No. 22: Baoguang Temple, Chengdu, Sichuan

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on June 11, 2012.)

The Ascetic Shakyamuni (禁欲的释迦牟尼) at Baoguang Temple (宝光寺), Chengdu, Sichuan (四川, 成都市), is a carved
panel showing the Buddha-to-be when he mistakenly thought that mortifying the body would lead to enlightenment.
May 17, 2010 - Though legend says Baoguang Temple in Chengdu was founded in the Han Dynasty, records have only been kept since the Tang. Many temples have this dual system of a legendary founding, followed by an historical one.

And, like so many others, it has been destroyed and rebuilt; most of the current construction dates only to the turn of the 18th century.

The temple's name, "Divine Light," originates from a legend of the Tang Dynasty. Emperor Xizong (reigned 873-888) is said to have seen a light shining from below the temple; monks found 13 shining relics of the Buddha there.

The temple still houses a beautiful reliquary, created in 1906, holding three such relics; whether they are those from the Tang (and, if so, what happened to the others) is not clear.

Another peculiar "relic" of the temple is the pagoda in the central courtyard. Solid in the center, it was built between 862 and 888--basically, Emperor Xizang's time--and the upper "floors" collapsed shortly thereafter. An inadequate restoration long after, in the Ming, left the pagoda with a decidedly westward tilt.

Yet another gone-and-back-again remnant is the pillar carved with sutras, found in the Heavenly Kings' Hall. Created in 1413, it was destroyed later in the Ming Dynasty, when only the beautifully-carved top and base remained. A new pillar was created in 1863, and the restored artifact is a sight to behold.

Baoguang Temple is over ten miles from the center of Chengdu city. It's a little tough to get to, but well worth it.

GPS Info:
  • 30.83066, 104.16059



The Sutra Pillar in the Heavenly Kings' Hall at Baoguang Temple, Chengdu
The temple's "Leaning Pagoda"
An interior gateway
Inside the 500 Arhats' Hall
A sumptuous reliquary

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