The Lingyan Temple is located at the south piedmont of Taishan Mountain in Shandong Province.
The temple is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1127) Dynasties. The Lingyan Temple, together with the Guoqing Temple in Tiantai Mountain, the Yuquan Temple at Wudang Mountain and the Qixia Temple at Qixia Mountain, are collectively called Chinese Big Four Jungles, and are also praised as the Four Miracles in the World.
The Lingyan Temple was founded in the Yongxing reign (357-358) of pre-Qin period. It began to gain great reputation in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), and reached its floruit in the Tang and Song Dynasties. At that time, there were more than 40 halls, pavilions and storied buildings, more than 500 monastic rooms, and more than 500 dignitaries. After repair and rebuilding in many dynasties, especially the large-scaled reconstruction in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties, it grew up into the size of today. The main buildings in the temple comprise the Thousand Buddha Hall, the Great Hall, the Imperial Book Pavilion, the Bell and Drum Tower, the Pacceka Pagoda, the Jicui Zhengming Niche, the Dagoba Forest Temple, etc.
The Thousand Buddha Hall was first built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and was rebuilt many times in the Song and Ming Dynasties. The hall is seven bays wide and four bays deep. Although after times of repairs in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the pedestals of the pillars in the hall are still the work of the Tang and Song dynasties. Dougongs (wooden square blocks inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam) are huge and magnificent. Forty painted clay statues of arhats are arranged around the interior hall, and they are called the First Statues in the World. Molded on real persons, the arhats are vivid, showing happiness, anger, and grief. They are different to each other. According to the painting style and sculpture, experts consider the statues the relics of the Song Dynasty.
First built in the twelfth year (753) of the Tianbao reign of the Tang Dynasty, the Pacceka Pagoda is the tallest building in the temple, with a height of 54 meters, an octagonal plane layout, and nine storeys. The pedestal of the tower is built of stones, and the basso-relievos around the pedestal display the excruciation and the ghastful atmosphere of the hell. Pacceka is the abbreviation of Paccekajia Buddha. The Pacceka Pagoda is built to fete Pacceka Buddha, which is very rare in China.
In the west of the temple there is a cemetery for past abbots of the Lingyan Temple. 167 tombs and dagobas built from the Tianbao reign of the Tang Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty are preserved here. With various styles and elegant sculpture, these tombs and dagobas were apotheosis of stupaes in the past thousand years, and were famous together with the Dagoba Forest of the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. Nestled in remote mountains and dwelling with jumping springs, the Lingyan Temple is reputed as the most secluded place behind Taishan Mountain. There are twelve wonderful sights around the temple.