No. 35: Xiyuan Temple, Suzhou, Jiangsu

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on September 10, 2012.)

Pond (池) said to be the home of two 400-year-old turtles (龟) in the West Garden
(西园) of Xiyuan Jiechuang Temple (西园戒幢寺) in Suzhou, Jiangsu (江苏, 苏州市)
July 28, 2010 - The aptly-named Xiyuan (Western Compound, or perhaps "Garden") is located on the western side of Suzhou (get it?), and has a garden on its western side to boot. In addition to this simple nickname, it is also known as Jiechuang Si, confusingly translated as "Buddhist Vinaya Discipline Banner Temple" but perhaps better "The Temple of Monastic Discipline."

There are several notable facets to this temple. The afore-mentioned western garden features a large pond with some famous denizens: two turtles in the pond are said to be 400 years old. Tradition says that if you manage to catch them surfacing for air, you'll have good luck.

Alas, luck wasn't with me. But I did see the large 500 Arhats collection, another major draw here.

Yet another aspect of the temple I was not able to see was the director of the Jiechuang Buddhism Research Institute. Master Jiqun and I had shared teaching a group of youngsters in Fujian several summers earlier. He is an internationally-known Buddhist teacher, and his institute is located here on the temple grounds.

Of course the temple has all the usual halls and statues. But one more outstanding feature was the signage. The halls at Xiyuan featured more complete and accurate information than most other temples, making it a pleasant and instructive place to visit for Chinese and foreigners alike. For this reason alone I would recommend it over the better-known and nearby Hanshan Temple, which is somewhat overrated and hugely crowded (more on this later).

GPS Info:
  • 31.31470, 120.58693



The screen wall in front of Xiyuan is flanked by drum bridges
Some of the fantastic figures in the 500 Arhats' Hall
The main hall at Xiyuan Temple
A statue of one of temple's 400-year-old turtles sits next
to the pond where two are said to live (postcard above)

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