No. 88: Luohan Temple, Chongqing

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on February 17, 2014.)

Two of the 500 arhats (五百罗汉) after which Luohan (Arhat) Temple
(罗汉寺) in Chongqing (重庆) was named. They are all exquisite.
June 14, 2012 - In June of 2012 I found myself in the central Chinese city of Chongqing, formerly known as Chungking. This hilly metropolis is located on a peninsula where the Jialing River coming down from Gansu meets the Yangtze on its way from the glaciers of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau all the way across China to Shanghai on the East China Sea.

A notable trait of Chongqing is its lack of bicycles. Located as it is on a series of hills, the terrain would make pedaling impossible.

An ancient and fascinating temple lies in the heart of this densely-populated area. Luohan Temple is said to be about a thousand years old, dating back to the Song Dynasty. Presumably the peninsula was a little roomier back then, and probably difficult to reach from across the rivers.

A "luohan" is an arahant (Sanskrit) or arhat (Pali), one of the enlightened disciples of the Buddha. In fact, the Chinese "a luo han" was an early transliteration of "arahant." As can be expected, this temple has a fine, recently-refurbished set of the 500 arhats. (The hall was closed for repairs when I visited in 2007.)

Another outstanding feature of this temple is a set of fake "grottoes," carved rocks lining the entryway between the Heavenly Kings' Hall and the vegetarian restaurant on the grounds.

At the farthest reaches of the temple is a beautiful "black lacquered hall" with a quiet courtyard behind. The basement of the hall is also peaceful, and filled with gorgeous statues. The whole place is a real treat in this busy urban environment.

GPS Info:
  • 29.56000, 106.58182



More pictures can be found here.

A set of ancient imitation grottoes line the entryway to Luohan Temple in Chongqing.
The main hall is in the "black lacquered" style.
A quiet courtyard lies behind the black lacquered hall.
Some of the 500 arhats or "luohan" which lend their name to the temple. (detail in postcard above)

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