Fayuan Temple

Today, Jennifer and I journeyed to Fayuan Temple. Fayuan Temple is oldest Buddhist Temple in Beijing. It was built during the Tang Dynasty around year 645. It was originally build as a temple to mourn those lost in battle. Now it is not only a temple but it is also the location for the China Buddhism Institution and China Buddhism Library and Relic Center. A significant and important venue for nurturing young monks and Buddhism research.

Our journey began after getting off the subway. Apple Maps took us on a detour path which lead us wandering the small streets in this section of Beijing. I wish I could say this was the friendly part of town but it wasn’t. We felt like tourist who were not where they should be. Not necessarily scary, but uneasy because when we pass by people they didn’t nod or smile they just looked at us with more emotionless faces. We just put on the “We know what we are doing look” and kept on walking and admiring. It gave us a perspective we had not seen before, so it wasn’t a bad thing, just a bit uncomfortable.

Finally after we wandered and wandered a bit we got our barrings and found the temple. It didn’t cost to enter, so we just tiptoed our way in and tried to explore and see what was to be uncovered.

These welcomed us at the gate.

To be honest, we don’t fully understand what we saw at the temple. Nothing was written in English, because it isn’t here for tourism. Its an active learning center for Buddhism. Since neither of us are Buddhist or Chinese, we soaked in as much as we could through our eyes. I will do the best explaining what I saw and if I think I know the meaning that behind it (to the best of my knowledge)

Incense burning and prayer

There were around four courtyards in this temple area. The courtyard had an incense alter. You would bring incense sticks and light it by the fire to the right or left and then place it into the ornate rectangular piece and then pray. While we were there we witness about 6 people partake in this ritual.

They say making an incense offering before your daily chanting or meditation practice is a good way to focus your attention and create a pure space for your practice.

After the incense offering we followed some of the people into a temple, I think called the Hall of Heavenly kings. There were many people meditating and studying within this temple so we stopped and soaked in its beauty. I didn’t take the best photos because I didn’t want to interrupt their rituals but here are a few I did take:

Inside the hall enshrines the famous Great Buddha (Vairocana), the Bodhisattva of Wisdom (Buddha Manjusri) and the Bodhisattva of Universal Virtue (Buddha Samantabhadra).
There were Eighteen Arhats-The original 18 followers of Buddha who followed the Noble
Eight-fold Path and attained the four stages of enlightenment. They are said to have reached the state of Nirvana and are free of worldly cravings.
On the backside there was this shrine. People were praying at it. I don’t know the significance but the wall painting on the back was exquisite.

In front of one of Hall, I think the forth one was a large stone bowl. Its carvings were of detailed. The original jade bowl was made under the order of Kublai (1215-1294) to reward ministers and soldiers. It sat in a place of honor on this pedestal until Emperor Quianlong wanted to regard it as a national treasure and had it removed and relocated. The pedestal remained. The Quianlong orders a stone replica be made. It is the only one he had made and it now sits on the original pedestal. On this stone bowl are carved pictures of the seawater, rivers, dragons, horses and others, stunning and exquisite.

Stone Bowl outside Pilu Hall

Inside another hall called, Pilu Hall, there is a statue of Five-Direction Buddha with three stages. On the top of the statue is the Pilu Buddha. In the middle is the Buddha of four directions (east, west, north and south). On the bottom, there is the Lotus Base of one thousand leaves, with a small Buddha statue on each of the leaf. The whole statue formed a sight that Pilu Buddha is surrounded by a thousand of Buddhas. This was another area of great prayer as there were many praying to this statue.

5 Direction Buddha

We explored the rest of the temple we learned more about the history and saw monks going about their day. Here are a few more photos of different things we saw.

Ancient Chinese writings were written in vertical columns going from right to left because they used symbols instead of letters to represent words
Buddha Fish Bella-Calls Monks to Prayer
They had ancient relics on display. (Potty-bottle Statue)
Pottery Statue of Sitting Buddha of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), ^Pottery-bottle Statue of Buddha of the Eastern Wu Dynasty (229-280), Stone Statue of Buddha of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and Steel-cast Statue of Kwan-yin, etc. They are all rare cultural relics. They were behind glass so the reflection just ruins the beauty but it was quite fascinating to see.

There were six stone steles of the Ming and Qing dynasties that are erected in front of the hall, which record the temple’s construction process.
Entrance to room for an area of study for the monks

The last photo is one of my favorites. As I was walking along I saw that there were new buds forming on the trees. First signs of spring!! Greenery and flower were coming. Yay! So I was taking some photos of the first buds when I turned around to see one of the Buddhist Monks doing the same thing. It took us back to see a monk using a smart phone but it sure made us smile too! Spring is exciting for everyone.

One of my favorite photos.

It was a wonderful day. I am learning so much about the culture we are living in. Walking around this ancient Buddhist temple, which is still being used for study was magnificent. You once again could sense the history.


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