No. 51: Guanghua Temple, Beijing

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on March 25, 2013.)

Two of the Heavenly Kings (天王), namely Virupaksa (广目天王) left and
Vaishravana (多闻天王) right at Guanghua Temple (广化寺), Beijing (北京)
July 10, 2011 - Guanghua ("Spreading Transformation") Temple was one of the most pleasant I saw in Beijing. Located not far from the shores of picturesque Houhai Lake, it stands in small alleys just west of the renowned Bell and Drum Towers of Beijing. The neighborhood is filled with small shops, other temples, and--yes--plenty of tourists in summertime.

The temple was especially busy on the day of my visit. It is headquarters to the Beijing Buddhist Association, which was sponsoring a teaching event that day. However, most of the activity was confined to a side yard containing a lecture hall. The temple's main halls were quiet by comparison.

Built in the Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368), the temple housed the first site of the Capital Library (later the National Library of China) founded by Qing scholar Zhang Zhidong in 1908.

Today the temple represents the "Jingtu" or Pure Land Sect, adherents of which chant the name of the Amitabha Buddha believing it will ensure rebirth in the Western Pure Land (over which he presides), whence they can attain Nirvana.

Like many temples, this one had three halls on the main axis, laid out in a straight line (after passing the initial front gate). These were the Hall of the Heavenly Kings, the main hall containing a triad of Buddhas, and a teaching hall in the back with an exquisite statue of Vairocana or the "Great Sun" Buddha. The small courtyard between the last two halls was especially leafy and quiet. There were also several side halls containing various figures.

GPS Info:
  • 39.94091, 116.39061



Visitors' cars crowd the area in front of the Heavenly Kings' Hall at Guanghua Temple, Beijing
A monk washes up after lunch
The approach to the main hall
A leafy courtyard between the last two halls

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