No. 62: Puning Temple (and neighbors), Chengde, Hebei

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on June 24, 2013.)

The so-called Mahayana Hall (大乘之阁) at Puning Temple (普宁寺), Chengde,
Hebei (河北, 承德市), houses a colossal 22-meter-tall statue of Guanyin (观音).
August 28, 2011 - I will skip over the "joys" of a 13-hour train ride in the hard seats--not a sleeper--and start with my arrival in the glorious mountain city of Chengde in Hebei. Fortunately, my hotel (located in the temple I wanted to see) let me check in upon my 6 a.m. arrival, so I got some real sleep before heading out to see the temple itself.

Chengde was the summer residence of the Qing emperors, located at a cool 327 meters (1,073 feet). Said emperors-- not Han Chinese, but Manchus--built the Eight Outer Temples, each built in the style of China's various ethnicities, as a unifying symbol.

My goal, Puning Temple, is not the most famous of the group. That would be Putuo Zongcheng Temple, built to resemble the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Too bad I didn't have time for a visit.

But Puning is nearly on par with it, set as it is in gorgeous mountains and built on a massive scale. It is also Tibetan in style, resembling Samye Monastery. In fact, Puyou Temple--a smaller temple next door, and part of the same (expensive) admission ticket--was a center for training monks in the distinctive style of argumentation used in that tradition. (Also nearby is Guangyuan Temple, now abandoned and seemingly used as a plant nursery.)

The main attraction at Puning is the colossal statue of the eleven-headed, thousand-armed Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. It's 22.3 meters tall, and the ticket calls it "the largest wooden Buddha statue in the world." I doubt it. But it IS big--and beautiful!

Next time, we'll take a walk in Chengde.

GPS Info (click the links to view the maps):

Map: (Click to see all three temples from this article!)

View Puning Temple and its neighbors in a larger map


More pictures can be found here (Puning), here (Puyou), and here (Guangyuan).

This hall contains a giant statue of Guanyin (postcard above)
The giant statue of Guanyin
A rear view of the Guanyin Hall, from the garden above
Tibetan-style structures at Puning Temple, Chengde
Tibetan-style structures (many of them filled in solid)
BONUS IMAGES: Pictures of the two minor temples mentioned above, rendered as vintage postcards.

These new statues await placement at Puyou Temple (普佑寺) in Chengde, Hebei (河北, 承德市).
The Mountain Gate (山门) at Guangyuan Temple (广缘寺), Chengde, Hebei (河北, 承德市), has been closed
with adobe. This temple is abandoned; the closed grounds are used as a landscaping nursery.

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