EXTRA: Lingshan and Kaiyuan Temple, Wuxi, Jiangsu

(This article was never published in the Shenzhen Daily. Instead, it is an
"extra extra," added for the sake of completeness. And a little oddness..)

The Great Buddha (大佛) at Lingshan (灵山), Wuxi, Jiangsu (江苏, 无锡市),
stands 88 meters high, and was built in 1996. (Those are people on the stairs!)
This story starts back in 2006, when I worked with my friend Venerable Deru and others to teach a hundred or so kids at a "Buddhist summer camp" in Fujian. As a result of that experience, I met a Hong Kong-based monk, who introduced me to another, who got me a job directing an English program for a Buddhist academy in Yangzhou in 2007-2008.

I came home from that experience a little the worse for wear, but with a handful of relationships that the people who trained me in Buddhism would call "good affinities."

One of  these was a very young monk, a teenager in fact, my student Da'an. Several years after we left the school, in December of 2011, he contacted me to tell me that another former student of mine, Neng Chao (who used to drive me to the bus station after classes on Friday), was being invested as abbot of Kaiyuan Temple inside Meiyuan. I was being asked to speak at the ceremony.

The ceremony was at New Years' of 2012. Lila and I flew to Shanghai for a quick (and cold) self-guided tour, then Da'an and a devotee with car met us at Hongqiao Train Station and drove us the 130+ kilometers to Meiyuan and the temple. After greeting the abbot-to-be and being filled in on the details of next day's festivities, we were whisked off for some sightseeing at a sort of sacred theme park, the Lingshan Scenic Area and its Great Buddha. After a splendid evening in a local five-star hotel (at the temple's expense), with dinner and breakfast, I did my duties at the investiture, and we were taken to lunch and a train station. High-speed train to Shanghai Pudong Airport, and a flight back to Shenzhen. Our whirlwind in Wuxi was over.

GPS Info: (Click the links to view maps. They may look blank, but locations are accurate.)


More pictures can be found here.

The view of Lake Taihu from the window of our room--paid for by the temple
My former student, the young monk Da'an (formerly Dao Cheng)
Da'an and me pictured with an aged and honorable monk, whose name I didn't get
With some of my former students from the Buddhist academy in Yangzhou
The Great Buddha of Lingshan stands more than 88 meters (288 feet)
high and weighs over 700 tons (see similar postcard above)
This statue of the baby Buddha is bathed four times a day (six on holidays) on a posted schedule.
Chinese tradition says nine dragons appeared to bathe him at his birth. Here, he really gets it in the face!
This is some of the Vatican-like interior of a large hall called the Brahma Palace, meant to intimate Heaven.
BONUS IMAGE: Neng Chao during his investiture as Abbot, rendered as a vintage postcard.

Neng Chao (能超法师), the Abbot (方丈) of Kaiyuan Temple (开元寺), Wuxi,
Jiangsu (江苏, 无锡市), is here preparing for his investiture. As his former teacher
(in a temple in Yangzhou 扬州市) I was invited to speak at the ceremony.

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