Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hanshan Temple

I love Buddhist temples. I love the ochre paint, the smell of the incense, the chanting of the monks and the ringing of the bells. The architecture and the Buddhas are simply wonderful to look at. But best of all, I love wandering around and feeling the unearthly sense they impart. On a horrible day you could sit in the temple and let the world wash away.

Hanshan Temple was first built on the spot in 502 AD during the Liang Dynasty. None of those building survive and what is there today harkens from the Qing. This temple is not like the small one I visited last year in Chongming. This one caters to throngs of tourists and does not impart the same sense of reverence as its rural cousin. This is not to say that it isn’t a wonderful place – it was. It was different.

There were many buildings and many Buddhas. Like the Chinese I elected to stop and do the prayer ritual in front of each one, an act that inspired some surprise and affiliation among the other supplicants. It’s simply a nice thing to do. Guests rubbed the heads of two bronze lions outside the main temple, leaving bright, shiny patches on body otherwise covered with verdigris. Many stood around throwing coins in the air hoping that they would land on the roofs of the buildings, ensuring that their prayers would be answered.

Red candles were burning in the main square and red banners festooned each and every tree. These I assume are prayers. One room contained 100 identical Buddhas sitting peacefully on their thrones. One large Buddha was painted to appear human. The others were gold clad.

Not much more to say other than I feel enriched for having been there.

























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