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Temple of history inspires the future

Updated: 2024-06-11 06:43 ( China Daily )
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The seven painted clay Buddhist statues, a rare format, at Mahavira Hall, Fengguo Temple in Jinzhou, Liaoning province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Structure sees its growing appeal attracting increasing numbers of visitors, Wang Ru reports in Jinzhou, Liaoning.

People often recount legendary tales of Fengguo Temple, a structure more than 1,000 years old that is situated in Yixian county, Jinzhou, Liaoning province. It has miraculously withstood the ravages of war, earthquakes and various disasters throughout history and continues to thrive to this day.

One particularly perilous moment occurred during the War of Liberation (1946-49) in 1948, when bombs were dropped on the temple's Mahavira Hall. One bomb penetrated the roof, breaking a Buddhist statue's arm before finally landing on the lotus throne. Miraculously, none of the bombs detonated, saving the hall from being destroyed. This remarkable story has been recorded in the county annals of Yixian.

Today, although the old complex bears the marks of time and is undergoing renovation, it shines even more brightly in people's eyes and has attracted more and more visitors to pay tribute to its rich history and culture.

The temple was built in 1020 during the prosperous time of the Liao Dynasty (916-1125). "Legends say it was built by Liao Emperor Shengzong (972-1031) in commemoration of his mother, Empress Dowager Xiao (953-1009), a powerful politician who once ruled Liao for 27 years," says Li Zhenhua, a tour guide at the temple, adding that Yixian used to be a fief of the Xiao family and that is probably why the temple was built.

Established by the Khitan people, a nomadic ethnic tribe, the Liao Dynasty once ruled a vast area of today's Mongolia, Northeast and North China for more than 200 years until it was conquered by the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234). Yixian, located in the heartland of the Liao Dynasty, lay between the Liao upper capital in Baarin Left Banner, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and its east capital in Liaoyang, Liaoning, according to Li.

The temple complex now comprises an outer gate built in 1984, a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) inner gate and a memorial gateway in memory of a Qing princess. Additionally, there are Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) murals adorning the walls of the main hall and the main hall itself, dating back to the Liao era. The most significant structure is the Mahavira Hall, a colossal wooden building.

Spanning an area of 1,800 square meters, the hall is 55 meters long and 33 meters wide. Inside the hall, seven painted clay Buddhist statues stand side by side, each towering at an average height of 9 meters, she says.

"The attire of the statues is particularly elegant and luxurious, reflecting the Buddhist sculptural style of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), which was then inherited by the Liao Dynasty," says Li.

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