Chinese Buddhism's birthplace remains a place of pilgrimage

Updated: 2016-01-11 08:03

By Xu Lin(China Daily)

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Chinese Buddhism's birthplace remains a place of pilgrimage

A Buddhist burns joss sticks to worship at Guoqing Temple.[Photo provided to China Daily]

A pair of lions perched on marble orbs rather than blocks portray traditional gender roles. The male clamps its claws into an embroidered ball, symbolizing dominance, while the female frolics with a cub, epitomizing nurturing.

The main complex of the temple was rebuilt in 1734, under orders from Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperor Yongzheng. The temple boasts many precious historical relics, such as ancient Buddha statues and 18 arhats carved from golden-thread Chinese cedar.

The temple is so integral to Tiantai Buddhism that two pits, ground out by the knees of so many pious believers, pock mark the stone floor of a main hall. The hall enshrines a rotund Maitreya in front of a bronze likeness of the temple guardian, Wei Tuo. (But you have to remove a cushion to see the dimples.)

About 20 kilometers away from the temple is the 6.5-square-kilometer Shiliang Scenic Area. It features streams and waterfalls gushing from granite landforms.

The first pages of the travelogue by ancient China's Indiana Jones-explorer Xu Xiake-begin with the Tiantai Mountains and the surrounding terrain.

The Shiliang Flying Waterfall that erupts from a precipice near the range astonished the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) sojourner, who recorded three decades of discoveries on the road in Xu Xiake's Travels.