No. 16: Daxingshan Temple,
Xi'an, Shaanxi

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

An unusual reclining Maitreya (弥勒) in the Heavenly Kings' (天王) Hall (殿) at Daxingshan
Temple (大兴善寺) in Xi'an, Shaanxi (陕西, 西安市). He is usually seen sitting.
September 1, 2009 - The next morning, our first goal was Daxingshan Si (Great Propagation of Goodness Temple), not far outside Xi'an's south gate.

This was especially exciting for me, as it had deep connections to one of the biggest projects of my life. In 2001, I undertook a 10-week pilgrimage culminating on the island of Shikoku (Chinese Si Guo, 四国) where I followed the trail dedicated to one of Japan's greatest monks.

Kobo Daishi (Ch. Hongfa Dashi, 弘法大师), whose monastic name was Kukai (Ch. Konghai, 空海), came to China in 804, where he studied for two years before returning to Japan to found the Shingon sect of Buddhism.

This is an esoteric sect (not unlike the Buddhism found in Tibet). Kukai's master was the Chinese monk Huiguo (746–805, 惠果), and Huiguo's master was the Indian monk Amoghavajra. So in just three generations, the teaching went from India to China to Japan.

All of this happened at three temples in Xi'an. I'll tell you about two of them (Ximing Si and Qinglong Si) another time, but this one, Daxingshan, was a translation center where Amoghavajra worked, and where his memorial pagoda still stands on the grounds. It is thus the well-spring of the esoteric teaching in Han Buddhism.

The temple itself was pleasant enough, and includes a large statue of Konghai. Some of the halls contain images of the torments of hell, the life of the Buddha, and various incarnations of Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. There is also a vegetarian restaurant near the front gate, where we ate before pushing on to a temple boasting the very symbol of Xi'an.

GPS Info:
  • 34.225842, 108.943597



The vegetarian restaurant near the front gate of Daxingshan Si
An unusual reclining figure of Maitreya (see close-up postcard above)
Some of the torments of hell in a hall
A large statue of the Japanese monk Kukai (Konghai)
The baby Shakyamuni Buddha bathed by nine dragons in another hall
The memorial pagoda of the South Asian monk Amoghavajra

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