No. 66: Guoqing Temple, Tiantai Shan, Zhejiang

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on July 29, 2013.)

Statue of Master Zhiyi (智顗大师), founder of the Tiantai Sect (天台宗), at
Guoqing Temple (国清寺) at the base of Tiantai Shan (天台山), Zhejiang (浙江).
September 13, 2011 - When my Indian friend Mr. Deep and I booked our hotel on Mt. Tiantai, we hadn't realized that we would be just across the road from one of the most important Buddhist temples in Chinese history.

Guoqing ("Pure Nation") Temple was built in 598 C.E. and is considered the cradle of the Tiantai Sect of Buddhism, named for the mountain where it is located. Master Zhiyi, who designed the temple, was also the founder of the sect (though, to honor his teachers, he is called the Fourth Patriarch). Before Zhiyi created this systematic teaching, all Buddhism in China was based on Indian models. This, then, was the first truly Chinese system of the Buddha's teachings. The teaching was  carried to Korea and Japan (where it is called "Tendai") in the Tang Dynasty.

Just in front of the gate of Guoqing Temple is a terrace that includes a traditional line-up of seven pagodas. There is also one of China's oldest brick pagodas, dedicated to the monk astronomer Yixing (683–727). His achievements include the creation of an improved celestial globe.

The grounds are large and quiet. In the center is a plum tree said to be over 1,300 years old, planted in the Sui Dynasty. Springtime visitors like to have their pictures taken beneath it.

The last and highest level of the temple includes a hall dedicated to Master Zhiyi, referred to in the signage as "Master Wis[e]man." This is a rough approximation of his nickname "Zhizhe," meaning "One Who Is Wise." Mr. Deep and I would see him again before this trip was through.

GPS Info:
  • 29.16999, 121.04727


(This may look blank, but it works--I promise!)
(The placement on Google Maps is incorrect.)


More pictures can be found here.

Seven pagodas outside the gate of Guoqing Temple, Mt. Tiantai
Pagoda of the astronomer monk Yixing across from Guoqing Temple's gate
Gateway to Guoqing Temple
A statue of the Medicine Buddha
Statue of founding monk Zhiyi at the top level of the temple (postcard above)

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