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Yuquan Temple and Iron Tower


The Yuquan Temple is located at the east piedmont of Yuquan Mountain in Dangyang County, Hubei Province. Known as the King of the Jingchu jungle, it is one of the earliest Buddhist temples in China. During the Jian'an reign (196-219) of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), eminent monk Pujing set up a hut. Emperor Liangxuandi of the Southern Dynasty Period (420-589) built Fuchuan Mountain Temple here. A famous monk named Zhiyi gave lectures here in the Kaihuang reign of the Sui Dynasty (581-618). From then on, the temple was named Yuquan Temple.

The Yuquan Temple, the Guoqing Temple in Zhejiang Province, the Lingyan Temple in Jiangsu Province and the Qixia Temple in Shandong Province are collectively called Four Masterpieces of Jungles. Master Fatian expanded the temple in the Zhenguan reign (627-649) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). During the Tianxi reign (1017-1021) of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Empress Mingsu believed in Buddhism and went in for a large-scale construction. Temple had 9 buildings, 18 halls and 3,700 monks at that time. It was repaired in the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. The main halls that can be seen today are the Tianwang Hall, the Great Hall, the Pilu Hall, the Pilu Shangfang, the Eastern Hall, the Western Hall, the Banzhou Hall and the Sutra Storing Building.

The Great Hall was first built in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), and is 21 meters high, and seven bays wide, all of which was built of rare nanmu as beam frame and dougong (wooden square blocks inserted between the top of a column and a crossbeam). The sunk panel is richly decorated with splendid color, whose architectural structure shows typical features of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). There are an iron caldron of the Sui Dynasty, iron kettle and bell of the Yuan Dynasty with weight of over 1,500 kg. The carved stone Kwan-yin figure in the hall is said to be the work of Wu Daozi, a famous painter of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The figure has a man's head and a woman's body, with graceful posture, plump body and swaying clothes.

The Yuquan Iron Pagoda, also called Buddhist Tooth and Relics Pagoda, lies on the hillock in front of the Yuquan Temple. According to the record of the inscription on the pagoda body, the pagoda was originally named Buddhist Tooth and Relics Pagoda and was cast on August 15 in the sixth year (1061) of the Jiayou reign of the Song Dynasty. The body and the base of the pagoda are 22 meters in total height. The base of the pagoda is built of special black bricks and the body is built of pig iron; they follow a wood-like pavilion style, with an octagonal plane. The pagoda has thirteen storeys and cost over 38,300 kilograms of iron. Each floor and side of the pagoda is cast with patterns like two dragons playing with a bead, Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea, mountains, wave of the sea, float grass, etc. The vivid patterns are cast with soft and fluent lines. The dado has eight corners with each corner cast with a pagoda-holding Hercules. The four sides of the second floor are cast with the name and weight of the pagoda, names of the artisans, time of casting and other.

There are many famous flowers and ancient trees in the temple, such as gingkgo of the Tang Dynasty (618-960), cherry bay and twin lotus flowers on one stalk, etc. The plants have exuberant branches and leaves, making the temple more beautiful. The Yuquan iron Tower is a rare ancient large iron tower in China, tall and straight, steady and exquisite. When sun sets down, purple and golden clouds set off the pagoda to advantage.

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