¡¾Introduction¡¿ ¡¾Historical¡¿
Ancient Temple ¡ªa Brief Introduction to Chongyuan Temple
 

Originally named Chongxuan Temple and constructed in the second year (AD 503) of the reign of Tianjian of Emperor Liangwudi, Chongyuan Temple was contemporaneous with Hanshan Temple, Lingyan Temple, and Baosheng Temple. Emperor Liangwudi was well-known for ruling the country with Buddhism. All of a sudden, people from different walks of life followed the suit set by the Emperor and a nationwide religious craze resulted. Lu Sengzan, an official who lived 2 li northwest of the Changzhou County seat, saw by chance some auspicious clouds over his official residence. He immediately presented a memorial to Emperor Liangwudi, expressing the wish of converting his residence into a temple and naming it ¡°Chongyun¡±. Emperor Liangwudi gave his consent and approvingly bestowed a plaque entitled ¡°Bounteous Virtue Chongxuan Temple of Great Liang¡± Thus ¡°Chongyun¡± was mistaken for ¡°Chongxuan¡±.

In the second year (AD 842) of the reign of Huichang of Emperor Tangwuzong, the biggest Buddhist havoc in Chinese history broke out unexpectedly. The government launched a brutal persecution against the Buddhist monks. A great deal of temples in urban Suzhou were destroyed. Monks moved out of the city pell-mell. Some built new temples elsewhere. A new Chongyuan Temple came forth at that time in Weiting Town, 30 li away from Suzhou downtown.

Chongyuan Temple was renamed Chengtian Temple in Song Dynasty. In the reign of Xuanhe (AD 1119-1125), under the official ban that the words ¡°tian, sheng, huang, wang¡± could not be applied to the naming of temples and bridges, Chongyuan Temple was again renamed ¡°Nengren Temple¡±. In the reign of Zhishun (AD1330-1333) of Yuan Dynasty, Chongyuan Temple fell into ruin as the result of a fire. In the reign of Zhiyuan (AD1335-1340), Nanchuyue, a monk, came and undertook a reconstrution. The temple, after the reconstruction, took on a new look. In the temple, there were, besides the bronze statue of the Buddha of Infinite Longevity, Shrine of the Grand Pangou Saint, Temple of the Efficacious Goddess, and 10,000-Buddha Tower as well. In Qing Dynasty, ¡°Xuan¡±, a word included in ¡°Xuanye¡±, the name of Emperor Kangxi, was avoided as taboo. Therefore, ¡°Chongxuan¡± was renamed ¡°Chongyuan¡±. Thenceforth, the name of ¡°Chongyuan¡± has been in use till today. Chongyuan Temple was finally destroyed in the 1970s. Famous poets through the ages, such as Bai Juyi, Wei Yingwu, Pi Rixiu, Lu Guimeng, Fan Chengda and so on, have left behind them brilliant verses for the temple.

In November 2003, to further implement the Party's religious policy, build a harmonious socialist society, carry forward the traditional Buddhist culture, and meet Buddhist believers¡¯ religious needs, the government of Jiangsu Province approved the reconstruction of Chongyuan Temple.

On November 17, 2007, Chongyuan Temple reopened ceremoniously. The renewed temple is the fruit of elaborate planning based on the five principles of ¡°scriptural basis, historical tradition, artistic innovation, characteristic convenience, and functional efficacity¡±. The new temple, located at the picturesque Yangcheng Lake peninsula , covers an area of over 300 mu (200,000 ©O). The mid-lake Avalokitesvara Tower and Chongyuan Temple add radiance and beauty to each other, unfolding before one¡¯s eyes a unique and magnificent look of a temple dedicated to Avalokitesvara. A reproduction of its antecedent, the new Chongyuan Temple is one with a complete triad of the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha.

The first view within the sacred precincts which greets the eye is a 200-metre-long avenue for worshiping Buddha.
On the north and south sides of the avenue are stone frescos on which Amitabha¡¯s forty-eight oaths are carved. Along the avenue also stand seven septfoil prayer pillars, on each of which there are relief carvings. Those on the first six pillars are a manifestation of hexaparamita¡ªsix ways of religious cultivation in Buddhism. The seventh pillar displays a scene of Buddha worshipping. The designing idea and architectural style of the septfoil prayer pillars are peculiar to Chongyuan Temple.

At the end of the avenue for worshipping Buddha, there is an imitation ancient city gate. The characters ¡°Chongyuan Temple¡± on the middle gate are written by the defunct Zhao Puchu , a lay Buddhist, president of Buddhist Association of China, vice-chairman of CPPCC , a renowned poet and calligrapher. And the characters ¡°Grand View in the South, Vestiges of Liang Dynasty¡±, on both side gates, are written by Mr. Ji Xianlin, a contemporary master Sinologist and former vice-president of Beijing University.

Chongyuan Temple has a southern exposure. Two stone pillars, inscribed with Usnisa-vijaya-dharani Sutra, are planted in front of the main entrance.

