EXTRA: Guangxiao Temple, Guangzhou, Guangdong

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on December 24, 2012.)

The Hair Pagoda (瘗发塔) at Guangxiao Temple (光孝寺) in Guangzhou, Guangdong (广东, 广州市), is said to
hold the hair shaved from Huineng (惠能), the Sixth Patriarch (六祖) of Chan (禅), when he became a monk.
November 19, 2010 - From Liurong Temple's gate, turn left, then left again. Not far away, down a leafy pedestrian path, lies Guangxiao Temple. One of the area's most significant temples, it's a mystery to me why it wasn't included on the list of 142 key temples. [There is some possibility that when the list was made in 1983, it wasn't in good enough condition to be included.]

The first thing I noticed on arrival was the exquisite, antique-looking pair of statues on either side of the Mountain Gate. Called in Chinese "Ha" and "Heng," they are also called "Blower" (for his ability to blow yellow gas from his mouth) and "Snorter" (for his power to shoot devastating white light from his nose).

Passing these guardians, and walking through an open-plan Heavenly Kings Hall, I entered a courtyard with some fascinating relics.

To the right is a well where, it is said, Bodhidharma washed his bowl. This Indian monk was supposed to be the 28th patriarch of Chan (Zen) in India, and the First Patriarch of that sect in China. Tradition says the bowl he washed was passed down from the Shakyamuni Buddha himself.

Five generations later, a layman walked through the courtyard and saw two young monks arguing over whether a flag was moving in the wind, or the wind was moving a flag. Asked to settle the matter, the layman replied cryptically: "Neither. Your mind is moving."

Hearing of this, the abbot of the temple recognized the layman to be Guangdong-born Huineng, the famed Sixth Patriarch. The abbot shaved him, making him a monk. There is a pagoda under which his hair is said to be interred.

The temple has many more features; a fine vegetarian restaurant, a library, and two iron pagodas (one inside a hall) are worth a look. Also, don't miss the hall dedicated to Huineng, situated appropriately in front of the meditation hall.

GPS Info:
  • 23.12946, 113.25630



The generals "Blower" and "Snorter" stand on either side
of the Mountain Gate at Guangxiao Temple, Guangzhou
This hall stands on the site where Huineng made his "moving mind" observation
This pagoda at is said to hold the hair shaved
from Huineng's head when he became a monk
(detail in postcard above)
Tradition says Bodhidharma washed the Buddha's bowl in this well
The West Iron Pagoda is missing four stories
The East Iron Pagoda is covered for protection

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