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Guoqing Temple

Updated: 2017-07-06T00:12Z
Guoqing Temple
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The Guoqing Monastery.
Guoqing Temple is located in Zhejiang
Guoqing Temple
Shown within Zhejiang
Basic information
Geographic coordinates29°10′23″N 121°02′33″E / 29.173141°N 121.042594°E / 29.173141; 121.042594Coordinates: 29°10′23″N 121°02′33″E / 29.173141°N 121.042594°E / 29.173141; 121.042594
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Year consecrated598

The Guoqing Temple (simplified Chinese: 国清寺; traditional Chinese: 國清寺; pinyin: Guóqīng sì; Wade–Giles: Kuo-ch'ing Ssu) is a Buddhist temple on Mount Tiantai, in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, China. Originally built in 598 during the Sui Dynasty, and renovated during the reign of the Qing Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1722–1735), the temple is located roughly 220 kilometres (140 mi) from the city of Hangzhou. It was the initial site for the creation of the Tiantai school of Mahayana Buddhism, founded by Zhiyi (538–597 AD). The temple covers an area of some 23,000 m2 (250,000 sq ft) and features 600 rooms in a total of 14 different halls, including the Grand Hall of Sakyamuni, the Hall of Five Hundred Arhats and the Hall of Monk Jigong. The exterior of the building features Chinese pagodas such as the Sui Pagoda, the Seven Buddha Pagoda, and the Memorial Pagoda of Monk Yi Xing (683–727 AD).


In 598, according to Master Zhizhe's last wish, the ruler of Sui dynasty (581–618) of China built Guoqing Temple on Mount Tiantai. Tiantai sect is the first Chinese Buddhist sect evolved from the original Buddhism after it was spread to China. Its founder Master Zhizhe lived on Mount Tiantai in Zhejiang for long hence the name Tiantai sect.

In the Tang dynasty (618–907) of China, a large number of Japanese diplomats to the Tang dynasty came to China. In the 2nd year of Zhenyuan Period, namely AD 804, Japanese eminent monk Saichō came to the Tang Empire together with the diplomats. He learned Tiantai sect in Guoqing Temple on Mount Tiantai introduced by Lu Chun, prefectural governor of Ningbo, Zhejiang. One year later, Saicho returned Japan. Since then, Guoqing Temple became the cradle of Tiantai sect in Japan.

Renovation of Guoqing Temple in the PRC era

In 1972, in order to restore Japan - China diplomatic relations, Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka paid a visit to China, Chinese government attached great importance to it and made proper arrangement.[1]

During Kakuei Tanaka's visit to China, he proposed a personal request to Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. Kakuei Tanaka wanted to worship at the Guoqing Temple because it was the cradle of the Tendai Buddhism in Japan. Kakuei Tanaka's mother was a devout follower of Tendai. Before he visited China, his mother told him to worship in Guoqing Temple for her.[1]

After Kakuei Tanaka proposed the request of going to Guoqing Temple, Zhou Enlai inquired the relevant departments of Zhejiang province. However, he was told that Guoqing Temple couldn't receive the Japanese guest temporarily as it had.not been repaired for many years. Zhou Enlai had to tell he euphemistically that Guoqing Temple was being renovated and after the renovation, he would invite him to worship. Though Kakuei Tanaka felt it was a pity, he was rather happy with the gracious invitation of China.[1]

After Kakuei Tanaka returned Japan, Zhou Enlai asked to start the plan for renovating Guoqing Temple immediately, requiring that Guoqing Temple must be renovated in 1975. After receiving the notification document, the government of Tiantai County immediately established the Tiantai County Guoqing Temple Restoration Committee.[1]

Because of the Cultural Revolution, ancient buildings inside Guoqing Temple were for long years out of repair. A lot of original Buddha statues and musical instruments of the temple had been lost in the folk. At that time, the Restoration Committee first thought of recovering the cultural relics of the temple which had been lost in the folk as soon as possible. The Restoration Committee gave notice to all units and people of the whole county to collect cultural relics of Guoqing Temple. The Restoration Committee got a clue very soon. The Five Hundred Arhat statues of Guoqing Temple were stored in a farm implements factory of Tiantai County. They moved the statues out one by one together with the workers. Some were incomplete, some had no head, some had no hands, and same had no feet. There were 323 Arhat statues in total. They also found a large bronze musical stone (铜磬) with inscriptions in another storehouse. It was cast in the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). On the musical stone is the inscriptions cast back then. In addition, the horizontal inscribed boards (匾额) were also founded in a cotton textile mill in Tiantai County.[1]

Although the workers found a part of original cultural relics, the quantity was too small. The Restoration Committee requested the State Council to select and transport some Buddha statues and vessels for sacrifice to Guoqing Temple. The State Council agreed. The workers of Restoration Committee rushed to Beijing and went to the Palace Museum, Yonghe Lamasery, Beijing Cultural Relics Management Office and other units of cultural relics to select Buddha statues and musical instruments. A total of 109 cultural relics were selected and transported to Guoqing Temple, which were loaded by 12 big cases.[1]

