No. 83: Kaiyuan Temple, Quanzhou, Fujian

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on December 30, 2013.)

The Renshou Pagoda (仁寿塔) at Kaiyuan Temple (开元寺), Quanzhou, Fujian
(福建, 泉州市), is one of two pagodas on the grounds, built in the 13th century.
January 18, 2012 - I took the then-new high-speed rail from Xiamen to Quanzhou, home of Kaiyuan Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Fujian.

The temple was originally built in the Tang Dynasty, during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian; traces of reconstructions from every period since still remain.

The signature features of the place, though, are the two stone pagodas standing on either side of the grounds, near the front. The one on the east is the 48-meter-tall Zhenguo Pagoda; that on the west is the slightly-shorter Renshou Pagoda, at 44 meters tall. These are said to be the tallest pair of stone pagodas in China.

Both were originally made of wood. After they burned several times, they were rebuilt in stone during the Song Dynasty. All parts are heavily carved with exquisite figures of Buddhist "saints" and guardians.

Another notable feature is the so-called "Sweet Dew Altar," one of the three largest Buddhist altars in China. It is stunning. It boasts figures of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, guardian attendants and angelic musicians. The altar sits over what was originally a well (called "Sweet Dew"), and was built for ordinations. It was built first in the Tang, then remodeled in the Ming Dynasty. What we see today is the Ming altar with several restorations.

Numerous other halls stand on this large compound. Notable is a museum of maritime history and the Founder's Hall. Ancient bodhi trees and a wall with an image of a mythical creature called a Qilin are some of the more attractive outdoor features.

GPS Info:
  • 24.91332, 118.58548



More pictures can be found here.

The Renshou Pagoda stands on the west side of the grounds (detail in postcard above)
Carvings on the Zhenguo Pagoda
The Sweet Dew Altar, used for ordinations
A mythical Qilin on a wall at the temple

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