No. 68: Gaoming Temple and Zhizhe Tayuan, Tiantai Shan, Zhejiang

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on August 12, 2013.)

This stunning figure of Guanyin is carved into native rock on a bluff overlooking
a valley to the east of Gaoming Temple, Tiantai Shan, Zhejiang (浙江, 天台山).
September 15, 2011 - In another expensive taxi, Mr. Deep and I took the long way around to Gaoming ("High Bright") Temple, as a road closure had eliminated the usual direct bus route.

The first thing we saw there was a new, splendid hall to the right of the gate. Even in this remote location, Buddhism was booming. Aside from this, and the general mountain freshness of the compound, two features really stand out.

The first was an especially delightful collection of 500 arhats. While some such groupings are static, staid, and frankly a little boring, this one was frankly hilarious, showing the arhats interacting in humorous ways. Musicians playing their hearts out; a pair of kick boxers; a raucous tea party; ear-tugging, joke-telling, prank-pulling, tickling. They were arranged in two halls, one upstairs from the other; I could have spent hours there.

The other attraction was harder to find. We had heard of a statue of Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, newly-carved in natural stone. But we couldn't find it. Finally we met a monk who led us out of the tower courtyard and down a kilometer-long mountain path, through several side trips to view rocks and caves of various descriptions, until we reached a "shiny" carving in a spectacular setting overlooking mountains and valleys. The venerable monk's incredible kindness was well appreciated.

Traveling back down the mountain, we stopped at Zhizhe Tayuan, site of a pagoda with the remains of Zhiyi, founder of Tiantai Buddhism. (He had died in front of the Great Buddha in Xinchang.) We climbed up a small hill to the compound, and found the pagoda in a small hall inside a courtyard. We then returned to our hotel by taxi.

GPS Info:
  • Gaoming Temple: 29.19247, 121.06304
  • Zhizhe Tayuan: 29.19723, 121.05340 (Click to view map)


(The placement on Google Maps is slightly off.)


More pictures can be found here (Gaoming) and here (Zhizhe).

The Mountain Gate of Gaoming Temple on Mt. Tiantai
A new hall at the temple
Just a few of the 500 Arhats
The boys in the (arhats') band
Another part of the arhats collection upstairs
Guanyin carved in native rock near the temple (postcard above)
Memorial Pagoda of Master Zhizhe in a compound near Gaoming Temple
BONUS IMAGE: The pagoda above rendered as a vintage postcard.

This small pagoda inside a hall bears the remains of Zhiyi
(智顗), founder of the Tiantai Sect (天台宗), at Zhizhe
Tayuan (智者塔院), Tiantai Shan, Zhejiang (浙江, 天台山).

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