EXTRA: Famen Temple, Xi'an, Shaanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on November 19, 2012.)

The "True Relic Pagoda" (圣真身宝塔) at Famen Temple (法门寺) in Xi'an, Shaanxi (陕西,
西安市), collapsed in 1981, and relics (舍利子), including a finger bone of the Buddha
(佛), were found there in 1987. The relic is now on display in a modern "pagoda" nearby.
October 17, 2010 - On August 4, 1981, disaster struck Famen Temple.

After a massive rainstorm, the temple's ancient "True Relic Pagoda," which had been rebuilt in 1579, cracked down the middle and half of it came sliding down in a mass of bricks.

The temple, which at the time was being used by government bodies, was returned to the Buddhist association in 1984, and government-sponsored restoration of the partially-collapsed pagoda began soon after, in 1985.

On April 3, 1987, the underground "palace" below the pagoda was opened, and the reports of ancient documents proved to be true: the room contained precious relics, including a piece said to be a finger-bone of the historic Buddha, Shakyamuni.

The chamber below the pagoda can be visited today. However, the relic has been moved to a compound next to the old temple, a huge complex with a courtyard 1230 meters long and 108 meters wide, and a "pagoda"--with a modern design hardly recognizable as such--to hold the Buddha's finger. At 148 meters, it's one of the tallest Buddhist pagodas in the world.

Frankly, it was all a little too much for me. Despite the whopping 120rmb entrance fee, I spent virtually all of my time in the small, older temple compound, including the underground palace. I only walked the length of the new plaza to return to my bus for the 120 kilometer return trip to Xi'an.

Famen Temple is a good example of the impact of modern tourism on China's ancient temples. I suspect many visitors will go to the new complex, never realizing that a precious jewel of an ancient place sits right next door.

GPS Info:
  • 34.43996, 107.90454



The Gate and Pagoda at the original compound of Famen Temple
The restored Ming-Dynasty True Relic Pagoda at Famen Temple
Interior of the "Underground Palace"
A 13-meter Vairocana was "endowed by a pilgrim of Shenzhen"
The ultra-modern Namaste Pagoda rises 148 meters at the end of a 1230-meter concourse

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