As of batch of cultural relics was in great number, and more of them were huge Buddha statues, the parties concerned decided to transport this batch of the precious cultural relics by train. The railway sector arranged two specialized train carriages to transport the cultural relics. Among the cultural relics, the hugest and heariest one was the statue of Sakyamuni of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), it is a heavy as 13 tonnes. The workers transferreda heavy duty crane to load the statue. The two train carriages loaded with precious cultural relics drove directly to Hangzhou without stop on the way. When the statue of Sakyamuni arrived in Guoqing Temple. After careful deployment,.the Restoration Committee invited water conservancy workers who were working nearly to help. With the joint effort of workers of Committee for Restoration of Guoqing Temple, the statue of Sakyamuni of the Ming dynasty finally sat in the middle of the Mahavira Hall, with 18 Arhat statues put in order on the two sides of the hall. The large bronze tripod of Qianlong Period of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) stood right in front of the Mahavira Hall. Two white marble lions were put before the gate of Guoqing Temple.[1]

In addition to looking for Buddhist relics, the workers had to restore the dangered cultural relics of Guoqing Temple. The Restoration Committee sent people to look for skilful craftsmen and finally invited 78 folk craftsmen to join the restoration of Guoqing Temple. When restoring the horizontal inscribed boards and couplets on the pillar of Guoqing Temple. Some characters on these horizontal inscribed boards and couplets on the pillar had been lost or damaged.[1]

In order to restore these incomplete cultural relics, the craftsmen used a unique skill, namely "dried lacquer and ramie process" (干漆夹苎). The craftsmen used 13 raw materials, such as raw lacquer, ramie, colorful stone powder and tung oil to wrap and glue the linen and paint and then polished repeatedly. Then, they painted auxiliary materials, such as cinnabar, at last, they pasted gold foil.[1]

After careful calculation and strict budgeting, the craftsmen figured out that 2.5 kilogram gold was needed to decorate and embellish relics like Buddha statues. Gold was then a scarce resource. However, for the renovation of Guoqing Temple, the relevant department approved of this request at last.[1]

In addition to renovating and repairing the original cultural relics, workers of Restoration Committee elaborately designed some sculptures and items inside the temple. Two mysterious Buddha's warrior attendants inside Guoqing Temple were reshaped by the craftsmen. Their shaped are unique in China. Besides, the altar (供桌) in the Mahavira Hall were also built by the craftsmen. They added traditional Buddhist elements to the design, and strove for perfection in the depiction of details. They spent over 300 labor-hours on the carve patterns on the altar.[1]

In the southwest corner of Guoqing Temple, there is a pond for freeing life. Beside the pond are the "Yuleguo (fish's paradise)" stele (鱼乐国) inscribed by Dong Qichang, a famous calligrapher of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), and an imperial monument from the Qianlong Emperor respectively. When renovating Guoqing Temple, the workers transported ten black carp from Linghu Nuresery (菱湖渔场), Jiaxing, Zhejiang, reproducing the vitality of fish's paradise.[1]

The ancient prune tree which was planted in the Sui dynasty (581–618).

During the renovation, an ancient prune tree which was planted in the Sui dynasty (581–618) over 1300 years ago in Guoqing Temple came back to life miraculously, which added a charming landscape to the temple. With unremitting efforts of the workers, Guoqing Temple's renovation was completed as scheduled.[1]

On October 18, 1975, the first batch of Japanese guests coming for a visit was received here.[1]

National treasures

The large bronze tripod (青铜鼎) cast in Qianlong Period of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) of China cames from the Palace Museum. Its shape is simple, unsophisticated and elegant. With two ears and three feet, it is 3.8-metre (12 ft) high overall, with the four big characters of "Sheng Shou Wu Jiang" (圣寿无疆). The tripod is decorated with three lions playing ball wheel of life, conch and other eight-treasure patterns. Exquisitely patterned it is of very high artistic vallce. Over 40 years ago, it was collected in the Palace Museum in Beijing. Now it belongs to Guoqing Temple more than a thousand miles away from Beijing.[1]

The statue of Sakyamuni is a bronze statue made in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644).[1]

The 18 Arhat statues come from Yonghe Lamasery. The are high-quantity works carved with nanmu in the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368).[1]

The two white marble Chinese guardian lions come from Beijing and were carved in the Qing dynasty.[1]


This mountain temple is the site where indigenous Chinese Buddhism branched away from Buddhist teachings and doctrine commonly found in India. From there, the Tiantai sect of Buddhism spread to both Korea and Japan during the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD). The tall brick Guoqing Pagoda built at the temple in the year 597 AD is still standing,[2] making it one of the oldest surviving brick pagodas in China (after the 40 metres (130 ft) tall Chinese Songyue Pagoda built in 523 AD).


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r 国宝档案 周恩来下令重修国清寺,内幕都在这里了. sohu (in 中文). 2016-12-16. 
  2. ^ Steinhardt, 433.

Further reading

  • Steinhardt, Nancy Shatzman. "The Tangut Royal Tombs near Yinchuan," Muqarnas: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture (Volume X, 1993): 369-381.

External links

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