Soul's Retreat). The Chinese name is translated into English as either "Temple of the Soul's Retreat' or 'Temple of Inspired Seclusion' for the setting has a quiet and beautiful grandeur that encourages a feeling of peace and for contemplation.

It prospered and flourished during the Five Dynasties Period (907-960) when there were 9 buildings, 18 towers, 72 halls with 1,300 rooms and more than 3,000 monks. Over history, the temple has been damaged and undergone renovation several times. It has recently been rebuilt in its original style.

In front of the Lingyin Temple is the Hall of the Heavenly King; at the center of the hall sit statue of the Buddha of Maitreya with a smiling face and a bare belly. The 33.6 meters Hall of the Great Hero is a single-storied structure with three overlapping double layered eaves. After being completely repaired in 1954, the hall was changed to the present structure, made entirely of steel and concrete, and the great hall made spacious, imposing and grand. At the centre of the Hall of the Great Hero is a 19.6 meter’s high figure of magnificent Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism. These palace, pavilion, stone pagoda, and figures of the Buddha in Ling Yin Temple have great significance in researching the history of Buddhism, the Chinese art of building, precious Chinese cultural relics.

Lingyin Temple is an important Buddhist temple in the region. It houses a large collection of Buddhist treasures and relics which are significant in the development of Buddhism in the region. The temple is now very popular among tourists and pilgrims, seeing thousands of worshipers per day during peak season. In 1961 the temple was listed for protection as a key provincial historical and cultural site and is considered a leading centre for research relative to Chinese Buddhist culture.

Hall of the Heavenly Kings
Upon entering the Hall of the Heavenly King, tourists' eyes will be drawn to the delicately painted ceiling decorated with phoenixes and dragons. Images of the Four Heavenly Kings stand upon either side of the Maitreya, a laughing Buddha with a huge belly.

The front hall, and former entrance, is the huge Hall of the Heavenly Kings. This hall is a huge double-eaved building that is as large as or larger than the main hall at many temples, at least 60 feet tall. The principle Buddha here is Maitreya or Milefo, the Laughing Buddha. He faces the front of the hall to the south to greet visitors who enter the compound. To the left and right are the four Deva Kings. These statues stand 30 to 40 feet tall and are newly painted. It is not clear if they are new or newly restored.

Mahavira Hall
On passing through this hall and crossing the courtyard beyond, tourists then enter the Mahavira Hall, which is seven rooms wide, five rooms deep and single storey construction. The double eaved roof soars to a pinnacle of 33.6 meters (110 feet) making it probably the highest single storey buildings to be found in China.

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