No. 74: Zhiti Huayan Temple, Ningde, Fujian

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on September 23, 2013.)

The "Soul Cow" (灵牛) at Zhiti Huayan Temple (支提华严寺) in Ningde, Fujian (福建,
宁德市). It's said that the cow went down on its knees whenever anyone said "Namo
Amitofo" (南无阿弥陀佛) (the name of Amitabha Buddha) to it. It had been saved from
butchering and brought to the temple for refuge--and this was only in the 1980s!
October 25, 2011 - The Huayan Temple on Zhiti Shan in Ningde, Fujian, holds a special place in my heart. It was one of the first Chinese temples I slept in, back in 2006, when I taught about 100 young people there for a week. That's when I met one of my best monk friends, Venerable Deru.

After I met Deru, we lost touch. Then, by "coincidence," I ran into him in early 2011 in a temple in faraway Kunming, Yunnan. It was with great delight that I accepted his offer to take me back to Huayan Temple when my pilgrimage brought me there a few months later.

He picked me up at the train station in Ningde and drove me up to the temple. This was especially nice because the temple is 19 kilometers off the highway, on a narrow mountain road with an undependable mini-bus route going only part way.

The temple is spectacular. In the five years since my first visit, they had added a large Mountain Gate, and were replacing a couple of the halls.

I knew lots of stories, from my first stay. For example, there is a Ming Period Vairocana in the temple's topmost hall (a gift from an empress). A temple legend says that some robbers once tried to steal it; after struggling all night to carry it down the mountain, they discovered at sunrise that they had never left the hall!

Another famous story tells of "The Spirited Cow of Zhiti Shan." A local farmer was about to kill a cow, who fell to her knees and began crying out. Unable to kill her, the farmer donated the cow to the temple. She lived out her life there, and had an interesting trait: Whenever one said the name of Amitabha Buddha to her, she would again fall to her knees, as if praying! And--surprise--this was not an ancient story, but happened in 1981. There are many people alive who claim to have seen this cow's behavior.

After seeing Huayan Temple, my monk friend wanted to take me to see some temples in Fu'an, including the one where he lived. So down the hill we went.

GPS Info:
  • 26.81036, 119.38771


(The name is different, but you'll see the right temple when you zoom in!)


More pictures can be found here.

The main hall of Huayan Temple on a misty day on Zhiti Shan
The new mountain gate at the temple
This Ming-Dynasty statue of Vairocana is said to have foiled some robbers
A plaque commemorating the "Spirited Cow of Huayan Temple" (postcard above)

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