No. 85: Nanshan Temple, Zhangzhou, Fujian

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on January 20, 2014.)

These Three Sages of the West (西方三圣) at Nanshan Temple (南山寺),
Zhangzhou, Fujian (福建, 漳州市), appear to be sandstone, an unusual material.
January 19, 2012 - I once again rolled out of Xiamen by train, this time heading west to Zhangzhou, the most southerly city in Fujian, and home to Nanshan (South Mountain) Temple. I took a local bus from the train station and got off not too far from the large gateway leading into the temple.

[As published in the Shenzhen Daily, the article says I traveled by train. Double-checking my notes, I find it was a long-distance bus. So many buses and trains, I can't keep track!]

Walking through the gate and along the shady roadway, I passed a pond on my right and a fairly small City God Temple on the left. The front gate of the temple compound itself faces north. Although temples usually face south, this one was likely oriented to the Jiulong (Nine Dragon) River, which lies about 300 meters to the north.

Nanshan Temple was founded in the Tang Dynasty; today's buildings date back to the Qing. It is considered the founding temple of the Heyun School of the Linji Chan Sect.

The grounds of the temple are spacious and laid out in the traditional pattern of halls with courtyards between. The palm trees in the courtyards give it a tropical feel (even on a cold January day).

Highlights on the grounds include a huge set of sandstone "Three Sages of the West" statues; a quirky little ancestors' hall; and separate halls for important figures such as Dizang (Kshitigarbha) and, of course, Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara).

But the most eye-catching things on the grounds are the wooden bas-reliefs that run along both sides of the courtyard, depicting the Buddha's life and other historic and legendary scenes.

Leaving the temple and walking back out toward the bus, I passed people getting ready for the Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year celebration--as I'm sure they are today. [The article was published near New Year's 2013.]

GPS Info:
  • 24.49767, 117.64638



More pictures can be found here.

A small City God Temple lies on the approach to Nanshan Temple
Palm trees on the grounds of the temple lend it a tropical air
Wooden bas-reliefs line both sides of the temple's courtyard
Larger-than-life sandstone statues of "The Three Sages of the West" (postcard above)

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