No. 56: Jile Temple, Haerbin, Heilongjiang

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on May 20, 2013.)

The Mountain Gate (山门) at Jile Temple (极乐寺) in Haerbin, Heilongjiang
(黑龙江, 哈尔滨市) faces a busy walking street near an amusement park.
August 25, 2011 - The northeastern Chinese city of Haerbin was developed from a small village in 1898, making it young by the standards of China's cities. It was an administrative center for a Russian railway running from Moscow to Vladivostok, with a southern branch originating at Haerbin and leading to Dalian. The city still has a decidedly Russian flavor.

It wasn't until 1922 that Master Tanxu--who is also commemorated at Dabei Temple in Tianjin--arrived to found what is considered the first Buddhist temple in Haerbin.

Promoting a Buddhist revival in Dongbei (China's Northeast), the Master located his temple strategically. It is at the top of the city's main north-south thoroughfare, and was right outside the gates of perhaps as many as ten cemeteries for foreigners. That means that any Christian funeral--Catholic, Protestant, or Russian Orthodox--had to pass the gates of the temple.

However, in 1958, the cemeteries were moved into a less-central location, and the area where they were located was converted into an amusement park. It's strange to see what was formerly China's largest Ferris Wheel towering over the halls of the temple!

Master Tanxu's original foundation continues to grow. While Jile ("Bliss") Temple, with its ornate halls and new pagoda, attracts crowds of people, the quieter Puzhao Temple next door is for the monks' practice, open only on new moon and full moon days for worship.

This was the beginning of an eight-day trip that took me through eight cities in five provinces (plus a night in Beijing) and ended in Qingdao, Shandong.

GPS Info:
  • 45.77638, 126.66451



More pictures can be found here.

The main gate of Jile Temple, Haerbin (postcard above)
The Fobao ("Buddha Treasure") Pagoda
A Ferris Wheel towers over the temple
Giant Buddha and large screen

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