No. 117: Fuyan Temple, Nanyue, Hunan

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on December 15, 2014.)

This manly Arhat (罗汉) is typical of the very unusual set
at Fuyan Temple (福严寺), Nanyue, Hunan (湖南, 南岳).

August 14, 2012 - Today we'll look at the third and last of the temples I visited on sacred Hengshan Mountain, the southernmost of China's "Five Great Mountains"--but not the last in Nanyue Town.

Legend says that in 567, monk Huisi negotiated with the spirit of Mount Heng to build the first Buddhist temple there, called "Prajna (Wisdom) Temple," and now known as Fuyan Temple.

Huisi was a great meditation teacher, considered to be the Third Patriarch of Tiantai Buddhism. His student Zhiyi, called the Fourth Patriarch, is the one who actually went to Tiantai Mountain and firmly established the School.

I mentioned in my last column that seventh-generation Chan (Zen) Patriarch Shitou Xiqian had lived at Nantai Temple, and that he had been an ancestor of three of Chan's traditional Five Houses. Well, another seventh-generation master named Nanyue Huairang lived here at Fuyan Temple, and the other two Houses descended through him! So all five of the traditional Five Houses had roots on this mountain.

By the way, Huairang's disciple Mazu Daoyi was also an ancestor of those two houses, the Guiyang and the Linji. You may remember Mazu as the "crazy Zen Master" whom we met at tiny Youmin Temple in Nanchang.

The temple itself is modest. Of note is a gingko tree said to have been planted by Huisi (and therefore over 1400 years old!). Also notable were the extraordinary black statues found throughout the temple.

Descending the mountain, I found dinner near the great Daoist temple. I had one more Buddhist site to visit before leaving this charming town.

GPS Info:
  • 27.26329, 112.70316


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


More pictures can be found here.

A gingko tree stands next to the entry gate to Fuyan Temple.

A closer view of the gate

Fuyan features unusual black statuary, including these Buddhas.

Another example of Fuyan's black statuary, a deer-riding arhat

Portraits of two great Buddhist founders hang in the Patriarchs' Hall.

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