EXTRA: Nantian Men Area, Putuoshan, Zhejiang

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on January 16, 2012.)

The Nantian Men (南天门), the "Gate of the Southern Heaven" on Putuoshan
in Zhejiang (浙江, 普陀山), is a natural gateway made of two standing
stones with one across the top. These lead into a small temple area.

August 21, 2009 - When I had arrived on Putuoshan Island two days earlier, I had been rushing to my hotel, and hadn't had time to explore the area around the docks. So on my last afternoon, I went back to see what I had missed.

Near the docks are several grand gateways, and some wonderful statuary. My favorite was the statue of Shancai (Sanskrit: Sudhana), the male attendant to Guanyin. He is in a dynamic posture reminiscent of "kung fu."

Passing this and the others, I reached a small walkway with a bridge linking the main island to a much smaller one, merely a pile of boulders, really. Three of these boulders are positioned like the standing stones at Stonehenge--two upright, and one across the top--but on a much smaller scale, the opening between them being about one meter.

This is the famous "Nantian Men," Gate of the Southern Heaven, and it leads into the fore-courtyard of a very small temple, Daguanpeng Si (the "guan" in the center is the same as in "Guanyin").

While the temple itself was charming, the real attraction is the dramatic way man-made construction is adapted to nature. Also, the rocks are covered with inscriptions, another interesting juxtaposition of nature and art.

After watching the sunset over the mainland, I returned to my nearby hotel to fetch my bags. A quick shuttle to the ferry; a long, frantic cab ride across Zhoushan Island; another ferry (last of the night); and another cab took me to my friends' house in Ningbo's Beilun area, where we laid plans for tomorrow's adventure.

GPS Info:
  • 29.972769, 122.386027


(This may look blank, but it works--I promise!)


Old gateways on Putuoshan Island, from the days when the old dock was being used
Dynamic statue of Shancai, Guanyin's male attendant, greets arrivals from the docks
Footbridge joining to the jumble of boulders where the Nantian Men is located
The Nantian Men, "Gate of Southern Heaven," on Putuoshan Island
Another view of the Nantian Men (postcard above)
Temple and inscribed rocks after passing through the Nantian Men
View of the temple and boulders near the Nantian Men,
which can be seen just to the left of the gate (postcard below)
Daguanpeng Temple (大觀蓬寺) is inside the Nantian Men (南天门) on Putuoshan. It's
an interesting example of how a temple can be fitted into the natural landscape.

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