No. 26: Qixia Temple, Nanjing, Jiangsu

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on July 9, 2012.)

The Buddha (佛) and Arhats (罗汉) in the grottoes behind Qixia Temple (栖霞寺) in Nanjing, Jiangsu
(江苏, 南京市). You can clearly see that the heads, replaced after vandalism, are a different color.
July 22, 2010 - Having finished with the temples in eastern Anhui, I turned my attention to the temples of Jiangsu. Returning by train from Langya Temple in Chuzhou, I jumped into a taxi at Nanjing Train Station and made a beeline to Qixia Temple east of Nanjing, arriving by 3:30 or so--just enough time to see the temple before closing.

The "temple gate" actually admits you to a large scenic area, not just the temple itself. I roamed through an archway and past a lake, and between the two huge drum and bell towers, to reach the temple proper.

The temple was founded in 489 C.E.; it currently includes buildings from a restoration in 1908. It's nice enough, with the usual features: a front hall with the Four Heavenly Kings, the Laughing Buddha, and Weituo; and a main hall with my favorite Buddha, Vairochana.

But the real treats are in the "back yard."

There one finds a stunning pagoda built of stone in the10th-century, to replace the wooden one commissioned by Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty; it once held one of the 83 portions of Buddhist relics that he divided up and sent all over the country. The pagoda today is a treasure itself, carved with Buddhist figures and standing 18 meters tall.

Just beyond the pagoda is another treat. The so-called "Thousand Buddhas Cliff" (started in 484) has grottoes actually containing 515 statues and 294 shrines. Throughout history, many of the Buddhas have lost their heads. Some have been replaced; others have not.

After dining with the monks, I took a slower-but-cheaper local bus back into the city, accompanied by a young monk and a layman who were going my way.

GPS Info:
  • 32.15103, 118.95605



A statue of Guanyin graces Mingjing Lake, in front of Qixia Temple, Nanjing
The first hall at the temple
The tenth-century Sheli Pagoda
Some of the exquisite carvings on the Sheli Pagoda
Inside these archways are some of the "Thousand Buddha" grottoes
One of the Buddhas who "lost his head" in the grottoes

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