No. 101: Qianyuan Temple, Qianshan County, Anhui

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on June 23, 2014.)

This pagoda (塔) holds the remains of the Third Patriarch (三祖)
of Chan (Zen=禅) at Qingyuan Temple (乾元寺), also called Third
Patriarch's Temple (三祖寺), in Qianshan County, Anhui (安徽, 潜山县).

June 26, 2012 - To reach Sanzu Temple--the next on my list--I first had to take a bus from Anqing to the county town of Qianshan, the gateway to the spectacular Tianzhu Shan ("Pillars of Heaven") Scenic Area. From there a local bus took me to the temple at the foot of the mountain.

Designated "Sanzu" because it was the teaching seat of the "Third Patriarch" of Chan, Master Sengcan, its actual name is Qianyuan Temple. (Chan [Zen] had a string of six patriarchs, from the Indian master Bodhidharma to Guangdong-born Huineng, before it broke up into numerous sects.)

Sengcan died in 606. During much of his lifetime, Buddhism was persecuted in China, and he was forced to keep a low profile, often hiding in the mountains or going about in the clothes of a layperson. For this reason, very little is known of his life.

It's said that he died while speaking to a large assembly. While sitting under a tree, he put his hands together and passed away.

On my rain-soaked visit, the front gateway was under construction, forcing me to enter the temple compound by a rear gate. I had two interesting encounters there: First, I saw a photo of the translator Bill Porter (known as "Red Pine"), whose books helped inspire my travels; and second, I met a sweet little nun in the main hall who began hand-copying my list of 142 temples--until she remembered there was a copy machine in the office.

After seeing the cave where the Sengcan meditated, and toiling up to pay respects to the pagoda where his remains are said to lie, I retraced my route back to my hotel in Anqing.



GPS Info:
  • 30.66512, 116.49502



Map:

(Regarding problems with this map, please see the CHINA section on this page.)



GALLERY

More pictures can be found here.

Sanzu Temple at the base of Tianzhu Shan, with the Third Patriarch's pagoda above
This unusual six-sided hall houses the Heavenly Kings
The cave behind the main hall where the Third Patriarch meditated
Memorial pagoda of the Third Patriarch above the temple



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