No. 53: Fayuan Temple, Beijing

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on April 8, 2013.)

This bowl of lotus flowers (莲花) stands in a courtyard at Fayuan Temple (法源寺), Beijing (北京)
July 11, 2011 - Fayuan ("Source of the Dharma") Temple in Beijing is located behind a small park, not far from the largest and oldest mosque in Beijing. Fayuan is currently Beijing's oldest temple. It was first built in 645 in honor of deceased officers and soldiers who had been loyal to the emperor. Niujie Mosque is a relative latecomer, dating only to 996!

The temple has been rebuilt many times; the one I saw was a 1955 restoration, but there was a lot of construction going on, so on my next visit I may be seeing the 2011 version!

Guangji Temple houses the Buddhist Association of China; Guanghua Temple hosts the Beijing Buddhist Association. Not to be outdone, Fayuan Temple boasts the grounds of the Buddhist Academy of China, the country's premier training ground for Chinese monks.

In addition to its prominent position on my list (number 2, in fact, after Guangji Temple), Fayuan had another attraction for me. Ven. Yong Xing, my friend and former boss at the Buddhist academy in Yangzhou, was now the Dean of Studies at this academy, and was living in Fayuan Temple.

I found him living in a side room of the Heavenly Kings' Hall. After sharing tea and watermelon in his room, we took a private tour of the temple, a treat I have rarely had. He pointed out several peculiarities, including a set of steps with gold nuggets embedded in the stone. Another treasure was a fine, large lotus bowl on a pedestal in front of one of the halls.

The temple is off the tourist path, so it's relatively quiet. Halls start closing around 3:30, so arrive early.

GPS Info:
  • Sheng'an Temple: 39.883454, 116.365041 (Click to view map)
  • Fayuan Temple: 39.88481, 116.36988



Gateway to Fayuan Temple, Beijing. Note the construction materials on the main path.
The Heavenly Kings' Hall is next to my friend's room
A beautiful stone lotus bowl in front of a hall (postcard above)
Unusual statues of Bodhisattvas on mounts (properly called "vehicles")
An old statue of the Laughing Buddha greets visitors to the temple
BONUS IMAGE: A vintage postcard.

While walking toward Fayuan Temple, I peeked in at the seemingly-abandoned Sheng'an Temple (圣安寺), Beijing (北京)

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