When a visitor entres into Chongyuan Temple, what comes into sight first is the Devaraja Hall, whose horizontal plaque is written by Sha Menghai, a defunct renowned calligrapher. At the centre of the hall sits Maitreya Buddha. At his back Veda Bodhisattva stands, facing north. On the east and west sides are the four devarajas¡ªthe protectors of Buddhism.

To the west of the Devaraja Hall is the Drum-tower, whose horizontal plaque is written by the Right Reverend Jinghui, now vice-president of Buddhist Association of China. The drum hung in the tower has a diametre of 2.19 metres. It is the biggest drum made of leather and bronze cavity in the world.

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To the east of the Devaraja Hall is the Bell Tower, whose horizontal plaque is written by Rev. Xingkong, formerly abbot, now lord dharma of Hanshan Temple. The bell hung in the Bell Tower, about 12 tons in weight, 3.8 metres in height, and 2.19 metres in caliber, is made with modern high-tech. Acoustically imitative of the Tang bell, this bell has a resounding and lingering effect, hence the name ¡°Great Bell in the Tang Fashion¡±.

To the north of the Devaraja Hall is the Life-sparing Pond, over which span three bridges respectively named Nengren Bridge, Wisdom Bridge, and Bliss-and-Merit Bridge. The name of Nengren Bridge is written by Mr. Feng Qiyong, a master Sinologist and expert of Redology. Those of Wisdom Bridge and Bliss-and-Merit Bridge are written by Rev. Qiushuang, abbot of Hanshan Temple and Chongyuan Temple.

To the north of the pond, there is a spacious granite square. On the west side of the square stands the Hall of Samandhabatra Bodhisattva. Its plaque is written by Rev. Weixian, chairman of Chongqing Buddhist Association, vice-chairman of the Consultative Committee of Buddhist Association of China. On the east side of the square, there is the Hall of Manjusri Bodhisattva. Its plaque is written by the Right Reverend Yicheng, president of Buddhist Association of China.

In the centre of the square, there is the Mahavira Hall. Built on a raised platform at the centre of the axis, Mahavira Hall is the main hall in the temple. With a total height of 36 m and a floor space of 2,100©O, the hall is primarily dedicated to the enshrinement of the Three Synchronous Buddhas. And the plaque is written by Zhao Puchu, ex-president of Buddhist Association of China. The plaque ¡°Unsurpassed Cool¡± is written by Master Hongyi, a modern eminent monk. The plaque ¡°For All Sentient Beings¡± is written by Rev. Mingshan, a modern eminent monk. On both flanks of the Three Synchronous Buddhas, the eighteen arhats are enshrined. At the back of the Three Synchronous Buddhas, there are sculptures of the island Avalokitesvara, mainly narrating the story of Sudhana¡¯s visits to 53 masters. The group sculptures of the island Avalokitesvara is a product of the traditional statuary art of bodiless raw lacquer technica. With a length of 25.8 metres, a height of 12.2 metres, and an area of approximately 300 square metres, the sculptural work includes over 150 Buddhist characters, major and minor.

To the north of the Mahavira Hall are two side halls. The west one is the Hall of Ksitigabha Bodhisattva. The plaque of it is written by Rev. Mingxue, abbot of Lingyanshan Temple of Suzhou, vice-president of Buddhist Association of China. The east one is the Hall of Akasagarbha Bodhisattva. Its plaque is written by Rev. Benhuan, a 100-year-old eminent monk and contemporary authority of the Chan sect.

Stepping out of Chongyuan Temple, you will see an archway with the characters ¡°Buddhaland in Water¡±, written by Rev. Mingshan. Beyond the archway is a 19-arch bridge whose name ¡°Ship-of-Mercy Bridge¡± is written by Rev. Jueguang, chairman of Hongkong Buddhist Union. The bridge leads the visitors to Lotus Land. The sidewalls of the basement of Avalokitesvara Tower are built with the traditional technica of wrought copper. As high as 46 metres, the tower is the highest mid-lake Avalokitesvara tower all over the country.

Its plaque is written by Rev. Benhuan. Within the tower, the statue of Avalokitesvara holding a willow twig has a total height of 33 metres, and the height of the main body is 26 metres. It is the highest indoor statue of Avalokitesvara throughout the country. If unfolded, the area of the statue would be 1,160 square metres. Meanwhile, this gold-plated bronze statue is also the heaviest indoor statue of Avalokitesvara all over the country. The whole body is made of bronze which weighs 80 tons with gilding technica. Together with this statue, there are also 9,999 33-cm-height statuettes of Avalokitesvara, products of the same furnace.

A vegetarian restaurant, named ¡°Aroma Kitchen¡±, is located to the east of the Mahavira Hall. The first floor of the restaurant, with a seating capacity of 180, offers vegetarian noodles, vegetarian refreshments, and vegetarian dinners. On the second floor, there are 12 boxes, each having a seating capacity ranging from 8 to10.It is at the visitors¡¯ disposal whether to order dishes, choose a set meal, or have an informal dinner. There are also 48 guestchambers located to the east of the Devaraja Hall. To the west of the Devaraja Hall is the Shop of Buddhist Articles. There are a great diversity of fine consecrated Buddhist artifacts. We extend a warm welcome to all Buddhists and visitors and are ready to provide a wholehearted service!

 
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