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Xuanmiao Taoist Temple and Sanqing Hall


The Xuanmiao Taoist Temple is located at Guanqian Street in Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province.

The temple, also called Yuanmiao Taoist Temple, was built in the second year (276) of the Xianning reign of the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316). At first, it was named Zhenqing Taoist Yard, the renamed to the Kaiyuan Palace in the second year (714) of the Kaiyuan reign of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). In the fifth year (1012) of the Dazhong Xiangfu reign of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), a plague that reads Tianqing Taoist Temple was conferred to it. In the early years of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), the army of the Jin Dynasty destroyed the Tianqing Taoist Temple. It had been reconstructed several times from the sixteenth year of the Shaoxing reign to the sixth year of the Chunxi reign (1146-1179). The existent large-scale Sanqing Hall was built in the sixth year (1179) of the Chunxi reign. In the eighteenth year (1281) of the Zhiyuan reign of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), it was renamed Xuanmiao Taoist Temple by the emperor. In the peak time of the Kangxi reign of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it became one of the largest Taoist temples in China, having over 30 halls. Its name was changed to Yuanmiao Taoist Temple to avoid the taboo of using the personal name of Emperor Kangxi, whose real name was Xuanye. Later it was damaged and repaired many times, and it has never reached its original scale. The existent relatively large buildings are mainly the temple gate and the Sanqing Hall.

The temple gate directly faces to the Palace Alley, which takes on a splendid view. It has the Jixiang Gate in the east and the Ruyi Gate in the west. Its wall was built of red bricks, full of sobriety.

Designed by Zhao Bosu, younger brother of famous artist Zhao Boju, the Sanqing Hall was built in the sixth year of the Chunxi reign. The hall occupies over 1,150 square meters, with a width of 45.64 meters and a length of 25.25 meters. Having a double-eave gable and hip roof, lofty and grand, the hall is one of the largest and relatively old halls of Taoist temples. Although it was rebuilt several times during past dynasties, it retains the architecture style of the Southern Song Dynasty. The distribution of the columns in the hall is accordant outside and in. The columns form vertical and horizontal lines, altogether seven rows, with 10 columns each row. The exterior eave is made of octagonal stelae and inside the hall are round stakes. The roof has a small gradient. The dougongs (wooden square blocks inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam) are sparse and huge, with a crescent beam frame inside. The brick pedestal in the hall is exquisite with three clay statues of Buddha standing on it. The statues are over 10 meters tall, with dignified gestures and freely swaying clothes. Though after repairs, they are still refined sculptures of Taoism in the Song Dynasty. 


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