No. 42: Xiangji Temple, Xi'an, Shaanxi

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on November 12, 2012.)

This pagoda (塔) holds the remains of Shandao (善导), a patriarch (祖) of the
Pure Land Sect (淨土宗), at Xiangji Temple (香积寺), Xi'an, Shaanxi (陕西, 西安市).
October 16, 2010 - In Xi'an near the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, I boarded a local bus for Xiangji Temple. A major north-south road runs a little over a half-kilometer west of the temple; when the bus dropped me along that road, I walked through sleepy Xiangji Village towards the grounds.

A small, run-down pagoda stands in a garbage-strewn yard just east of the temple walls. Mattresses inside indicate it provides some shelter for the homeless. This is dedicated to Jingye, senior disciple of the great Pure Land monk Shandao, whose more stately and well-kept pagoda stands inside the grounds.

A big, recently-built plaza greets those who arrive by car or tour bus. It features a huge pailou (ceremonial gate) with columns supported on the backs of elephants. A "drum bridge" spans a pond between the pailou and the mountain gate. Given this elaborate approach, I was pleased to find that the ticket was only 10 rmb--and even that was waived by the friendly gatekeeper when he discovered I was traveling alone.

The afore-mentioned pagoda of Shandao is truly the highlight of the grounds, and with good reason. Shandao (613-681) was an early and important author of works contributing to the development of the Pure Land School, the most popular form of Buddhism in East Asia today. He was one of the first to advocate the reciting of the "Nianfo" (the name of Amitabha Buddha) as a means of reaching that Buddha's Pure Land.

As I left the temple and headed back to the main road, I stopped like my hero Milefo (the Laughing Buddha) to play with some local kids, and then boarded the bus back to the city.

GPS Info:
  • 34.12150, 108.89265



Lonely Jingye Pagoda stands outside the grounds to the east of Xiangji Temple, Xi'an
View from the gate back down across the large plaza leading up to the gate
The well-kept Shandao Pagoda stands on the grounds of the temple

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